Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Fun Part of Seeking an Agent

As I talked about yesterday, I’ve been sending out query letters. Some literary agents want a synopsis sent with the query letter, while other do not, but it’s a safe bet that an author is going to need one eventually. The nice thing is that writing the synopsis is one of the few fun things we get to do while we’re searching for an agent. The synopsis is like the soul of the story with all of the external packaging torn away.

However long a novel might be, whether it is 80,000 words, 120,000 words or just over 50,000 words, we reach the end and we have all these little details running through our heads. Did I change her eyes from green to blue everywhere? Would he be watching a football game on television at that time of year? Is there enough time to have the whole story take place during summer vacation or do I have to send the kid back to school before it’s over? We lose track of the story and we ask ourselves, if it is any good or if we just wasted twenty dollars by printing off all 328 pages of our manuscript.

Then we sit down to write they synopsis. We pull out our trusty outline and right there at the top we see “Opening Image: Scene One – Fox is mourning the loss of his grandchildren.” This won’t do. Our character is in a bad place. He may have some problems he needs to fix, but we don’t want to see him hurting. So what happens next? We move down a ways and see that the Catalyst is around Scene Eight. “Amber shows up with a girl who may be Fox’s granddaughter.” Things are looking up for our protagonist, but then we realize that things may not be what they seem. Amber is a con-artist and she may be just trying to get money or something else. We have to keep going to find out. Fox talks to his family and the lawyers. He eventually comes to a decision. He intends to prove that Amber is lying, but he’ll have to investigate to find out. We have to know what happens next.

One we go. Each step of the way we find something that makes us want to keep moving through the outline. Then we reach a scene where we see that Fox has changed. His attitude is different and he seems to have solved his problem, though not in the way we thought he would. We no longer feel the need to look for what happens next, but then we realize that we’ve run out of outline. There is no more. The story is done. As we sit there and think about the short page that makes up our synopsis, we realize that all of our doubts about our story not being good have disappeared.

Maybe it isn’t as dark as so much of the stuff Christian publishers are producing these days. Maybe it isn’t a historical romance about Amish vampires. Maybe it isn’t about abortion or gays in the church or spiritual warfare. Maybe it’s about something much more mundane like treating all people will respect, no matter what their social status. Who knows, maybe that will keep it from ever being more than a stack of papers held together by binder clips, but our synopsis has told us it’s a good story and isn’t our goal to create good stories?