How To Write A Novel Synopsis

Today, we are going to tackle what I would argue is the most difficult part of your entire submission package: the synopsis.

When I realized I was going to need to write a synopsis for some of the literary agents I was going to submit to, I was absolutely terrified. Every single English teacher I have ever had has commented on my inability to stay within page/word limits. It’s just impossible! If my point needs four pages instead of three to be argued beautifully, how can they expect me to cut myself off? But of course, when you’re submitting your manuscript, you want to nail the guidelines. You don’t want your submission to be thrown out without a chance just because you couldn’t follow an agent’s directions.

The consensus among the writers I’ve spoken to is that the synopsis takes the most time to create and is the most complicated to figure out. So when I was approaching the synopsis for the first time, I took to Google to do some research. I read lots of articles about the subject, and to be honest with you, most of them were no help whatsoever. There isn’t a good consensus about how to write a great synopsis except to just…. well… write one?

But I did find one article that took a different approach to writing a novel synopsis. Instead of trying to deal with a lot of moving parts at once and writing straight through from beginning to end, the author offered a suggestion to break down your book into parts. Analyzing what is important from different elements of your story makes it a lot easier to write your synopsis. I’m going to break down this technique for you right now, so get ready, get a pen, and take some notes.

Basics of A Synopsis

Most literary agents are looking for a one to two page synopsis in size 12 font and single spaced. Single spacing is a lifesaver, trust me; use it well. There’s a few points you’re going to want to make sure to cover: the narrative arc, your characters and their motivations and emotions, and the ending, to name a few. Do NOT forget to reveal your ending. In your synopsis, an agent is looking for the full main story and as many nuances as you can include within your word limit. You need to be concise, yet detailed at the same time.

Breaking It Down

Step One: Get a piece of paper or open up a document, whichever you prefer. And get ready to make multiple lists. We’re going to start with the plot basics. Use a number list or bullet points to detail the main plot events in order. Emphasis on MAIN. Do not worry about your subplots at this point; we are solely focusing on the clear steps that move your protagonist from inciting incident to the climax and resolution. Include the turning points that set your protagonist on a clear path for either success or failure.

Step Two: Now, we’re going to make a separate list for the main character’s character arc. Introduce your main character and list the points where we see the protagonist thrown into situations where they are forced to make decisions. List the events throughout the novel where the reader sees the character change and grow as well as places where the character maybe takes a step back and reverts back their old ways.

Step Three: Next, let’s bring the secondary characters into the mix. These characters influence the main character in various ways and push them towards or draw them away from their goal. Showcase the ones who play a major role in your novel, and track their progress. Do those characters stay fixed? Do they change as the protagonist changes?

Step Four: Following the introduction and journey of these secondary characters, pick out the major relationships in your novel. This can be a romantic relationship between main and secondary character, or it can be the hero/villain relationship. Or both, depending on the story! Track the main events of each relationship like a mini plot, from beginning through the climax to the end.

Step Five: Take a look at what you have so far. Can you identify any key themes that are addressed throughout your book? Are there any messages that you are trying to convey, blatant or subtle? If these are crucial to the book, write these down and find ways to weave this into your synopsis.

Step Six: Organize your numbers or bullet points into plot order. Now you have a list of everything you should include in your synopsis. Now it’s time to write! One other note, especially for fantasy: make sure you introduce the world that the story is operating in. Include a few important details about the world that are important to your story.

There you have it! By the end of this, you should have a synopsis in your hands! But don’t stop after a first draft. Make sure you edit, edit, edit this document. Have someone look it over, whether it’s another writing friend or a professional. Polish until you are happy with the state that it is in. Spend some time on this! A synopsis can be what gets you that manuscript request!

Entering The Querying Process

Hey everybody! Let me tell you, I have been struggling for the past week. I had what I thought was a virus, but around day 4, it took a drastic turn. Now I have acute bronchitis with exacerbated asthma issues! Yay!!! I’m on a ton of meds right now, and my lungs ache. Hopefully, I can put out a good coherent post. Today, I want to talk about entering the querying process and things to know when approaching said process. These tips are based off of my current experience and hopefully will be a useful framework.

Step One: Do Your Research

When I was preparing to query, I knew I wanted to get my hands on whatever resources were available for finding agents in the my subgenre, YA fantasy. I bought myself the Guide to Literary Agents 2019: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published from the Writers’ Market. This book is essentially a large index of reputable literary agents and agencies across the country. I went through every single page of this book and looked up the web addresses for any agency that mentioned representing young adult fiction. From there, I drew up a spreadsheet with all of the agents that I found with columns for the agency, any notes about what the agency had represented, specific agents, contact information, and most importantly, submission guidelines. Which brings me to my next point:

Step Two: Pay Attention To Submission Guidelines!

