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The Dreaded Synopsis – Part 2

In this second part we’ll look at how to structure the synopsis.It’s important to stress that there is no absolutes here, no “right” way of doing things, simply because all agents are different and they’re looking for different things. But what they do look for is a wells structured, cohesive synopsis that tells them what they need to know, which is presented in exactly the way they ask.
The formatting should be perfect. That means it’s correctly presented, with no spelling mistakes or typos. The margins, line spacing and font should also be correct.This is where you have to pay particular attention to what agents require. Some are happy with 1.5 spacing, others like 2 point. Ensure a 1” margin all round. If the agent asks for Arial font, then follow the instruction. Others might want TNR. Always follow what they require.
Make sure you have the title of the book and your name at the top of the synopsis. Don’t just write ‘Synopsis’. Write something like: ‘Synopsis: The Hidden Cartel by (…

The Dreaded Synopsis – Part 1

If there is one thing about the writing process that strikes fear into almost all writers, it’s writing the dreaded synopsis.But is it really that bad? Writers don’t like this part of submitting their books to agents, because the reality is that it’s hard to condense a complex story of 90,000 words or so into a one page or 500 word summary. And it can be hard – if writers have never done one before. But it doesn’t have to be. That’s because authors become fixated by the idea that they have to explain everything that happens in their novel, otherwise the agents won’t understand what the story is about. You don't have to describe settings, character backgrounds, subplots and themes and so on. It’s impossible and the synopsis will end up a mess. Agents don’t want every single detail. They want an outline of the key events – the major plot points/ twists, major characters, key scenes and they want to know how the story ends. Use the synopsis to show a structured story arc and plot, inters…

Literary Agent Submission Cover Letters

A cover letter with your submission (usually via email) is your introduction to the literary agent. There is no absolute right way of doing this, just as there is no right way of doing synopsis, since every publisher and literary agents is different, and they want different things from authors. They have likes and dislikes and each one is looking for the right fit, and that is why it really is all down to luck of the draw, but it’s also about how you present yourself to them. Before you even write a cover letter, you should have spent time searching and researching literary agents and publishers that you think might be able to represent you and your work. You will know that they are currently open to new submissions; they represent your genre, and have an established list of authors on their books. The research will also have told you whom you should address your letter. Don’t address it to ‘Whoever it may concern’, as this shows a lack of professionalism and lack of focus. Know the con…

Looking for Literary Agents

One of the many daunting steps after completing a manuscript is to look for literary agents that might be interested in your manuscript and who might hopefully represent and help you try to break into what is, essentially, a difficult market. Of course, before you do anything, it’s essential that you have proofread and polished your manuscript so that it is error free and has been correctly formatted. It needs to be complete in its entirety. Not only that, but you need to ensure your work is professionally presented. You won’t get far if you submit sloppy, untidy work accompanied by a badly written submission. Looking for agents isn’t about picking a name and sending them your manuscript. It involves research. Literary agents vary on what genres they prefer, what lengths they work with and whether they specialise in fiction or non-fiction. Time spent looking at agents and what they require is time well spent. In the UK, writers can use the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, which contains…

Readying Your MSS for Submission

For writers who want to approach the traditional publishing route, there’s a few steps to take before that daunting task; the kind of things that will get the manuscript into the best shape it can be before it is submitted to an agent or publisher. Unlike self-publishing, traditional publishing requires a high standard of writing and editing.A good story is only as good as the way it is presented, so this also needs to be a high standard. So you’ve written your novel. Now to ready it for submission. Step 1 The first step is to ensure that the MSS has gone through several rounds of editing so that it is as near to perfect as it can be. That means not only presenting a cohesive, well written story, but one that is free from grammar and spelling mistakes and is punctuated correctly. Remember, any submission to agents or publishers is a showcase of your ability to write, so if you present a manuscript with errors in it, they will think less favourably about you as an author. By taking the time…

How to Get the Most from Your Ending

Writers know that the opening chapter must hook the reader, but that’s only half the battle because the ending of your book is just as important as the opening. An ending doesn’t just close a story. It does more than that – it ties up all the loose ends, it closes those subplots and gives the reader a satisfactory ending to a good story.But more importantly the ending serves to sell your next book because if the reader enjoyed the story, they will want to read more of what you can offer. The thing about endings, however, is that they are probably the most difficult things to get right because the ending of a novel isn’t always clear at the time of writing it. Sometimes the ending only becomes apparent as the story unfolds, while other writers have at least some idea how it might end. To get the most from your ending, it must accomplish several things – it must make sense and relate directly to the plot, without sounding convoluted. It must answer all the questions the story has posed, s…

How To Get The Most From Your Opening Chapter

Every writer knows how important it is to make the opening chapter work. It’s the difference between enticing the reader, agent or publisher to read your story, or not doing grabbing their attention at all. There’s a lot of advice about openings, and a lot of pressure to get them right, but how do you define what is ‘right’? In truth there is no ‘right’ way, because every reader is different and every agent/publisher is different, however, no one would argue that writers should open their stories in an interesting, dynamic or riveting way. Something that entices, something that shocks, maybe. Or something that sparks their curiosity. So you see, while there is no right way, there are many other ways that collectively make it seem right, but one thing is sure – you may only have a few paragraphs to grab your reader’s attention and win them over. That’s because readers tend to glance at the cover and strapline, then they might browse the first few paragraphs or quickly skip-read through th…

How to Get the Most from Your Themes

Every story has a theme or two that cover the main topics within the story, but they also convey deeper meanings within it. Stories need them in order to help the reader understand the concept of the story. Themes embody different subjects that might surface during writing, so it’s common for writers to uncover these themes as they write, but there’s nothing wrong with having certain main themes in mind before you begin writing, either. Themes such as love, hate, betrayal, deceit and lies are all very popular themes, as are ones about growing up, discovering the world or growing old. They can incorporate just about anything, but they must relate directly to the story. How to make the most of your themes? Know your audience. The genre, and what the plot is, often determines a main theme. For example, with two lovers who can’t be together, the main theme would be love. For a story about conflict between the main characters, the main theme might be hatred or bigotry. A crime novel might hav…

How to Get the Most Out of Your Dialogue

Every writer understands the importance of dialogue – it conveys information for the reader, it hints at things, it reveals character, creates conflict and it moves the story forward, so to get the most out of it, writers must use dialogue wisely. The idea of dialogue isn’t just there for your characters to say something. They have to say something because it matters to the story and because it’s part of the story. And that’s why well written dialogue can entice the reader to become involved with the characters. Poorly written dialogue, however, can devalue the story because often what the characters say isn’t part of the story and doesn’t matter to the story, which is why writers should use every element of dialogue available. Make it effective. Make It to the Point Your characters are telling part of the story with their conversations. Your story relies on their input, but they have no time to chit chat about mundane stuff like the weather or next door’s roses. Dialogue doesn’t need pad…

How to Get the Most Out of Creating Drama

All writers know that drama is a key component of any story.Drama, tension and conflict all go hand in hand, but drama is created in many ways and it brings depth to fiction because it covers story, dialogue, action and description. But how do you get the most from creating drama? The root of any dramatic story can be found in a provocative and interesting plot. Boring, mundane stories without much going on simply won’t have any drama to engage the reader. That’s why your story needs to stand out and grab the reader’s interest – it needs to instantly speak to them by being compelling. An interesting story with fascinating characters is a foundation stone to creating drama. Drama relies on different elements to make it effective.Drama is everything we create within the story, and to get the most out of it, you’ll need to use your story, characters, description and dialogue wisely. Story Situations This stems from your compelling plot. As the story unfolds, you’ll need to thrust your charact…