Saturday, November 14, 2009

Golden Mountain: Will & Maggie

After 20 weeks and five days of obsessive, late night writing, Will & Maggie is finally finished. What began as a story about a girl discovering traces of her grandfather's spirit on the old family farm quickly became a dark love story, complicated by a dangerous obsession and an unseen enemy hidden deep inside a young woman's mind. That was the easy part.

Nearly 30,000 words have been chopped from the story during the polishing process, many of which were written in the first few chapters before I'd established the plot change. For those of you who weren't wowed by that number, let me put that in perspective for you. A good rule of thumb is that one page equals approximately 250 words. So basically, I shaved over a hundred pages off my novel. Ouch. Still not the hard part, though.

Literary agents are extremely busy people, reading page after page of prospective material every day. Naturally, they don't have time to carefully study every manuscript pitched their way. To alleviate their reading load and assist in their decision making process (Is this worth reading, or would I have more fun trimming my toenails?), many agents ask for a brief synopsis of a novel before requesting a partial or complete manuscript. A brief synopsis. Brief.

There are a number of different threads running through my book, so I can't describe the plot by saying 'girl meets boy, girl and boy meet conflict, girl and boy overcome conflict, everyone lives happily ever after'. It's not that formulaic. The synopsis must include major events and characters, and reveal the conflict resolution and big dramatic ending. No cliff-hangers, just tell me what happens, damn it! My first synopsis was more than twenty pages long, but was very thorough. Every book, blog and article I read about writing a synopsis told me that was too long. I hacked away at it, paring it down to seven pages of clipped plot description, and was asked for a 1-2 page synopsis. *sigh* Finally, I worked out an extremely condensed version of my plot, which is about as fascinating as 'a little guy gets a spiffy ring, which is cursed, and joins up with an elf, a king, two short dudes and some other people to go destroy it. A slimy weirdo is freaking out about it, a glowing eyeball wants it, a tall wizard with a beard won't touch it, and the king/alcoholic from that one Sandra Bullock movie is in love with an elf girl. Trees talk, a king does a Linda Blair impersonation, a witch has a mood swing, ghost knights glow in the dark, and the slimy freak bites off the little guy's finger and falls in some lava with the ring.' Granted, I'm not in the same league as Tolkien, but you get the idea. Oh yeah, and that still wasn't the hard part.

Before an agent will pitch a novel to a publisher, she has to read the novel to make sure it'll sell more than three copies (one for the author's shelf and one for each of her parents). Before she'll read the novel, she has to read several chapters to make sure it's worth taking the time to read the whole shebang. Before she'll read several chapters, she has to read the synopsis to find out if it's a unique, or even interesting, story line. But before she'll read anything at all (or even bother to learn your name), she scans through a paragraph about the novel and a brief summary of your previously published works. Doesn't sound too bad? That agent has hundreds of emails in her virtual inbox every week, with hundreds of different plots and hundreds of different Stephenie Meyer hopefuls trying to get their work on bookstore shelves. In a couple of sentences and about thirty seconds, I have to convince a very busy person that I am worth their time, and that I can earn them money.

Query, Query Deux, Query Redux, and Query AGAIN have all been labored over on my laptop, and are beginning to find their way to literary agents' inboxes.

Golden Mountain: Jack & Helen is burning in my brain, bouncing around in my dreams and distracting me twenty-four hours a day. When I'm not perched at my breakfast bar at zero-dark-thirty, watching the cursor fly across a glowing screen as it spells out my story, I'll try and post updates, musings and past writing projects for my readers.