Some ridiculous percentage like 80% of submissions can be rejected due to a sheer lack of adhesion to the submission guidelines, including proofreading for proper grammar! Don’t get caught up in this! The best way to do this is by using the spreadsheet I mentioned above; there should be a submission guidelines tab or page for each agency, and you can transfer that information into your table. From my research, many of the submission packages for the literary agents I sent to consists of a query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript. But note: THIS IS BY NO MEANS THE AVERAGE. There is no usual submission package. There is pretty much no consistency, which is why you need to be vigilant. An agent can want anything from just a query letter, to a query letter and five pages, or a query letter, the first ten pages, a synopsis, your platform numbers, your website link, and a list of books similar to yours.

If that freaks you out, it’s okay! Take each piece one at a time, and trust me, it becomes a lot easier with practice.

Step Three: Choose Which Agents And How Many Agents To Submit To

I have read that the average number of queries one should submit at a time is between six and eight. You are by no means bound to that, but I find that it’s a good number to have a decent amount out there in the world, but not too many in case your query letter or manuscript isn’t getting good feedback or any requests. Whatever agents you choose are up to you. Every author is going to have their own criteria for how to select an agent, so I’m not going to touch on that particular part of the process.

Step Four: Polish Your Submission

Some notes for submitting to literary agents:

Your manuscript has to be completely finished before you start to query. Completely. Fully revised. Fully edited. No grammar mistakes. DO NOT QUERY WITHOUT THE MANUSCRIPT BEING DONE.

Have a professional look at your query letter. It is worth the small monetary investment to hire an editor to look over your query letter. I had two different professionals look at mine in order to make it the best it could possibly be. Your query letter gets you in the door before your first few pages are even read. Make your first impression as a writer your very best. Personalize each query to the specific agent you’re querying to. Their name should be correctly spelled in your greeting, and you should note the reason you’re submitting to them specifically.

Make sure all your manuscript pages are formatted the way you want them before submission. Sometimes pasting the text into the body of an email can make the formatting wonky, including changing any italics or bolding. Read it through thoroughly.

Synopses are tricky. They take a lot of time to write and require one to learn how to summarize an entire book succinctly and with enough detail to convey your story effectively. promise to write an article on writing them later.

Double check all your submissions before you send them! Make sure you have the right email address and the right materials. Make sure your query letter has the correct agent’s name. Double check your grammar, spelling, and syntax. Reading everything over a couple times will never hurt. Remember, best foot forward!

Step Five: Be Patient

Be patient. Literary agents can take a long time to get back to you. I would suggest going to each agency’s website and seeing if they have a submission timeline of when you should be hearing back from a given agent. I put this information in my spreadsheet and in my calendar so I have a general idea of who I should be hearing from when. It makes me less frantic and antsy. Then just sit back and wait. Work on another project. Write something new. Work on building your platform as a writer. Keeping busy is a good way to keep from thinking too much about your outstanding queries.

I hope everyone enjoyed today’s guide to the querying process. Comment below about your querying journey!

Building Your Author Platform: Facebook Page

Welcome back to the Building Your Author Platform series! I am finally off my hiatus from this subject, and today, I want to talk about some tricks and tips on maintaining a Facebook page that gets engagements. I personally run two pages, the Fluff About Fantasy page and All in the Pantheon’s page. If you know what you’re doing, you can have these pages practically run themselves. Here is my best advice.

Tip #1: Make sure your setup allows for smooth operation.

When you’re creating your Facebook page, make sure you’re taking care of the basics. Fill out your “about” description with a quick summary of either who you are or what your website offers, depending on which purpose you’re designing your page around. Add at least one form of contact information outside of using Messenger (I chose my writing email). Let people know that you’re available to take questions from fans or contact from professionals.

Sync your website to your Facebook page. WordPress allows you to post links and a description of every post you make to your website automatically. It’s a fantastic feature that saves me a bit of time every time I create something new.

Tip #2: Send your page out to as many people as you can.

Now that you’ve created a Facebook page, you’re going to want people to see it! Start by sending invites to like your page out to all your Facebook friends, whether that’s 50 people or 500. Post the link on your personal Facebook and your Facebook story. Get your friends to share it too. Post the link on all of the other social media platforms that you use. Even if you only get 5% engagement from the people who follow you, that’s fantastic. Facebook is a platform that is fairly difficult to build up a following for a page unless you’ve already got a decent amount of work out there in the public eye.

