What I'm Reading: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
It's been a productive week for me thus far. I've decided to enter a writing contest in the Springs, so I've been working hard on polishing the first 4000 words of the manuscript (even added a new chapter) and on a new piece of torment called a synopsis. This little devil is a 2-3 page summary of the entire novel, ending included, that has to accompany each entry. It's not as horrible as the dreaded 2-3 paragraph query letter, but it's still agony to write. You have to strip your story down to bare bones plot points, focus on just 3-4 characters, convey a sense of who your protagonist/antagonist/most important secondary characters are and what motivates them, introduce, expand on, and resolve the main problem, all while explaining the world of the book and not losing your "voice"--or your sanity--in the process. Voice being, of course, your style of writing. Then again, I've read it out loud so many times, I'll probably lose my real voice soon enough.
One of the most important things I've done in preparing my entry is to have someone else read my work. I've had a couple beta readers go over the first 4000 words and over the synopsis, too. Their feedback is gold. I'm waaay too close to the details to know what holes I've left behind. Even my reluctant husband, who'd sooner browse for Coach purses at the mall than read anything longer than a paragraph, read through my synopsis and asked all sorts of questions I hadn't considered before. He's not afraid to tell me "this makes no sense" or "this sentence is stupid" either. Honest beta readers are a must.
Query letter update! I got feedback from the teacher of my online publishing course, an actual NY agent, and her first three words: "This is great!" Gosh, it's so good to hear that. I've poured hours into that darn thing and after you make so many changes and have it memorized, it's hard to know if anyone besides you will actually understand it. There are other things that need fixin', of course, but I'm thrilled at her initial reaction. Now to apply that same level of toil to the rest of the ms...