If you've attended one of the Clarion workshops, say so. If you've attended the Odyssey workshop, say so. Both of these intensive six-week long workshops do an incredible job of not only teaching writers how to hone their writing skills, but they also provide you with the practical tools you will need to learn in order to work within the established publishing community to get published. By far the best and most tightly-written queries I've seen this week are those from writers who identify as former Clarion or Odyssey students. And if you haven't taken one of these workshops and really want to write genre fiction professionally, I highly recommend that you look into one or both of them.Okay, them is my two cents for the night. Tawk amongst yerselves!
If you are a member of amazing and under-appreciated Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy & Horror, say so! This Web-based writing workshop has been going steady for (I believe) more than ten years now. I have a real soft spot for this workshop. Created by former Del Rey editor Ellen Harris (now Harris-Braun) way back when, this was originally a free service offered by Del Rey on their fledgling website, back when the Web was a wild and scary place and BBS was pretty much still de rigeur for online communication. This workshop is an inexpensive alternative to Clarion and Odyssey and has spawned some fabulous writers such as Elizabeth Bear, Kelly Link, Sarah Prineas, Melissa Marr, Karin Lowachee, Karen Miller, Charles Coleman Finlay and Josh Palmatier. Seriously, I cannot recommend this online workshop highly enough. It is the best $49 you will ever spend to further your writing career. [Edit to add: Jennifer Jackson just reminded me that Jim Butcher also came out of this workshop! And I thought of a few more last night but then my aging baby boomer brain promptly forgot them again. Oy!]
If you are a regular contributor to a fan-fic writing community online, say so! Oh, sure, you thought I was gonna say I hate the stuff, right? Wrong. A regular writing hobby is a regular writing hobby, no matter what you write, as long as you are consistent and working to improve your craft. And many fan-fic writers are already used to being critiqued, so they don't bleed all over the keyboard when someone tells them how they could make something better. Fan-fic has also spawned a number of talented writers, such as Rachel Caine, Naomi Novik, and Sarah Rees Brennan.
Lastly - and most importantly - the pitch and the synopsis:
- Your Pitch: Okay, let me break this to you gently: your pitch, your hook, whatever you choose to call it? It needs to be two paragraphs or less. I've said this before and will say it again. In that two paragraphs you need to be able to convey the entirety of the book as though you had ten seconds in an elevator with me and wanted to sell me your idea. It should also convey why your book is so special, so different from everything else out there.
- Your Synopsis: Ideally you should have a concise (one or two paragraph) synopsis in the body of your query. But you're welcome to include a longer separate synopsis with the pages you paste into the body of the query. Your synopsis should be no longer than one page. This is the standard length that most editors are looking for. If you can't collapse your story into one page, one of two things is evident: either there is something very wrong with your story or there is something very wrong with your writing. And that just means you still have some work to do. Being a writer means being able to control words, after all. The best way to start is by editing your synopsis.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
As I wade through query letters here (and try to keep the cats from sitting on the keyboard and accidentally erasing them), I've been thinking about some of the things that might help you get my attention when you send your query. These are suggestions, not hard and fast rules, and bear in mind that every agent is different, and as such will prefer different types of queries. That being said, here goes: