What Did You Learn?

June 2, 2011

Getting Published: Clarity is Key

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , , — ax20 @ 12:16 pm

It is true that your story might be complicated, it might have many characters, but if you can’t boil it down to a few sentences you may have a problem. When you are pitching your story to an agent (or an editor) they need to be able to understand what it is before they can decide if they are interested.

For this reason, simplicity and clarity is the most important thing in your cover letter and synopsis. Rather than talking about every character who shows up in the story, zero in on the main ones. (Think about George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones–there are so many characters involved that were he to write about every person who shows up, he would have a twenty page query letter. Harry Potter is another example. When writing a summary about Harry Potter, you write mostly about Harry and Lord Voldemort, maybe a little about Ron and Hermione. You do not write about Neville and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and the twins, etc.) Focus more on the bigger story than every little subplot.

Keep in mind that you should be including a synopsis of your work as well. A synopsis can go more in depth into the story and give more details about the characters and events. Therefore the query letter doesn’t need everything, only the important bits. If you pose some questions in your query, not all of them must be resolved in it. These are resolved in the manuscript.

Don’t waste time in your query talking about how fantastic your writing or characters are. The editor can decide that and it doesn’t help explain anything about your book.

Basically, make sure to focus on the heart of the story and keep it as clear and concise as possible. If you confuse the editor/agent reading it, your book has no chance of being picked up.


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