12 September 2016

Preparing for October #P2P16

Pitch to Publication October 2016 has been announced! *mad squealing and running around with arms in the air*  =*D I had so much fun last time and could not be more thrilled to participate in this Twitter contest again. *more squealing*

Whether you're just hearing about this contest for the first time or have done it before, this post is meant to help you decide whether you'll be ready to submit in October and, if so, what you should do to prepare.

Are you ready to submit in October?

08 September 2016

Your first 50 pages

This post is the latest in a series of posts inspired by my participation in Pitch to Publication. Having looked at a lot of authors' pages back in March (and having had the incredibly good fortune of getting to work with several of those people since then), I began to notice some patterns in what grabs me and where manuscripts fall down. So far I've talked about the first 5 pages, the Darkest Moment, the word count, the #p2p16 query letter, chapters (length, breaks, headings, etc.), and the novel's overall structure. Today I'm tackling your novel's first 50 pages, what I referred to in the structure post as Act I.

What should your first 50 pages accomplish? They should hook readers and set up expectations for the journey we're going to be on: the novel's tone and pacing, the setting (world-building), who the story is about, what this story is going to be about thematically, and what the primary external conflict involves.

07 September 2016

Your novel's structure

My current thinking about structure - which I use both for my own novels and for working with clients' books - is influenced primarily by the three-act structure as explained to me by my friend Diane Gilman, who wrote screenplays for many years, and by Viki King's description of the nine plot points in her book How to Write a Movie in 21 Days. Influenced being the operative word; what I offer here is not a straight mash-up of those two approaches. I'm not convinced that my philosophy is complete yet, but it's a start, and I think it's worth sharing at this point.

Act I: The Beginning
This is The Beginning of your story, starting on on page 1. It introduces the novel's setting, tone, characters, and theme(s) and includes two inciting incidents: the one that happens within the first five or six pages, and the one that heralds the end of Act I, around page 50.

Yes, that's right: Act I is only 50 pages long. If that.

15 August 2016

Your novel's chapters

A combination of Twitter conversations, client work, and working on my own latest novel have put it in my head today to talk about approaches to chapters: length, breaks, and titles.

First let me say that there are no hard-and-fast rules in storytelling. As with any aspect of craft, choices about how to do chapters are driven by the experience we want our readers to have. It's about the effects our choices have on how readers understand and experience our stories. Decisions about chapter length and breaks are mostly about pacing. Since I like reading fast-paced page-turners, that's the effect that I go for in my own writing. I want my books to be unputdownable, so that's my mindset when I'm making decisions about chapters.

Chapter Length
There's no minimum. No, really. I've seen a one-word chapter done successfully before. (See also these examples, which include several chapters that one-up the one-word chapter by containing zero words.) That said, if I'm reading a book that has a bunch of super-short chapters, each one is going to have to be riveting and compelling to prevent me from getting frustrated or fatigued.

06 July 2016

Your Pitch to Publication query letter

Query letters are tricky beasts, difficult for most authors to write. Going in, we know this. But your query letter is important because it's what's going to get me excited about reading your first five pages and, more importantly, give me a sense of what I'm not seeing: namely, p. 6 to the end. It's going to clue me into whether you know what your book is about, whether the narrative arc makes sense, and whether you have a story I can invest myself in.

There are LOADS of posts all over the Internet about how to write a tight, enticing query letter for an agent. See for example Jane Friedman's, the one on Writer's Digest, or the oft-cited Query Shark site. This post is about how to write an enticing query letter for Pitch to Publication.

How is the P2P QL similar to a QL for an agent?

It's not that writing a query letter for Pitch to Publication is entirely different from writing one for an agent; there are definitely some guidelines that apply to both.

Your Pitch to Publication query letter should include the book data (title, target audience, genre, word count, comps if you can/want to), hook, bio, and thank you.

As with any good hook, I want to know about the setting, MC(s), premise, goal, and stakes. The best query letters also have a strong voice that reflects the voice of the novel; it's a window into what I can expect when I get to the pages. Your hook is the mini-synopsis; it should be no more than three paragraphs, and aim for 7-11 sentences total.