Yikes! It's Monday and I forgot to post! But, considering we're in the middle of a total kitchen re-do...yep, even the walls and ceiling came down...I'm going to forgive myself.
I also have a proposal due today. So I thought maybe we'd chat about what makes a proposal great.
First of all, my current editor defines proposal as three chapters and a long synopsis. After a few books of working with a short synopsis, we discovered that we spent less time with questions and in revisions if I wrote a longer synopsis.
Actually, I do something that's more like an outline. I go chapter by chapter, stating exactly what will happen and why...It's more like me talking than straight facts. But it's very concise.
Why do we do this?
Well, first off, there's less margin for error...or misunderstanding. In a short synopsis you can say...After thirty days of trying to get along, the hero and heroine finally have a heart-to-heart talk after their canoe tips over and each blames the other. That looks really cool. Interesting. But you editor could read your short synopsis and think all that happens in 30 pages, but you've made it 100 pages. And if those pages are repetitive or boring...ouch. You're going to be doing some rewriting.
So I specify EVERYTHING that's going to be in my book. Then, my editor's comments are also very specific. So that when I write the book, I know exactly what needs to be in and what needs to stay out...and I can write it quickly. Usually in a month.
But this doesn't really work for all editors. Some editors don't want to be bothered with the "details" of your story until they read the book. So what do you send to them?
A nice, concise 2-page, single-spaced synopsis that hits the highlights (turning points/plot points) of the story and also shows the characters' growth so that when you write the happy ending paragraph, the editor will say, "Oh, yeah. He can commit now (solve the crime now/save the world now) because he's grown.
I actually have a six-point synopsis thing that makes it really easy to get all the important "stuff" into your synopsis. Maybe I'll post that next week?
Anyway, the pages are actually more important than a synopsis when you submit a proposal.
Why? A couple of reasons.
In those first three chapters (or that one chapter if you're with an editor who only likes one chapter) you have an opportunity to not just show you can write and show your story starts off with a bang, but also to create characters who leap off the page and shake your editor's hand.
That's not to say your character needs to be an overwhelming butt head in the first chapters. But it IS to say that your character needs to be special. Not necessarily unique. Just someone you editor (and ultimately readers) will want to spend 50-100,000 words with.
First chapters are like a gift from God to a writer to give him or her the chance to demonstrate their talent as well as the real potential of their book.
So whether you write a looooonnnnng synopsis as I do or a two-pager that cuts right to the heart of the story, it's your chapters that will make your editor stutter with delight that she gets to work on this book with you or write you a rejection.
So when you're thinking about your proposal and those first three chapters...start thinking, "How am I going to wow this editor?"
And then use the lovely gift of that chapter or those chapters to do just that!