If you’re willing to spend a bit of money, using Facebook Ads to reach more people can be incredibly useful for branching outside of your immediate and secondary circles. While I haven’t put out an ad myself, I have played around with selecting an audience for an ad. And let me tell you, you can narrow the focus down as much as you want to by age, location, and common interests; to name a few. I’ve got a saved audience for young fantasy writers to target once I’m ready to put out my first ad.

Tip #3: Create new content.

As I mentioned before, Facebook is notorious for making pages difficult for others to see without you throwing it in someone’s face via yourself or ads. However, one technique that I’ve noticed does get you a little more reach is creating new content. Content that can’t be found on your website or any of your other social media platforms.

On the All in the Pantheon page, I conduct interviews with each of the gods to dive deep into who they are, what they stand for, and how they feel about the mortal scribe writing for them. It’s an added touch that breaks up the monotony of getting a stream of blog post after blog post. People like to see something new and different, and they love to think that they’re the only ones who are seeing it or the first ones who will ever see it. I’m working on coming up with ways to bring interesting things like that to spruce up the Fluff About Fantasy page. I’m open to suggestions!

At the end of the day, a Facebook page is easily manageable with just a little bit of effort per week. Add to your repertoire. You won’t regret it.

Happy writing!

Writing Your First Query Letter: The Basics

Hello everyone! Happy 4th of July weekend! DC essentially shuts down for the Fourth, so I’ve got a super long weekend to look forward to. Only one more week until my writers’ conference! I can’t wait to go. I’m still working on my pitch; I’ll let you all know how that goes!

Today, I want to talk to you about the basics of writing a query letter, especially for you young first-timers. I just wrote my query letter for the first time, and I’ve love to share some of my insights.

Basic Parts of A Query Letter

When I geared up to write my query letter, I did a lot of research. I scoured the internet far and wide looking for sample query letters, guides to writing query letters, and my favorite, lists of dos and don’ts. I made sure to focus my search on what specifically works best for a fantasy query letter. Here’s what I was able to scrounge up:

1. The Basics: When beginning your query letter, I believe that the best way to start is to come straight in with the facts. It’s a simple equation: I am seeking representation for [Title of Novel], a [State your genre and audience.], complete at [Word Count]. I’ve found that this gets the point of your letter across right away. Getting to the point is important in such a quick letter.

2. Referral: Where did you hear about this agent from? Did you meet at a conference? Did you speak with the agent in any capacity? If not, you should list what the specific reason is that you contacted this agent. Go back to that agent’s wish list and make sure your book matches.

3. Summary: I will be the first to admit that I am horrible at summarizing. I can never get my thoughts condensed down to a handful of words. But it is essential for writing the best query possible. Now, I’m not equipped to give tips on how to do this. What I did was essentially sit down for a while and think hard about my story. Then I just wrote it, a summary of a little less than two hundred words. I actually really like the way it turned out.

4. Credentials: After your summary, you should talk about any and all writing credentials you have that may relate to the genre you’re writing. Make sure to mention any published works that you’ve written or any life experience that may relate directly to your genre. I talked about my website and its followers as well as my growing following on Twitter.

5. Closing: Make sure to close your query politely. Thank the agent for their time and consideration, but don’t sound overly thankful or apologetic about your own work. You’ve got this!

Thanks for reading! Comment below if this has been helpful to you.

Building An Author Platform: Twitter

Today’s post is specifically for those writers who have little to no experience with Twitter, but want to tap into this social media platform. And trust me, you really, really do.

Four months ago, I had no idea how to use Twitter. It was the one social media platform that I couldn’t justify jumping on to. It didn’t seem like much more than a place for people to shoot quick messages at each other or to the world without any real impact except for the cases where you said something really stupid or were particularly famous.

But after making an account, I realized exactly how wrong I was.

The #WritingCommunity on Twitter is legendary. Right off the bat, I was welcomed into the community even as a new writer. You can really connect with people inside and outside of your genre. I’ve gained writing tips and querying tips, conversed about my WIP and gotten people excited, and helped out other writers with ideas. And through that, I’ve seen my following grow exponentially. 1500 followers in 3 months. That’s just crazy.

