1. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    First three chapters

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by The-Joker, Aug 28, 2009.

    I have a question. If an agent requires the first three chapters of your manuscript with the query, do you still send them only three if your chapters are each a page long-- or is there some equivalent like 3 chapters= 30 pages?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good question!

    they usually do want to see the first 30 pages, or so of a ms, and expect 3 chapters to be close to that, but if your chapters are so short, you should probably send the first 20 pages, at least, explaining in your cover letter why you went beyond the '3 chapters' request...

    but are you sure your chapters need to be that short?... james patterson can get away with it, since his books sell like hotcakes, but for a new and unknown novelist to try it may be counterproductive, unless the writing and the story are so brilliantly done, that it won't matter...
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Joker,

    Mammamaia is right on with about 20 or so pages. They ask for 3 chapters to get a good sense of the writer's storytelling ability, including pacing, characterization, if the story is going somewhere interesting, etc.

    As a side note, if the short chapters are for your very long novel, consider that having one or two page chapters may even make the situation more difficult, as normally when a chapter ends, the rest of the page is left blank and the next chapter starts on the next page, often with the chapter marking, and does not start at the top of a page. See other novels on your bookshelf to see what I mean. Thus, a very long novel with respect to word count paired with the novel broken into/having a large number of chapters means an even longer novel page count wise.

    Terry
     
  4. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Hey, I've been wondering this too. Except I have the opposite situation.

    My first chapter is the longest chapter of my book. It's about 35 pages. I've thought of breaking it down into smaller chapters, but I like the beginning as one piece. Also, it reflects the end where I have another large chapter where all the characters get back together. In between, each chapter is about ten pages.

    Anyone think that would be a problem?
     
  5. Snap
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    From what I've read, if your first three chapters are too short, too long, send the first fifty pages or so. Roughly, you can add/subtract so that it ends in a good place. :)
     
  6. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks everyone. That really clears things up.

    As for the side notes. It appears that I've unwittingly broken every rule in the book to get a first novel published. At least the good news is that, through an agonizing amputation of certain elements of my story, My 210k book is now a 133k book.

    Still too much I know, but perhaps there's now a flicker of hope.

    Edit: Another problem I have is that a few agents request a synopsis as well but none of them say how long it should be. One even states that it should be a 'detailed' synopsis. Like what does that mean?

    I wasn't even going to write a synopsis unless I got a positive response first, but now it looks like I'll have to tackle this arduous task from the outset, and I'm not even sure what length to use.
     
  7. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    oh and should a synopsis also be your best piece of writing like your query, meaning it needs to have the verve and colour that showcases your skills, or can it just be a simple straightforward narration of the plot?
     
  8. Eddyz Aquila
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    Eddyz Aquila Member

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    IMHO, I think the synopsis should be explosive so it should hook the reader/agent as well. A narration of the plot, but an interesting one. :)
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A brief synopsis should describe/summarize your novel (an arc for the storyline maybe would help explain it), focusing on main events/turning points in the plot, what's at stake, the resolution and including at least the main character's part.

    A brief synopsis should be one page if at all possible, no more than two. Single spaced and normally written in present tense. The ending needs to be included--no feeble attempts at a cliffhanger, indicating the agent/editor will have to read the entire novel to find out what happens.

    A good synopsis is not an easy thing to write, boiling an entire novel down to one page. And it should be engaging and give a flavor of the writer's skill and style and what the novel has to offer.

    There are a number of threads on the forum here that discuss a writing a synopsis in more detail, but that's the basics.

    Good luck. It's a tuffy to do, but not impossible.

    Terry
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    DragonGrimm,

    I think similar to what Mammamaia suggested to The-Joker, you'd include maybe the first two chapters (about 45 pages) and explain in the cover letter as to why only the first two chapters are included would work. Sending 85 pages and the like may get a frown, as, if nothing else, experienced slush readers can tell by weight how much is included in the pacakge even before opening it.

    Of course, it also depends on the font used (all other things remaining the same--margins, double spaced, etc) as to how many pages your first chapters will take up. If the agent requests Courier 12 pt, the same three chapters will be longer as compared to something like Times Roman 12 pt.

    Terry
     
  11. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    What if the font is unspecified? I've been using Times New Roman. I know It's a lot more condensed than Courier. I went to a link provided by Mammamaia --- http://www.agentquery.com/format_tips.aspx --- that was a help. It told me a lot. But the library books I took out had contrary information, though they were also a bit old. One said to call the agent. The website says never cold call.


    And some people even say not to use an agent, but I've heard a lot of good arguments in favor of using an agent.


    *Sigh* It's all very confusing.
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    DragonGrim,

    You can't go wrong using a standard font like Courier or Times Roman, 12 point, if desired font and other specifications are not given by an agent or publisher for submissions.

    The objective is to present a professional image, and sending mansucripts (partials, etc.) in standard format will present just that. Double spaced, one inch margins, header with title/name/page # at the top, things like that. There are a lot of threads on this forum discussing proper format, and I strongly suspect Mammamaia would send you one that wouldn't steer you wrong--in other words following it won't result in embarassing yourself through an improperly prepared submission package.

    Yes, there is some conflicting information on agent vs. no agent needed etc. Each writer is different. Many agents, for example, won't represent you to smaller presses simply because it isn't worth their time for the reimbursement they'd get. Some folks warn others away from agents as they've had bad experiences with one or more...and not always scam agents. Sometimes agents and authors have fall outs or don't get along. You will find others that say agents are essential. How well could you negotiate a contract? Do you know the language and ins and outs of major contracts. It's more than simply about what advance you can get and royalty percentage. What about reserves against returns? What about what defines out of print and rights reverting back to the author? What if your manuscript gets orphaned? Who will be the professional that has the clout and experience to help insure that your novel doesn't fall between the cracks?

    Some folks indicate that finding a good agent to represent one's novel is more difficult than finding a publisher.

    Sadly there isn't one black and white answer, in many areas of writing and getting published, that covers all situations for all authors. A writer has to study up and follow the path that appears most approrpate for him.

    Terry
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have seen a number of guidelines favor Courier over Times New Roman because Courier is a monospace font, meaning the character width is the same for each character. The reason often given is that it is easier to spot typos in a monospace font.

    Also, for short stories and novels, nearly every publisher prefers or specifies a serif font rather than a sans serif font. Poetry submissions are a little more tolerant of sans serif fonts like Arial.

    It shouldn't need to be said, but stick to white paper and black ink. You may think that purple ink on lavender paper will be more eye catching, but you really won't impress anyone.
     
  14. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    on the site maia posted (the sticky) it said that a synopsis should be 150 words, so I'm confused now because I'm not sure if it should be as Terry said, a page...

    I also thought that as long as your query comes up to one page, you can have your synopsis be longer, supposing your hook is short and your last "thank" para is also short.
    Is this right or wrong?

    Thanks
     
  15. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A query letter and a synopsis are two different things.

    The link that Mammamaia provided in this thread indicates a 500-1000 word length for a synopsis, two to three pages:
    The-Joker discussed a brief synopsis. In any case, if your synopsis is only one page long and it is a strong synopsis and gets the job done, an agent or editor isn't going to care that it isn't two or three pages.

    The part that is discussing 150 words is concerned with a query letter:
    Hope this makes sense and clears things up.

    Terry
     
  16. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Yes sir it does. Thanks Terry
     

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