Thursday, January 14, 2010

Slushing Through :: The Query

Welcome to The Pink Heart Society debut of Jenna Bayley-Burke's Slushing Through column, where she whines about explores all things related to sending a novel straight to the slush pile editors desk.

It's a daunting task to write a novel. Almost everyone wants to do it someday, lots of people get up the courage to start one, few people actually finish. And then, you get to read back over your work and consider whether someone else might be willing to read it too.

It's one thing to spend your own time writing, another to then ask others to read what you've written and give their opinion. I reccomend starting out slow - find a likeminded group of writers and trade chapters. This is usually referred to as a critique group or critique partners. Knowing that you're not the only one who enjoys your story really takes the sting out of the next part. Submitting to publishers and agents.

The one and only thing that sells your book, is a good story. However, agents and editors are so busy, they don't have time to read every book that people toss at them. So, they read query letters. And if they like that, they'll glance at your synopsis. If they're still not put off, they'll read the few chapters you included, or send you a note asking to see them. Easy right?

Well, it can be kind of hard to condense the manuscript that you've been living with down to a few sentences. Go on, describe your mom in under thirty words. Don't leave out anything important. Yeah, see what I mean?

So, for me, I've learned a couple of things to keep from going completely bananas when I submit a story.

1 -- The query letter is about premise. That's it. Not your heroine's cute affinity for teddy bears. It's about the center of your story. Where it starts, who they are, what they want, and why they can't have it. And that's it.

2 -- The synopsis isn't a book report. Longer is not better. Length is a guideline, not a rule. Plot is only the outline of your synopsis, character is the heart of it. Start with what you had in the query - what your character wants, why they want it, and why they don't have it. Work them through the story until they have it. And then....go back and take out everything that muddies the waters. Keep it flowing.

3 -- All of this should be in your voice. It should sound like you write. If it's awkward and stilted, the person reading it might think you write that way. So...grab one of those critique partners I told you about and tell them about your book while they type it. See if that's any better. It should be what you'd say to an editor if you sat next to them on a plane. all that knowledge and did I submit a story this month? NOPE. Life happened. As you read this I'm hanging out in a hospital room with my brother who's recovering from surgery. And that story I started with NaNoWriMo in November? Still not done. I hit 50,000 words, the NaNo goal, and then it's been trickling in ever since.

We'll get there. All of us.

Jenna's latest release is Compromising Positions -- available with chocolate, Kama Sutra yoga, a decade old crush and a steady addiction to sugar. To find out what Jenna is up to ...check out her website or blog

1 comment:

  1. Hey - great info on getting subs ready to go. Hope your brother is on the mend!