Most writers agree, there are no more satisfying words to type. The hard work is done. The book is complete, leaving only the champagne to pop or the chocolate to break out.
Sadly they aren’t the end of anything except getting your story down in one place, a major achievement you can and should celebrate.The book that has haunted your waking hours and sometimes your sleep, is finished. At least until an editor takes over, whether someone you’ve hired or one associated with a traditional publisher.
But this isn’t the time to think about editing. You should enjoy this moment to the full.
Then there’s your writing place to sort out. All those notes and references to be filed. Not discarded, you may need them later. Domestic chores to catch up on. People to reconnect with. Remember them? The family and friends you texted or PMd on Social, promising to catch up after you finished the book?
If possible, resist the temptation to attack your manuscript. You’re still too close to it to be objective. Better let it sit for as long as you can. There are other things to be doing while the book is fresh in your mind.
If you wrote a synopsis before starting the book, does it need updating? I find them easier to write once the book is done, but some publishers request a synopsis and sample chapters before they’ll consider reading the book.
If you’re an indie publisher a synopsis is optional, although it can be handy in preparing blog entries or other promotional materials. In The Art of Romance Writing, I list the elements needed in a synopses:
- Who the main characters are
- How they come together, with a hint of the setting
- The nature of the conflict between them
- How they resolve the conflict through their own efforts
- Brief details of any subplots
- How you tie up the story at the end
The length usually depends on the book. A short genre novel may run 2-3 pages, while a complicated family saga may need a dozen pages. If submitting to a trad publisher, check their submission guidelines and follow them as closely as you can.
By the way, the terms outline and synopsis are often interchangeable. I think of an outline as a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, a tool for my reference. Likewise outlines made on Scrivener or similar programs, whatever you find useful.
Generally a synopsis for submission is written in first person, present tense. She did…he went…and so on. The pages can be single or double spaced as suits you. It helps to start the synopsis with a hook, making the editor want to read on. Stick to the key elements and characters, mentioning minor characters as they relate to the main characters – Brad’s housekeeper, Zoe’s brother.
If a publisher asks for a proposal, also known as a partial, this usually means a covering letter, synopsis, and sample chapters. Always send the first three chapters in order.
Some publishers prefer a query letter before they read anything more substantial. Try to keep your letter/email to a single page, with a balance between sounding businesslike and overly friendly.
Elements you may include:
- A very brief summary of the book. Mention the word length and that you have finished the manuscript.
- Your writing history. If you’re published, have won contests, or belong to writing organisations, mention these. Rather than saying this is your first book, be positive in presenting yourself.
- Any personal background that prompted you to write this book. There’s a growing interest in writers and books from varied backgrounds. If the book concerns characters with whom you share a background or ethnicity, definitely say so. If you’re writing outside your own history, mention why you feel qualified to write this book, any sensitivity reads you’ve had done, and anything else giving the book a strong basis to connect with readers.
Even if the book is to be self-published, having these details ready helps you prepare cover blurb, interviews, bios and blog posts.
Another useful element is the so-called elevator pitch. Imagine you meet an agent or editor at a writing conference. They ask your name and what you’re working on. You answer with a tightly honed one or two sentence-description of your book. Some authors say this is tougher to write than the book itself.
For example, I might say, “I’m Valerie Parv. I’m currently working on a memoir to share my life and writing secrets with emerging writers.”
For a novel you might give the story highlights, especially the page-turning intrigue or conflict. For my book Crowns and a Cradle, I might say, “A single mum battles Crown Prince Josquin who believes Sarah’s infant son is the heir to the Valmont throne, and will stop at nothing including romancing her, to get what he wants.” I may polish the pitch, but these are the elements I’m likely to include.
For the cover it’s helpful to write a logline, an even briefer pitch using my “Three Cs.” These are Character, Conflict and Content. For Crowns and a Cradle, the character is single mum, Sarah, her conflict is with the Crown Prince, and the content, sometimes called the stakes, her baby’s future. For example: a single mum must defy a dashing prince who claims her baby son is his rightful heir.
These skills are good to practice no matter where you are in your writing journey. How do you handle the synopsis, elevator pitch and logline? Share your thoughts here. They’re monitored to avoid spam but you can have your post appear immediately by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.
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