As you know, my blog is about my writing journey. I've been ambling along, a few short story successes here and there and a finished first draft of a novel under my belt. In my last post, I reported that I was re-checking the edits ready to send my novel to my friend who'd offered to act as a Beta reader. Then on Friday, my journey speeded up. What happened?
It was another #PitchCB day on Twitter and I did what I've done for the last few months prepared a tweet pitching my novel. If you haven't heard of it, #Pitch CB is an initiative by the agents at Curtis Brown where unpublished novelists may pitch the idea of their novels in 144 characters or less including the hashtag, #PitchCB. You are to pitch once only and over the course of the day, agents will read every pitch. If they 'like' yours, you may then submit a sample of your novel. Imagine how excited I was that one of the agents, Rebecca Ritchie, liked my Tweet! I had to tell someone so I messaged my friend, Sue, from Writing Group.
And then the panic set in! I checked the website and in order to submit, I needed to send a query letter, a 3000 word synopsis and the first 10,000 words of my novel. I'd never written a query letter and it was Sue to the rescue again. She's in the process of submitting her novel to agents and publishers and recommended an article in the February edition of Writing Magazine. In it, James McCreet looks at a sample cover letter to an agent and considers the best way to proceed. By having a sample letter to scrutinise, I found it helpful then to sort my own thoughts out. He is realistic when he reminds the reader how competitive the whole writing business is. '...your aim is to give (the agent) everything they need as clearly and concisely as possible. If they like the letter, they will; look at the synopsis...'
It was then on to the synopsis. I'd written a one page synopsis before so having up to 3000 words to write one for Curtis Brown should have been easier, shouldn't it? In fact, I thought it was harder and I didn't use up all the words allowed. Perhaps, the difference was that this time it was for real. Before, I'd written it more as an exercise and this was the first time it would be scrutinised by an agent. Writing Magazine continued with its 'Submission Under the Microscope' series and James McCreet looked at writing a synopsis in the March edition. I also found an excellent post 'How to Snag a Publisher First Time With Your Synopsis' on Sacha Black's Writing Blog. In it, she recommends a book by Nicola Morgan entitled simply 'How to Write a Great Synopsis'. My main difficulty was how to present a synopsis for a dual-narrative story. I started by writing a synopsis for each story but that didn't work as I found I was repeating myself. In the end, I included the main stages of the story, where there was conflict for the characters and how that conflict was resolved. It was important to show how the events in the 1947 story impinged on the 1965 story and I hope I achieved that at the end. It was too late for this submission, but today I have downloaded Nicola Morgan's book on my Kindle. Two sections in particular sound as if they will be a great help:
- How to organise a non linear book into a synopsis
- How to write a synopsis of a book from multiple view points
The final part of the submission was the sample from the beginning of the novel. I checked and re-checked, cut more words that seemed unnecessary and generally sharpened the writing - or so I hoped!
Everything took a long time but so it should. I wanted to give this first ever submission my best shot and yet respond quickly to show my enthusiasm. Have I done enough? I am under no illusion that I will be one of very many submitting after a #PitchCB Friday. The odds are very much stacked against Rebecca asking for my full manuscript in view of so much competition. So what have I got out it all?
- Condensing the essence of your book into 144 characters is an excellent discipline. It makes you think about what it's really about. In Sacha's blog, she talks about writing a one sentence 25 word pitch.
- The query letter made me identify my target readers and other authors who have influenced me. Also, it was important to include enough in the letter for an agent to want to read the sample and synopsis.
- Writing the synopsis gave me the most trouble due to the reasons I've given. I know I have to learn much more about writing a synopsis for the structure of my book. Most synopses need to be one side of A4 so Sacha's recommendation that 'synopses are short and sweet' is something I'll have to remember!
This weekend has certainly been a learning curve for me as a writer and I can only benefit from the experience.
Thank you for reading. Have you written a pitch for your novel in 144 characters or 25 words? Have you any tips for writing cover letters and synopses? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks. :-)