Friday, May 28, 2010

Writing Proposals - A Great Way To Get A Grasp On A Book

I hear authors complaining about having to writer a synopsis for their book. I always laugh at this one considering the fact that a synopsis is simply a summary of your book now that you have written it. What is the big deal people? Tell me the plot!

But as I sat here this morning thinking about it, and on the phone to editors, it got me thinking about something. I honestly think the biggest difficulty with these authors is that they simply don't know what their book is about. For that reason, I would strongly encourage writers to try a new approach to their writing. Hey, you're going to have to do it eventually when you are looking at working with an editor so you might as well start out now. It's time to talk about writing a proposal.

Simply put, the proposal is what you would use to get that editor interested in later projects. In the early stages, that proposal would involved a synopsis (although a bit less detailed than the full one), but later on, that proposal might simply be a nice blurb to get the editor hooked. Still, while this migh be shorter, all of the major components of the synopsis need to be there (although not necessarily in this order):
  • Setting
  • Theme
  • The hero (characteristics and internal conflict)
  • The heroine (characteristics and internal conflict)
  • External conflict (both between H/H and even outside)

By getting a grasp on these elements, you can begin to see, before you even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard for you techies) whether or not your story has anything worthwhile to work with.

The setting and theme is simple. Give us a time and place to put the story and then tie in the theme to it all. This can generally be wrapped up in 1 or 2 simple sentences. Remember through, the theme of the story is simply that high concept. Try to keep this one to a single sentence. Remember, the theme of the story is really your thesis statement. What is it that you want the reader to walk away with after reading this story?

When you look at the characters, focusing in on who the character really is, essentially dealing with the GMC will give that reader the depth you are looking for. I am not so much interested in the physical characteristics but the people themself. Give yourself a paragraph for each one! The key here is to really focus in on what makes this character work internally. If all you have is a job or external conflict, this will cause you to have a weak 2-dimensional character.

The External Conflict is the next big one. in this paragraph, you would focus what is the key thing that is both motivating the story to that HEA and also what will be driving the wedge between the hero and heroine from moving on to that HEA.

I honestly believe, if you can identify these elements before you start a book, you will see the holes before you even get going and can plan for those elements. As for those of you with a story already written, if you find you can't answer some of these, you may have found the reason why the story is a bit flat, or even why you have been getting rejections.

Have a great weekend people!



  1. Thanks for an insightful approach to the synopsis. I'm looking forward to trying it out (vs. the old outline approach I've been using).
    Have a great holiday weekend.

  2. Great post. Thanks so much. I am just in the planning stages of my manuscript. I will sit down tonight and go through your blog to check that I'm on track :)