Queries and synopses and chapter outlines, oh man!

I thought writing a book was tough. Well, it is, but nowhere near as difficult as writing the pitch package. I like to pretend I’m an interesting person with the ability to communicate very well with others via the written word, but if that’s the case, why can’t I figure out how to compose an engaging query letter than will make an agent less inclined to chuck the entire packet in the trash after the first six words? And why, oh why, can’t I manage to summarize my book in a way that takes up less space than the original manuscript?

It must all hearken back to grade school when we learned how to outline. Or, I should say, how the others learned to outline and I learned how to write numbered and lettered paragraphs. It’s true. I had (and am finding out I still have) the rampant inability to pick out the key facts even in my own work. I start out with the best intentions. I have a partially formed, hazy, single sentence hovering in my head, perfectly embodying the contents of the entire chapter. As soon as I try to put it on paper, though, my hand (or hands if typing), go into overdrive, flinging paragraphs onto the page while part of me is saying, “Stop! Stop! You’re doing it wrong!” while the other part screams, “But it’s all important!”

As my frustration with this new phase of my writing career grows, so does the nasty little idea that I’m somehow in over my head. But, if I take a step back and think about it, it’s the exact same feeling I had when I started writing the book, too. Once I get a handle on how to do this, it’ll be easier for me next time — just like with the novel (I’m hoping, at least; it’s not really a proven theory at this point). This is simply something new, and new things always take a while to work out. To be honest, the only time I’ve ever truly been in over my head (and it was way, way over my head) was when math was put in front of me. And this isn’t math. It’s a couple of letters, a few numbers and maybe a bullet point, or two.

I think I’ll view this experience as taking a hike up a long, difficult hill. Not in that cheesy, inspirational poster sense, but in the sense that it will suck the entire time I’m doing it, but, when its behind me and the aches and pains are gone, my brain will have managed to convince me that I had fun.

About Avery

I am a roller derbying, dark fantasy author. This blog chronicles my adventures in life, writing and skating. View all posts by Avery

13 responses to “Queries and synopses and chapter outlines, oh man!

  • SQT

    Maybe that’s the key; drinking a lot. You might forget to care if it’s accepted or not.

  • Charles Gramlich

    Sqt, I doubt he remembers. He’s a drinker living in New Orleans, you know. 🙂

  • Christina

    I’m right there with you on the pitch package. Why is it so hard? I’ve had so many writers tell me it’s this way or that, and no one can seem to agree on the basic setup and how many pages and is it double spaced or not. Good Luck.

  • avery

    Kate — I feel the exact same way.Spy — Thanks so much. What a wealth of info. Chapter 8, ‘Identifying Plot Points’ has my name written all over it.

  • spyscribbler

    Ugh, I agree with Stewart. I’d rather poke my eye with a spoon! Someone steered me to Lisa Gardner’s articles on the pitch package and it’s very helpful!I’m still not touching it for another few weeks, though. Ugh!Good luck!

  • Kate S

    Shudder, snivel, sniff, cower… please, please make it stop! Make it go away!I can’t even stand to read the words outline or synopsis.

  • avery

    Jay — I can see me writing greeting cards now. They’d be all text, with that little arrow at the bottom to continue onto the back. There’d be no room to sign. People would pass out from exhaustion before they got to see who it was from!

  • Jay

    Oh tell me about it – if I was short-winded I would be a greeting card writer!

  • avery

    Stewart — We’d make great company. I was threatening to stab myself in the head. I hope you find that agent soon; the rest of the world needs to be subjected, er, exposed, to the mind of Stewart Sternberg.Charles — You’re right. The entirety of life all comes down to one big, cosmic crapshoot, anyway. Can’t expect landing an agent or getting published to be some sort of magical exception. Sqt — Do you think we can convince Charles to hire this guy out for us?

  • SQT

    Er, word for word that is….

  • SQT

    Okay Charles, I’d like to know what your friend said. Word for work.

  • Charles Gramlich

    A colleague of mine once recommend myself and a friend to his agent. Both my friend and I had finished novels and both of us sent queries around the same time. I worked for over a week on mine, and read half a dozen articles and advice columns on queries first. My friend sent in a note saying basically: “I’ve completed a novel and wonder if you would be interested in seeing it.”My friend got a personal phone call from the agent asking to see his whole manuscript. After about 4 months I got my query back with a note saying: “Thanks for lettings us look at your manuscript but it is not right for us.” I might have thought they just liked my friend’s project better, but apparently they didn’t even read mine because it was a query, not a manuscript.What is my point? There’s a lot of luck and timing involved in every aspect of the publishing business. Maybe try not to agonize so much over the process. As long as your query looks professional you probably have a chance.

  • Stewart Sternberg

    I had to do a synopsis, chapter by chapter outline, and wrap it all up nicely with fifty pages of manuscript. I’ve been sending these packages out, trying to find an agent for a book which is probably unmarketable because it doesn’t fall into an easy marketing niche.Boy. A lot of work. And they keep raising postage.And this summer I start putting together another outline and proposal package for a second novel. Still looking for an agent.You know what…I’d rather be poking my eye with a spoon. I keep hearing that marketing is everything.

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