January 29, 2011

Writers' Conference Workshop--Synopsis

The first full day of this Writers' Conference has been instructive.  Apparently there are a multitude of these across the US, and this one--at 27 years running--is one of the longest-running conferences.  It also appears to focus more tightly on the professional development side of life, as witnessed by the workshops I attended today.  I took my computer down to hopefully do some live blogging, but there was no wireless signal in any of the rooms (intentional?), so consider this Taped Blogging.

One class was on writing a good synopsis, taught by Nicholas Croce, president of The Croce Agency.  The notes are as follows.

Formatting each agent will have their own formatting guidelines, and each author will have to find this information—proves to the agent that they did their research.  Check their websites.  If no guidelines, his handout is a safe way to go.  Do your homework.

Chicago Manual of Style is the basic rulebook.

Know your genre, esp. for marketing/bookshelf placement.

Write efficiently—two double-spaced pages is the norm.  Don't leave white space—edit down so you don't have "orphans."  No bullet points—not for fiction.

Handout on his website.

Don't send out to thirty agents at once—they get grumpy.

Look at books similar to yours—look at jacket copy.  What do they highlight?  What hints to the readership can you gain from the jacket?

Start with the hook.  It's the most important.  It's one sentence and should capture the whole book in that one sentence.  It should have the conflict.  It's what everybody down the line will use to pitch that book—editor, sales reps, etc.  Use active voice.  Keep it lively, upbeat.  No cliches.  Vary your sentence length—anything that calls for good and interesting writing. 

Show how your story comes together. The perfect proposal is one that leaves me with no questions.  The agent/author doesn't have to go back to the author with why this story line? or what happened here? Make it comprehensive by including a beginning, middle and end.  The synopsis is meant to inform as well as sell.

Synopsis is a combo of the query letter and the chapter outline.  Write synopsis in the present tense.  Yes, it's difficult to write—sometimes even more challenging than writing a novel.  And the hook is even more challenging than the synopsis.

The conflict in your book really has to be apparent in this.  Every story throughout history has a conflict and a resolution—include this in your synopsis.

Cover letter—three paragraphs.  First paragraph intros novel.  Second paragraph elaborates on novel, what transpires.  Third paragraph about the author, how they plan to market the novel, if previous publications.  Send the query letter by snail mail.

Literary Commercial Fiction—focuses on character, but sells well (something on the order of Three Cups of Tea).  This would be a tough book because the details of this book "are not built for speed," so it would be sold on the writing or the subject of the novel.

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