So Begins The Jump

Keyboard and query letter start

The query letter is the writer’s rite of passage.

To borrow a phrase from Nick Fury (and countless other people over the years): “This isn’t my first rodeo.” I’ve queried before, often to no luck. Rejection happens more often than not: The publishing industry is a hard nut to crack. You just have to dust yourself off, get back up, and continue to submit, potentially with a new project. Doing just that was a tough decision for me. I put so much effort and time into Passage–its characters, its plot, its worldbuilding. However, as my SciFi novel grew and took shape, I had to acknowledge it had the best shot in the current market, so I put all my effort into bringing it to fruition.

Now Heritage Lost is wrapped up, and I’m putting together query letters and a synopsis while also toying with the idea of participating in #PitMad, which is Feb. 11. My ultimate goal is to begin querying agents throughout February, hopefully tantalizing one to bite.

I do feel I made the right decision to proceed first with Heritage, especially as I go through the process of writing query letters. The brief paragraph detailing the book flows off the keyboard, much easier than Passage‘s did about a year or two ago. The book’s characters have also grown on me: They are no longer the strangers they were at the beginning, especially after coming off my long-time fantasy series. And I do look forward to following Katya and crew as they continue their journey, wherever it might end.

So wish me luck and cross your fingers. In the meanwhile, I’m sharing some of what I’ve learned about dreaded novel synopses.

The Dreaded Synopsis

I have always hated writing synopsis. It’s hard to condense an almost 400-page book into an one- or two-page synopsis, but then I realized my approach was completely wrong. Rather than summarizing the entire book–like I did when I cobbled together my Passage synopsis, which, thank God, was never sent anywhere–I need to broaden it and not do a chapter by chapter breakdown. Instead, I learned:

  • Keep it character centered. Focus on your main characters, what is at stake for them (physically, emotionally, etc.), and how they evolve over the course of the story.
  • Not a book report. Use exciting language and verbs rather than just summarizing the story (e.g., He did this. He did that. They were happy to escape). Also don’t leave out important details that would be considered spoilers if told to a reader. You are not writing the synopsis for readers; you are writing a synopsis in hopes of snagging an agent or publisher: They want to know what they are investing in.
  • Can’t tell it all. In such a brief amount of space, you can’t mention every side character or every minor happening. So keep to the most important aspects of the book (e.g., large plot points, main character development, etc.) and leave the rest for the full read-through.

I also highly recommend visiting

Don’t Forget #PitMad

For those with an interest, I’ve included the #PitMad/#MSWL information below.

#PitMad

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Categories: My Writing, Personal | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “So Begins The Jump

  1. Great tips! I personally hate synopses too. I think they’re the bane of all writers’ existence. lol.

  2. Awesome post, I wish you the best of luck. If you don’t mind me asking what was you revision process like before you decided your project was to submit?

    • smwright

      Thanks, Steven! So far it’s been rough going, but that is to be expected; it’s very seldom that a writer lands a agent right away. In fact I’m hoping to soon get a post up about my experience so far.

      But as far as my revision process: For “Heritage Lost,” aka my most recent book, I read through it twice. During these readings, I retooled sections that needed it, looked for continuity errors, sought out ways to further develop characters (perhaps avenues that I didn’t explore when writing), and killed filter words, plus unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. I also do a print-out because I find I catch more stuff when I’m looking at paper rather than at a screen. I am a staff writer and copy editor for a living at a newspaper/magazine publisher (a local one) so I can usually weed things out okay; however, I will still miss things in my own writing, or introduce errors when quickly editing. To combat that, I also have an line editor and two beta readers comb through my novels and catch what I miss. Once I get their feedback and look at the manuscript a final, I determined the manuscript was ready. If I do opt to self-publish farther down the road, I will be doing another read-through and find more beta readers since there will be no agent or editorial staff at a publishing house.

      Hope that’s helpful!

      • That is fantastic, thank you so much for giving such a detailed response. I seem to have the problem of endless revisions. Most of my short stories get revised between 8-10 times. I just finished the 4th draft for a novel, and I am at the point where I think I need a new set of eyes on. Do you edit at all when you are writing the rough draft or do you leave it all for the revision process?

  3. smwright

    Sometimes I do edit while I’m writing. My latest manuscript had a huge gap in writing since my life had gotten so busy. To reacquaint myself with the story and characters, I had to read through everything again, and as I did that rereading, I did make many edits and reworkings to correct the story’s course since I had tweaked plot in my head and in the the outline. The results was actually a very clean, well-formed story that no one would suspect had a several-months hiatus in between writing. I have used a similar process with dangling short stories. In general, I usually do 2-3 revisions before letting trusted, honest friends read them. After they get back to me, I will then do 1 to 2 more revisions before releasing a piece to other beta readers.

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