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Thursday, March 7, 2013

From the Cheap Seat

Well ... kind of. Every once in a while I like to post tips to writers that are inspired by the editor side of me. Recently, I've had the fabulous and fun opportunity to dabble in acquisitions and some of the things I'm learning are too good not to pass on to you guys!

For instance, you all know things you should do, like write a great query, but do you really know why it's so important? I'm going to tell you, from the Cheap Seat.

Writing a GREAT query
Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net (c) anankkml

THIS is drilled into writers time and time again. And sure, you know, on the surface why it's important to get across that your work is good. But, why ...

  1. If the writing (and by extension grammar, etc.) is bad in the query, chances are it will be bad in the manuscript. Many smaller publishers and even some agents will review the manuscript even if the query is poor, but already you've given the editor/agent a reason to be prejudice. They'll be looking for errors now, reasons to reject the manuscript, and chances are, they'll find them.
  2. If you write a bad query, you could miss out. You've worked hard on that manuscript! Right? You've read and edited and put your heart and soul into it. Make sure it has a fighting chance. I recently came across a query and thought, Hmmm, not sure about this idea. Had I been judging the work on the query alone, I never would have done what I ended up doing: sending back a very positive report and giving the opinion that I thought the manuscript should be accepted.
I've totally been guilty of saying, So the query isn't perfect . . . once they read the story, they'll know it's good. BAD. In a very few cases you'll get lucky and maybe the bad query will turn into an acceptance anyway. In most cases, it won't. In most cases, you're query is the only impression you get to make. 

Don't "Phone In" the Synopsis
My SIL has scammed me into doing Jillian Micheals 30 Day Shred with her and Jillian keeps saying stuff like, "Don't phone it in." I'm not sure if that's what she's actually saying or what, but I get the impression it means don't slack off or make something easy because you think it doesn't matter.

As far as the synopsis goes, I'm SO guilty of phoning it in. (How does that even make sense ...? Anyway ...) But NO MORE. I read a synopsis for a manuscript and had a ho-hum reaction. Then upon reading, I discovered there was a fantastic twist! You do not hold back in the synopsis. This is where you spill all the spoilers -- getting people to beg for more is the job of the query. Convincing people that the whole story -- twists and fabulous turns and all is great -- that's a job for the synopsis. Again, perhaps you'll get lucky and the editor/agent will be reading on anyway. Again, in most cases they won't.

What do you think? Ever read a bad back cover and been surprised? Ever read a good one and been disappointed? 

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About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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