Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A 15 Word Novel . . .

I heard it twice yesterday, from two completely separate blogs / websites / wherever I saw them, and so last night I thought it a relevant topic to bring up at our writers' circle.

What's the first thing that's going to sell your novel when you send it off to a publisher or agent? Could it be your sample chapters? No. Could it be your synopsis? No. Could it be your opening letter? In a way.

Your opening letter is the first thing that's going to be looked at. In it you need to introduce your story - to sell your story - but you can't waffle on. I know with us writers, not being able to waffle on in the written way is not always an easy thing to do. Well, I know it's not for me. I've just written a 130,000 word novel. I struggle condensing it down into a bite size synopsis - so you can imagine my horror when I read that you have to condense it down to 15 words. Yes, you have to explain your entire story in just 15 words or less.

Now, there are thousands of websites out there that give you advice on how to take the next step towards publishing, and I'll be surprised if even a quarter of them give the same advice. My point is, because I've read this somewhere doesn't mean it's gospel - BUT it does make sense. How many times has someone come up to you and said "I'm writing a story!" You, out of kind curiosity, then ask "Oh, what's it about?" How many replies have you had that go on and on, that explain every twist and every turn? You got lost somewhere around the third corner, and you know there should be right turn coming up soon. It could be a really good story, but once you've lost your way it's difficult to get back on track. But still you listen, wanting to give them the kind of writing support that us writers need. Publisher's aren't always so lenient.

So how much simpler would it be to reply "It's about `a girl's struggle to keep control of her mind after the loss of her friend.`" There's no way you can get lost after a reply like that. You know exactly where you are and what the story is about - and so will the publisher.

Anyway, we put it into practice last night, and it's not as easy as it sounds. For those of you who don't know what my story is about, I'm about to explain to you in 15 words. Here goes:

"A sorcerer embarks on a mission to prevent an evil darkness from being woken."
And it took me all night to write that. . .

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