Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To Sum Up

First of all, thanks to everyone who wrote or commented based on the Guide to Literary Agents article.  I'm thrilled that so many people have seen it, and I'd love to help anyone out as best I can, so if you have any questions or queries you want me to look at, feel free to send them along at kpsheridan@verizon.net.  I'm not an agent so I can't promise anything, but I'll help out with what I know having gone through the process.

Now - to Sum Up.  Just went through a webinar last week with Chuck Sambuchino and Writer's Digest regarding writing a summary or synopsis of your work.  Good stuff, and I'll highlight the bullet points below, and then after I get my summary back from Chuck I'll post it here so you can see the good, bad and ugly.

So here's what I learned:

  • Synopses can be dry - they're not meant to be flowery, funny, or literary.  They're strictly there so that the agent or publisher can figure out how your hero goes from A to Z.
  • Always use active voice.
  • Skip details and subplots - they'll come out in the story.  Again, think main thread:  how does the hero go from A to Z and what does the villain throw in his/her way.
  • Keep names to a minimum.  Too many characters can cause confusion.  You want to keep it to about a page, so anything longer than that is probably extraneous.  Talk about the hero's father rather than mention him by name if you have to bring him up.
  • Summarization is ok - "Johnny has several experiences on the train to Mordor" kinda thing.  You don't have to outline every single person he meets and all the conversation he has.  Keep it light!
  • Here's the one time you can tell, not show.  You don't have enough time to show - you'll lose their interest.  See first bullet point.
  • Don't be vague!  I know this kinda contradicts the details - but there's a difference.  Saying that "Johnny was saved" is too vague.  The publishers or agents want to know if his saving was realistic and plausible or a Deus Ex Machina.  Spell out how he was saved.  But don't go into too much detail.
  • Capitalize character names the first time you use them.  Helps the reader understand who the story's REALLY about.
  • Check spelling, yadda yadda yadda.  I mean, c'mon.  You're a writer.  EVERYTHING you produce with your name on it should be the utmost quality.
  • Important!  Don't EDITORIALIZE!  See point number 1.  Don't describe something as "the most exciting part of the book" or "Johnny learns a life lesson".  Stay in the story, and just get the hero from point A to Z.
  • 4 Must Haves:  1)  Core conflict of the story.  2) Characters we care about.  3) What's at stake.  4) How the conflict is resolved.
  • Have a good strong opening paragraph.  You have to grab the reader as to why this is a cool story.
  • NO rhetorical questions.  This isn't Batman.  "Will Johnny survive his train trip to Mordor?"  Just answers.
That's the gist of it.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to trim my synopsis for Book II of the Timepiece Chronicles down from 7 pages to 1.  

Wish me luck....


  1. Just wanted to let you know I enjoyed your article, Goin Fishin. Congratulations on finding an agent. I sent out three queries and then decided to edit my manuscript-again.

    I found your article inspiring. Thank you.
    Krista (K.D. Rausin)

  2. Thanks Krista...and don't give up on the query letters! It'll take a lot more than three, trust me. Check out the book GUIDE TO QUERY LETTERS by Wendy Burt-Thomas for some great tips. That's what got me going. I remember, BE OPTIMISTIC. You'll get that letter wanting to see more someday soon...

  3. Kevin -- you are hysterically funny!

  4. Thanks, Cindy! I also do writing slapstick. Watch...


    That was me falling down the stairs. BA-BOOM! :)

  5. Liked your Goin' Fishin' piece. I am THE WORST fisherman in the world - though I have an awesome boat, all kinds of techno-gear, & live very close to 3 major fishing hot-spots, including one (so far) tar ball free Atlantic Ocean (1 mile). Don't run into too many guys that write kid fiction (I happen to be in that club) or folks from Chester County (I'm transplanted from West Chester, Pa to St Augustine, Florida). Hope the job situation improves for you - I know it's really slow up there, both of my sons have been out of work for almost a year. Here's to great success with your writing & getting pubbed ASAP. Dave

  6. Thanks, Dave. We male kid writers have to stick together! I know the job situation will improve. It's got to. Someday...

    Best of luck to you too!


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