Monday, June 14, 2010

The WTF moments on the road to publication

How about that True Blood episode yesterday, huh?I thought it was a pretty good one. Not perfect or the best, but true to the show's style and quality. Good way to start the summer TV season!

Today I was reading Rachelle Gardner's ├╝ber-amazing blog and her post on contradictory feedback. At this point in time, anyone who even reads my blog is probably a writer and will know the process to getting published already, but for archiving purposes, let us refresh our memories.

Word of warning: YMMV.

-Try to write and finish the first draft of your novel. Finishing it is already a milestone on its own. Bravo!
-Hang out on icanhascheezburger to pep yourself out of the state of depression the mediocrity of your first draft has pushed you into.
-Improve the first draft.
-Delete all the improvements and start over, because the improvements suck.
-Start drafting a query letter. Just FYI, if "query" was a person in another life, his/her last name surely was "Bitch".
-Start drafting a synopsis. Just FYI, if "synopsis" was a person in another life, his/her last name definitely was "Fucking Bitch".
-Seek out critique partners who will brutally burst your bubble of hope.
-Diss the critique partners who are too enthusiastic about your work. Now is not the time for rays of hope. You need whiplashes and though love at this point. Read the Shark for advice.
-Use the feedback of your critique partner to draft a better 2nd or 3rd draft.
-Seek a beta reader (or many).
-While the beta readers read, research agents. Via Twitter, literary agent blogs, QueryTracker, P&E, AgentQuery, etc.
-Use the feedback of the beta reader(s) to write your 3rd or 4th draft.
-By now your query should be in good shape. Star querying.
-Wait some more.
-A request for a full manuscript! Congrats!
-Wait some more.
-Make a cappuccino.
-Still waiting to discover what the next step is...

Sounds tedious, doesn't it? It is. Would I do it again? Absolutely! The entire process has been AMAZING! I've sworn, cried, laughed and screamed, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It is extremely fulfilling and rewarding to get even a request for a full after all this hard work.

I can only imagine how writers who have landed an agent must feel. Though I'm still waiting and in the querying stage, I've had two fulls and a partial out, all of which came within the first week of querying. Since then it's been slow, but I'm keeping my head up.

Now, back to the contradictory feedback thingy (I've got to learn to structure my posts better than that). The biggest "WTF-want-to-pluck-my-eyes-out" moment has been, without a doubt, writing the fucking synopsis and the advice that goes with it.

My dream agent, who happens to have my full now, sounds even more amazing because SHE THINKS SYNOPSES ARE EVIL! And with good reason. I've done A LOT of research before I began writing my book. Both on my material AND the publishing industry.

Here is proof that I've done a lot of research (I just wanted to show you a part of my library). This was taken as of 25 minutes ago. All of these books were purchased from October 2009 until two months ago. Click for a high-res version.

I know it's not A LOT, but those text books aren't cheap, mate! Back to the synopses...

From some of the best sites and blogs in the universe, here's what I could find on synopses:

-Nathan Bransford suggests 2-3 pages and says it should be enticing but not a full report of every plot arcs
-Jessica Faust suggests 4-5 pages, but if you have 15 pages and it's really good, it's OK. It has to be enticing.
-Janet Reid says a synopsis should read like a FBI report and have little to no verse or style.
-Marg Gilks suggests 2-10 pages, but an average of 5 is better. You can have 10 pages, but it better be good.
-Miss Snark reviewed 106 synopses and most had less than 1000 words, which is about 4 pages (250 words/page). Some didn't cover the end, she loved them anyway.
-Kristin Nelson says synopses suck and that she doesn't use them, because it seems most of her clients can write a heck of a novel but suck at the synopsis (shocker!!!).
-Writing Synopses for Morons suggests you drink 4 Long Island Iced Teas before attempting any synopsis writing experience.

Here it comes. WTF?

I ended up writing three versions. One short of 2 pages, one medium of 5.5 pages, and one long synopsis of 15.5 pages. I must have spent as much time on these as my query letter, which I believe took 7 dog years out of my life to write, and it's still far from perfect.

99% of agents who ask for synopses in their original submission guidelines (at the query process) never mention the length it should take. Considering all the contradictory feedback and advice I've read on the vast interweb, it was very a bit frustrating.

I am seriously happy I knew NOTHING of the publishing industry and the road to publication when I began writing. I think it would have impaired my creativity so early in the writing process. I was well beyond the half of my first draft when I learned about query letters and the evil synopses.

I think what REALLY prepared me has been a lot of thorough research. Books, blogs and forums... you have to know what to take and what to leave aside, but so far, it's paid off, and I'm hoping it'll keep doing so.


Kay said...

Yeah, no kidding. WTF? is exactly what I said when I started realizing what all publishing entailed. And not just the publishing part...just the "getting someone to read your stuff" part. CRAZY!

Great post!


Ted Cross said...

I hate the synopsis more than any other part of the publishing process. You've done better than me so far. I haven't had any full requests. I've only sent out ten queries, though.