Hello, writers. We are half-way through NaNoWriMo, which means if you're shooting for 50,000 words, you're in good shape if you've hit 25k by tomorrow night.
These are the dkos writers who have stated their intentions of going for the gold this month, along with some progress reports as of last Thursday, November 7. The figure in italics is their last reported word count/accomplishment:
terrypinder 12,237Write on!
archer070 (goal is 100k)
Emmet all but ch 1 of ms revised (goal is revise ms, plus 15k, plus query 20 agents)
Diana in NoVa
True North (goal is 20k)
wonderful world about 10,000
In other news, last week's exercise got me thinking about the times when we have to write about what we've written-- to summarize our story. This is awfully difficult for any writer.
Writing-about-the-story is a task that comes up in three different formats, and it's important to realize that each of these has to be written differently because each has a different purpose and a different audience.
The audience for the synopsis is the people who will make decisions about your manuscript.
The synopsis may be anywhere from one to ten pages long (you'll usually be told the desired length) and is simply a blow-by-blow account of what happens in your story. It is nearly impossible to write a synopsis well. Fortunately, everyone in publishing knows this. For advice on writing a synopsis, look here,
but also look at the specific guidelines of the agent or publisher you're working with.
The synopsis exists to be handed around to people who don't have time right now to read your whole manuscript but are participants in discussions about it. (An example might be people in the sales department at a publisher that's considering acquiring the manuscript.)
The audience for the query, nowadays, usually consists of agents, although in some cases it may be editors (but not both at once, please!) Here you're including much less detail than in the synopsis. Almost all supporting characters and subplots should be omitted, along with most backstory. The two most important things to remember about a query are
1. It is a business letter.
2. Its job is not to summarize your manuscript, but to entice the agent to request it.
Some good advice on writing queries can be found here and here. I've also written about them before here. (The main thing that's changed since I wrote that is that it's now apparently all right to mention self-published books if they've sold over 10,000 copies... and you should give the sales figure.)
The Jacket Copy
Bless the internets and the equality of misinformation. On plenty of blogs and writer sites you can read that your query can also serve as your jacket copy. This just isn't true. The audience for the jacket copy is different and the purpose is different.
Also, unless you're self-publishing, it's unlikely that you will write the jacket copy.
However, since you may be self-publishing, let's take a look at some of the elements of the jacket copy:
- It's brief. About 100 words; 150 tops.
- It focuses immediately on the main character.
- It presents a conflict within the first couple sentences.
- It mentions the setting, if different from the modern day/real world.
- Other characters are named, in such a way as to further describe the conflict.
- It conveys the tone of the book. (Tragic, funny, scary, etc.)
- It may contain a spoiler; usually one that occurs in the first few chapters of the book. (This is why I never read jacket flaps until after I've read the book.)
- It may end with a brief praise of the writer's skill. This is pretty awkward to pull off if you're writing the jacket copy yourself, and thus perhaps best omitted.
Here's the beginning of the jacket copy from an early edition of Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.
IT'S A WONDERFUL AFTERLIFE... But if you can't take it with you, why go at all? That's the kind of query troubling Death these days as he begins to ponder the P's and Q's of the RIP business. But the last thing the Discworld needs is a squeamish Grim Reaper, so death is officially retired, which leads to the kind of chaos you always get when an important public service is withdrawn.If you've read the book, you may notice that this is not quite an accurate account of what happens. But it's not meant to be. It's meant to be a sales pitch. It's meant to convey:
If you read this book, which centers on an interesting character experiencing conflict, you will laugh, and you will also have a chance to consider some serious philosophical questions (while still laughing).Which is a pretty good sales pitch, and a pretty accurate description of the book.
It's also meant to convey:
You'll be happier if you buy/borrow this book than if you buy/borrow that other book whose jacket flap you just read.Because that, right there, is the purpose of jacket copy.
Write a jacket blurb for one of the following. Remember to absolutely limit yourself to 150 words.
- The Bible
- A torrid, 600-page blockbuster sequel to Hop On Pop
- The Jewel of Togwogmagog
Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write and/or Writer Beware.