Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Too Busy to Read, But. . .

I'm so busy that my shoulders hurt from slumping over the computer all day and my eyes are blurry from staring at the screen, but I keep pushing through and hopping from one project to the next and back again.

Yesterday I grabbed up a proposal, thinking it would be an easy rejection. I read the first paragraph of the story, honestly expecting to find it a ho-hum read of a puffed up Heartsong plot. But I was surprised. I read the full six-page summary, feeling drawn into what would happen to the characters and truly connecting to them and their complex situation.

Now that is how you write a summary for a book proposal. It should read like a story and not a list of facts or events.

I just wish the first chapter sucked me in like the first paragraphs of summary did. Where the summary highlights the action and conflict, the story opens rather slowly with a feeling of being told that one character is this type of person and another character is that type of person. I get the feeling that a strong edit would actually bring a 90,000 word manuscript by this author back down to the 50,000 word Heartsong range. Sigh.

So, I think -- Oh well, I probably don't have time to work with the author on strengthening the writing issues, this may not be an author I really want to invest that much in, it is a stand-alone and not the series I'd prefer to see, and it isn't a topic/setting that I'm earnestly looking for right now. Saying no is easier than working through those doubts. I may take time to try to tell the author or agent some of the details of why I'll pass up this book, but there are only so many hours in a day.

So, you see how see how proposal evaluating is not an easy job?

Do your very best when writing a proposal summary that the tone reflects the tone of your story. And if you have mastered tightening your story summary to highlight the action and move the conflicts and emotions along, then learn to do so in your actual manuscript. I'll thank you for it.

Now, back to work.


Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Becky,
Thanks for this helpful advice. It was very interesting to hear your thought process as you looked through that proposal.

Jan Cline said...

Great advise. Thank you. Ive been mulling a summary over in my head, but I think I get it now.

Vickie McDonough said...

I can see how reading a number of proposals like that could be a big time eater for you. Thanks for sharing this. it was very interesting.

Beth Loughner said...

Becky, this is really interesting and I'd love to know how many times this type of situation happens...the type where you really are pulled by a story, but time makes it too hard to make a personal note that might change an author from a "maybe" to "great".

Have you ever written personal suggestions to an unknown writer that then turned out to be a wonderful Barbour author? Or, has the opposite happened and it becomes too much of a time investment for little or no return? This would be a great topic.

On a personal note, I have the opposite trouble of the author who sent this proposal. My chapters can be riveting, but my summary feels flat. I try to make it more like the story. It's so hard for me and I don't know why. Maybe you could address topic some your spare time. :-)


Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Summaries are so difficult sometimes. Have to catch just the right balance of information and not bore the reader. Same goes for writing the actual book, but you have to condense it so much and still hit the GREAT parts. Like, Beth, I have the opposite problem of this author.

Jumping into the action with page 1 isn't a problem for me. It's conveying that action in the synopsis. Thanks for the tips, though, and for sharing your process.

There is a definite art to it, and I'm still working on getting it right. Personally, I think I have a long way to go!

Jennifer Johnson said...

I've been thinking about your post for days...I think if the author is Jennifer Johnson, she's a hard worker who takes suggestions and challenges well.

hahahahahahahahahahaha I'm sorry. I couldn't resist. :)