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New interviews are being scheduled. Watch this space for details.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

23 Becca Stumpf: Querying with the "Dreaded" Synopsis

Becca Stumpf is one of the nicest, most personable agents out there--but she still requires authors to send a synopsis as part of the query package. The synopsis isn't the most important part of Prospect Agency's query package, and it rarely makes-or-breaks the submission, but Becca finds it helpful--and it turns out she knows what she's talking about.

For the first half of the call, Becca gave us the skinny on what sort of submissions she's looking for, what goes into a great query letter, and what she does with those three chapters she asks for. For the second half, she treated us to an insider's view on exactly what she uses the synopsis for, what it should look like, what it should include, and why we should all stop worrying about it so much.
Some highlights:

  • For agents like Becca, a synopsis should be between 2-3 pages long. She doesn't want to read a lengthy synopsis for a query package--save the longer ones for when you're trying to sell your book on a proposal.
  • What Happens is the most important part of a synopsis--but include enough motivation so you don't lose the reader. It's usually not good if they have to stop and wonder why that happened.
  • There are good ways to sneak in sub-plot tidbits (just don't go crazy)
  • Include the ending, and don't worry about spoiling it. If she likes the book, she'll probably forget the ending while she's reading, anyway.
  • If she really likes the writing sample, she can overlook a less-than-brilliant synopsis. (Though it's probably better to be good all around.) She knows successful writers who aren't good at writing a synopsis.
Listen in below or download the MP3 here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

22 Sarah Eden: Research

Sarah's advice on Research is guaranteed to make you want to go out and research something yourself.
Some of the basics:

  • You should do research anytime you are writing about:
    • A character with a different job, religion, race, medical history, gender, family background, hometown, or place of residence than yours
    • A time period or location other than your own
  • You can start with the internet, but don't stop there
    • Sarah is unsure about Wikipedia
    • Verify important facts with three independent sources--though the US Mint likely has pretty accurate information about coins
    • Use the internet to point you toward primary sources, etc
  • Read books--they help with info, dialogue, little-known details, and they're all grouped together on the library shelves
  • Experience anything you can--wearing a corset you made yourself really helps you understand your characters. :)
  • Experts like to share--be professional and courteous of their time, then put them in your acknowledgments
  • Professional researchers can help--but you might have to pay them
Sarah also answered such burning questions as the worst mistake she's seen in a book that research would have fixed, the character that sprang from a couple of letters, and the quirkiest thing she found and actually used in a book.

She MC'd for LDStorymakers 2011 and was asked to do it again for 2012. You can see her awesome MC videos on her site.
Also, in case an hour of advice from Sarah isn't enough for you, you can hear her every Wednesday on her own podcast (with Robison Wells and Marion Jensen): The Appendix, where they give general writing advice and play writing-related games, perfect for getting the old writing juices flowing.

Listen to it below or access the MP3 by clicking here.