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Queries & the Dreaded Synopsis

July 22, 2010

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Are you struggling with your query letter? Can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with it, or how to write it so the Query Shark doesn’t chomp you to bits? Believe me, I understand completely. Madam Shark won’t even touch my queries, leaving me in the Land of the Lost on whether it’s good or bad. I have no clue. I write books, not queries. The query letter is not an easy thing to write because essentially you’re condensing your 300-page novel into a 1-page blurb. It’s really not even a full page. We’re talking around 250 words. Okay, that’s a full page double-spaced, but whatever. There are several agents out there who give great advice on how to write a query–from Janet Reid and Colleen Lindsay to Nathan Bransford, Rachelle Gardner and many others. Books and websites too. I’ve looked at a good portion of them, read the blogs and have spoken with other writers about how to write a query, but here’s the thing with me – I learn a bit differently than others do. I’m a kinesthetic learner who needs some visual and a little auditory backing it up. In other words, I need to see it, hear it, and do it all at the same time. I need immediate feedback on what I’m doing or doing wrong, and I think a good portion of you writers out there are similar. Writing a query letter, then sending it out for multiple rejections, and then rewriting the query letter to send it out for more rejections, and repeating this process over and over takes entirely too much time for my patience, or lack thereof. By the time I figure it out, someone else has a similar book going to print and I’m gasping. “I’ve worked on this for two years!” Okay, not really that long, but I’m making a point here. It’s not a quick and easy process, writing the query, much like writing your book isn’t going to happen overnight. Then begins the other questions: is it my query, or is it my novel? Oh noes! If it’s my novel, I have to write a new one! Actually, you should be writing your next book anyway. I’ve heard a professor once say, “You’re going to write a lot of crap before you get to the gems.” That’s very true for a lot of people, I think. I haven’t been writing all of my life. I didn’t start college until 13 years after I graduated high school, and when I was in high school, all I wrote was emoetry–Yes, I was emo before emo had a name. Not that I’m proud of that, so let’s move on …

Of course, Life interrupting with multiple explosions around you doesn’t help to speed up this process, and Life is the reason I didn’t start really writing until I was 28. Since then, I’ve completed five manuscripts. I’ll admit to being hasty and self-publishing the first two, the first of which should have never seen the light of day. Actually, the second wasn’t that great either. But right now, it’s the fifth book I’m working on editing and querying while I rewrite the third and fourth books to bring them up to par with my current writing skills. I’ll have a future post on the whole self-publishing thing too.

Then we have the dreaded synopsis. I hate this. Let me clarify that. I HATE writing a synopsis, no matter if it’s one page, two pages, or 10 pages. And I hate that I have to have more than one synopsis too! Can’t all the agents get together and decide on a 1-page or 2-page synopsis? This would be so much easier on us. I know, it’s not going to happen, but a girl can dream, can’t she? That leaves us with the agents’ clients–authors who are willing to help. Not all of them have time for this, so don’t approach them on the subject. That’s just rude. But if they offer, it’s a different story.

Author Gary Corby, and all-around great guy, whose book The Pericles Commission releases this fall, was a great deal of help when I complained about this on Twitter one night, and I’ve thanked him immensely for it. But I still hated the process. He was able to push me in the right direction on where to focus and how to “just write it,” but it still proved a daunting task that had me pulling my hair out and drinking copious amounts of wine. It’s okay, I have really thick hair. Now, I’m not telling you this so you can go bug the bejeezus out of Gary. I’m illustrating an example of one author’s kindness whom I know because I’ve published a short story of his in my magazine. He’s not the only one who has offered help to me, but his book is about to release and I needed an excuse to throw it into a post so I can promote his genius. 🙂

However, I don’t hate writing the synopsis or query so much anymore. The reason? Her name is CJ Redwine and she runs a Workshop for writers specifically covering queries and synopses. I met CJ when I ran across her query on the Query Shark. Hers was the very first GOOD EXAMPLE posted on the new blog run by Janet Reid of Fineprint Literary Agency. I commented, I believe, and realized CJ had a blog, which I raced off to read. I cracked up … a lot, because her query cracked me up. I commented on her blog, more than once–different posts, of course–and a few days or so later, CJ commented on one of my blog posts. When I discovered this, my hand flew up to cover my mouth as I shouted “OH MY GOD! CJ read my blog!” Normally, I wouldn’t be so eager to tell you about my starstruckedness that I like to do only in private–I never go gaga over a celebrity in public. I mean, after all, I was at the same Vegas party as Chester Bennington and didn’t even get to meet him–but I find this hilarious because while CJ wasn’t published or didn’t even had an agent yet, she carried herself in the blogosphere and interwebz like she was. That’s extremely important to understand, but I’ll reserve it for another post.

When I signed up for Twitter, CJ was one of my first “tweeps,” and when I finally gave in to Facebook, CJ was my very first friend on the social network because she’d invited me. She introduced me to her sister HC Palmquist a little over a year ago, who has since become one of my best friends and roommate. I had the recent opportunity to meet CJ in person earlier this year, though the circumstances weren’t the best, and she’s even more wonderful “live” than online. She’s a walking comedienne. You think she’s funny online? You’ll fall over laughing with her in person.

I took CJ’s query workshop before I took the synopsis workshop. The query turned out great and part of it can be found here, but I desperately needed help trying to figure out how to write the synopsis for this book. HC and I decided to take the synopsis workshop together, and from the first day, we were “passing notes” in class and shooting spitwads (wait, that wasn’t us, it was Sara McClung). But in all seriousness, taking the synopsis workshop helped me find a huge plot hole in my MS Nemesis. I mean HUGE. I also ended up on the phone with CJ for a quick plotting session, only because I happened to be visiting her sister. Learning how to write the synopsis for my book also helped me write book reviews, and has the potential to helping me plot this epic fantasy swirling around in my head.

CJ’s query workshop is without a doubt amazing and you will graduate with a wonderful query that will help you on your road to publication. Just take a look at her testimonials. I was in a synopsis workshop with some of those ladies and remember when they hit “send” and it worked for them, it got them an agent. They are well on their way to book deal-dom.

This is when I realize that I’m next. My time is coming soon. Once I finish the edits and fix the plot holes on Nemesis, I can query using the one CJ helped me sculpt. I can use the synopsis she helped me perfect. Then I can finish my next project, which involves one of these:

Okay, that’s not the best-looking werewolf. Caleb’s better looking, but yeah, total urban fantasy/paranormal romance heading straight for one of the e-publishers in the near future, whether I have an agent or not.

I highly recommend CJ’s workshops, and I’ll keep you updated on my progress as I get ready to finally query Nemesis, which will be very soon.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tina Lynn permalink
    July 22, 2010 8:26 am

    I just took her query workshop and it blew my mind. Totes worth every penny. The critiques alone are worth their weight in gold. And when she offers another synopsis class, I am so there. But I’m still cringing. I do not like the s-word.

    • NL Gervasio permalink*
      July 22, 2010 8:53 am

      The synopsis workshop is even better.

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