Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Slicing Love

By:  Rebecca S. Pratt, Agent

We do love our words.  As writers they are our friends who allow us to do the magic that is called communication.  When we are on a roll our muse hands us words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs—and soon we have a manuscript.

But often the manuscript that we have given birth to is overweight and in jeopardy of never being printed.  Very few writers, no matter their skill or fame, can get a novel of 120,000 words printed.  We know that, but we also know that cutting it down to the 85,000 words that a publisher will consider will require cutting not only fat but also muscle and sinew.

Some of our writers are doing just that, right now.  That is the hard work of writing.

Others have a finished, well proportioned package ready to be read by publishers.  It is at this point that we ask for a web synopsis.
The rules are simple.  One paragraph.  No more than 5 sentences.  Tell us the characters.  Tell us what they do.  Tell us the plot.  Tell us what promotes the plan or interferes with it (twists).  Tell us if the plan is successful or not.  And remember, your audience is not the reader.  Your audience is the person who must decide if it has potential, can be done within a reasonable budget and is marketable.  They do not want to be held in suspense: they want you to be pragmatic and informative toward them.

The web synopsis is a marketing tool aimed at a very limited audience.

When a publisher’s rep goes to our website and finds a synopsis that appears to be marketable and printable, we want them to take the next step by asking the agent for a read.  Seeing the kind of synopsis we keep encouraging our authors to write, the publisher understands that this author has the skill, discipline and drive to do the work that will turn a manuscript into a book that will find and hold its own in today’s reading marketplace.  Those books will be profitable for everyone—the author, the agent, the publisher and the readers who will be entertained, enriched or even enlightened.

What we ask our writers to do is hard.  We know that.  Publishers know that.  But when done right it enhances your chances of being published.

Here is one that works.  Try it:  (Your main character) is a ______________________.  He or she wants to_____________________________.  The plot includes (these events)__________________________ that get in the way of a happy ending.  (These people) are helping or hindering (your main character).  The end is when (your main character) gets _______________________, or not.

All you have to do is fill in the blanks, find the right nouns and the perfect modifiers, round off the rough corners and make it sound like you are telling a story to a very specific audience.  

Voila!  Success.

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