Tips for Twitter

  1. Profile: When creating your profile, you only have a limited number of characters for your bio. Introduce yourself. Keep it short and sweet. Who are you? What are you working on? Take up as much space as you can.
  2. First Tweet: Reintroduce yourself. Keep it short and sweet, more so than your bio. (Bio is where you can elaborate a bit more on personality.) Introduce your work in progress and the genre. Then either elaborate on that or introduce your author website as well. Again, make the character count serve you. Finally, pin it to the top of your thread. It’s a good spot for people to see. My first tweet still gets likes and retweets months later.
  3. Keep It Simple: Tweet what you’re thinking about. Tweet about your work in progress. Tweet about your writing process. Talk about your good days and your bad days. Feel free to share a bit about your personal life as well. It helps readers and writers alike to connect with you and get excited about the work that you’re doing. Don’t feel like you need to overthink it.
  4. Interact: Spend some time each day scrolling through your feed. Comment on other writers’ posts. Support others. Provide motivation. Sometimes, you’ll find links to great blog posts or useful writing tools. A lot of writers in the #WritingCommunity ask questions to get to know others and their personalities or their WIPs (or both!). Get involved. Whenever someone comments on one of your posts, always reply back unless it’s entirely irrelevant. I’ve found that replies start conversations so easily, and I’ve gained a lot of support that way.
  5. Use Hashtags: Hashtags help get your Tweet and your name out to more people at once outside of your followers. #writingcommunity is the most important one. For fantasy, #amwritingfantasy gets your work out to other fantasy writers on Twitter. #amwriting and #amrevising will help you find writers in various stages of the process like you are.

These tips will help you go far in this community. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend hopping on. It’s 100% worth it. Thanks for reading!

Building An Author Platform: Building a Website (WordPress edition)

Get ready, writers. Today is the day.

Deciding to create my author website wasn’t an easy one. I had no experience in building a website from scratch, and I wasn’t sure where to start. Building up a website with some decent web traffic would require a serious time commitment and unwavering effort. I needed to be ready to take on this kind of responsibility. As I stand now having executed the preliminary stages of my plans, I am proud to say that I did undertake this project, and I am succeeding.

An author website gives you a chance to connect more personally with your audience, whether you are a published or unpublished writer. It serves as a chance to promote your work as well as share your thoughts on any aspect of writing that you so choose. This can include your own writing process or the reviews of other writers in your genre. No matter what you decide to write about on your website, it gives you a real chance to showcase yourself as a person.

What platforms work best?

When I began to research building a website, I contemplated which website builders were the best to use. Wix, Squarespace, Weebly: I researched them all. What I came up with: WordPress.com.

WordPress.com has an easy to use interface that allows for maximum customization. You can create pages that serve as landing grounds for your readers and categories that can run across the top of a menu to carry blog posts. Even the free version offers a lot of color and theme customization options that creates a professional looking page with a little effort. Upgrading to something like the Premium or Business plans would allow you to access more customization options, support from WordPress themselves, and in the case of the Business plan, the ability to add plugins to create features like mailing lists.

What are the essentials of an author website?

1. Title and tagline

Titles are important. They are your very first impression of your website and should offer an insight into what you write. Titles can come from a multitude of places, so don’t be afraid to try something out and change your mind later. “Fluff About Fantasy” was a fun little phrase with alliteration and a very lighthearted air that I came up with on the fly to hold the URL when I first made the site. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

A tagline, I personally believe, is an optional feature, especially if you’re just starting out and working on finding your voice. A tagline builds on what your title introduces: who you are and what you do. The tagline for Fluff About Fantasy is “Strengthen your work; revitalize your imagination”. It’s a sentence that is a bit of a work in progress; I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet. But it showcases the purpose of my site fairly well, which is to inspire young fantasy writers in particular to create by taking out the guesswork in the writing process.

2. About page/Bio

If your work interests people, they will want to know more about the writer behind it. DO NOT PHONE THIS IN. Your bio should be fairly substantial, but please do not share your entire life story. There’s no need to. Instead, talk about your writing credentials, your inspirations, and don’t forget to add your contact information.

If you’re unpublished and have no credentials to your name, don’t worry about it! So did I! My bio incorporates how I started writing from a young age, my school career and where I’m headed next, and some of my interests.

3. Consistent Content

I spoke briefly about content in my introduction, so I want to talk about the logistics of putting out content here. To get your website web traffic, you need to churn out content regularly. My research and experience recommends that you post on your website twice a week in the beginning. Pick two days that you know you can put something out on 95% of the time. Again, this is going to take real commitment in order to get somewhere. Once you’ve been in business for about a year, usually you can go down to one post a week.

Tip: Search engines enjoy regularly updated sites that happen on a consistent schedule, so they will be more likely to pick up on your site and move it up the results list. Even in a newer state.

Questions?

That’s all I have for you all today! I hope that I have been of some help. Let me know in the comments below if you think that next time, I should jump right into social media setup or whether you would like to see a post of a walkthrough of setting up a WordPress site with images and step-by-step instructions. I’ve never tried something like that before, but I would be willing to try! Let me know. Much love. <3