You're there on a treasure hunt. Diamonds have been seen, falling down into the pool a hundred feet below, mixed into the stream of the waterfall. Every day, agents read query letters sent by prospective authors.
Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and download free character development worksheets! Get more of it in Novel Writing, your guide to writing a publishable novel. Even as a teenager I thought outlining was counterintuitive to the writing process.
Lots of outliners teach that a story should have three acts. Regardless of how many acts or scenes your story has, this is what it needs to have in order to be effective and complete: If you want to divide those into three acts, have at it. Stories build through escalating tension.
Tightening the tension does. Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents. Tension comes from unmet desire. What readers need to know, then, is what your character wants but cannot get, and what he is doing to try to get it.
What your story really needs is an orientation, a crisis or calling that disrupts normal life, relentless escalation of tension, and a satisfying climax.
Let narrative forces rather than formulas drive your story forward. Imagine a giant ball of clay being held by a group of people.
The clay is your story; the people surrounding it represent the narrative forces pressing in upon it to shape it.
The characters in your story need to act in contextually believable ways. Everything that happens must be caused by the thing that precedes it.
If nothing is altered you do not have a scene. If your characters solve something without a setback you do not have a story. The end of every scene must be not only logical but, in retrospect, the only possible conclusion to that scene.
Continuity develops through pace the speed at which things are happening and narrative energy the momentum carrying them along. Readers enter a story with expectations based on their understanding of its genre. You need to be familiar enough with genre conventions to meet or exceed those expectations without resorting to cliches.
All of these elements, plus voice, setting, mood and more, press against the story in a continual give-and-take relationship, affecting one another and forming the shape of the tale.
As you write, constantly look at the pressure each of these concepts places on the story: Maybe a helicopter chase?
But will that be believable? But does that fit in with the pace right here? Can I pull this off without relying on narrative gimmicks or coincidences?
Listen to the story, using questions like those in the sidebar below. It will reveal itself to you as you lean into it. Of course you should follow them. What you at first thought was just a rabbit trail leading nowhere in particular might take you to a breathtaking overlook that eclipses everything you previously had in mind.
Without serendipitous discoveries, your story runs the risk of feeling artificial and prepackaged. Give yourself the freedom to explore the terrain of your story.
Wander daily through your idea field and unreservedly embrace the adventure. Read about them here. Write from the center of the paradox.
Think of your story as a contract with your readers, an agreement that you will entertain, surprise and satisfy them. Every choice that your characters make has an implication; every promise you make needs to be fulfilled.
The more promises you break, the less readers will trust you. Here are some common ways that outliners may break their contracts with readers: Foreshadow something and fail to make it significant.
Introduce a character, make readers care about her, and then drop her from the story.Note from Jane: The following post is an old favorite that I regularly update.
I’ve also written a comprehensive post on writing query letters. Don’t confuse the synopsis with sales copy—the kind of material that might appear on your back cover or in an Amazon description.
You’re not. The query letter has one purpose, and one purpose only: to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query letter is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.
When you succeed in writing a TERRIFIC story, one that could compete against Michael Crichton, Stephen King or feelthefish.comg, then send out your query letter.
You CAN write a story that will compete against the greatest writers of our time. Ask the Bestselling Author Coach - Submit your question about writing, publishing, or marketing your book.
I have a confession to make. When I was in school and a teacher would assign us to write an outline for a story, I’d finish the story first, then go back and write the outline so I’d have something to turn in.
Even as a teenager I thought outlining was counterintuitive to the writing process. About Chuck Sambuchino. Chuck Sambuchino is a freelance editor of query letters, synopses, book proposals, and manuscripts.
As an editor for Writer's Digest Books, he edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest .