Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Question from a Writer

I am a full time Mom and Nurse, part time writer. I have some story idea that I am developing. Here is my question, How can I be sure I am not wasting my time on an idea that will not sell. I hate the thought of wrinting a manuscript that has no market appeal. Can you query a synopsis? Do you send a pitch to an agent or editor when all you have is the story and concept? Or should you also write the first three chapters and the synopsis then query.

A writer on another loop posed this question (or I should say these questions). In fact questions like these are very common with new writers and I applaud her for asking.

So, let's take this piece by piece.

How can you make sure the idea you have isn't a waste? This is really a tough question but one that can be figured out with a little bit of research and an even greater amount of critical thinking. They key to this is be an avid reader. See what is out there on the shelves. Keep track of common trends you see in the writing. This might not be so much the bigger plot line but individual elements about the characters and what they do. For example, as you read through romances you will find that the heroes will almost always have that good side in them. They may be cold at first, but you certainly won't see them doing unethical things. Here's another one. While people having affairs may be something that happens a lot, and likely did happen a lot in the past, you will be hard pressed to find those characteristics in stories. Hmmm? What does this tell you? If your story is doing something like that, it may be a factor against you.

The other thing to do is really read through the submission guidelines and material for the publishers you are targeting. See what they are talking about. There will be hints here.

Finally, use some common sense. Think about your story. While it may be unique, is it really something someone will find exciting and want to turn pages on? Let's talk romantic suspense here. Would a romantic suspense told from the villains point of view be something we would want to read? Although an interesting approach, proabably not.

Can you query a synopsis? This one is no, until you become established. While you may have a fantastic idea in the story, we need to see the execution of it before we make a decision. Later on, when you become established and the editor and agent really know your style and know what you can do, writing "on proposal" does happen. Now, with that said, there are a few exceptions to this. I have seen new writers with some powerhouse agents sell on proposal, but those are really few and far between.

The second part of the question was whether you should wait until you have the first three chapters before sending it out. In this case, the answer really is, wait until the entire book is finished. Assuming you do have a great idea and query me, I will likely ask for the first three chapters. Assuming I like that I will ask for a full. Now here is the twist. My turn around time is fast and I expect the story to be back to me in a month. Of course, if you can write the entire story in a month and know it will be good, then go for it. The odds are, you can't. Other agents, if you send them a query may love it and ask for a full manuscript. If you don't have it, we really hate not seeing. I have seen several agents complaining about falling head over heels for a great story and then never seeing it.

Simple point. FINISH IT! There is no rush!

Hope that helps. L.T.



Thanks Pam Crooks for the photos.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I just thought I'd leave a quick comment for the mom and nurse, in case she tunes in.

    I am a mom and write. And I think to figure out if you're wasting your time on a fiction project, the answer is simple: if you think you're wasting your time, you are. I think if you find yourself immersed in your story and compelled to write, then you should. If you're bored by your own story, or so uninterested in it that you don't want to work on it, it may be a sign that others won't be interested in it, either.

    If you enjoy writing the story, but worry you ought to be spending time doiong something else (tending to your children, to your spouse, reading more), then that's something different. That's the typical mother's guilt. And if you enjoy the story you're writing, ignore that, and take some time for yourself.

    If you feel like you're wasting your time because you're afraid you won't be able to monetize the time and effort you've spent...then get over it. Or stop writing. There is no guarantee you'll be able to monetize this time and effort initially. Writing is a subjective business. It's about finding the right editor at the right time. And that involves two things: good writing and a lot of luck. Before you get any monetary reward, you have to put in the writing. And even then, it's not guaranteed to be a success. There are lots of good books out there that get read very little. You can have a great book, that for whatever reason, doesn't sell well, and doesn't monetize comiserate with the effort you put in. There are very few Stephenie Meyers (people who got huge book deals for their first effort, and actually had that book deal earn out). There are lots of peopel who had poor or mediocre first books who went on to sell lots more.

    With this one, you really have to decide whether you want to commit to this. I think in the realm of fiction, if you've read and enjoy reading, then what you know at your gut level if your story has any merit. If you think it does, go for it. Also, if you just feel like you want more perspective, you may want to join a writing group.

    With nonfiction, that's another I have no clue about.

    But good luck.