Friday, July 17, 2009

Ask us: Conference Edition

While the Playfriends attend the RWA National Conference, we're answering your questions about life, writing, and everything else on the blog. Comments are open and there are prizes to be won!

Patsy Lynn asks: I know that most publishers/editors have a minimum word count for submissions. I am new to submitting and would like to know if word count alone can get your manuscript rejected. Also, do you have any suggestions on where I could go to help me write my synopsis. What if your book is wonderful, but your synopsis falls short?

PC: Word count can get your manuscript rejected -- but don't panic yet. Part of avoiding this is doing your homework. For instance, Harlequin has a word count range for each line. If the range is 50-55k, your 100k masterpiece will be rejected. Harlequin just doesn't publish that length. At the same time, a story that's only 30k won't be long enough to publish.

But outside of the extremes, I wouldn't panic too much. A great story that's 5k too short is fixable. A great story that's 5k too long is also fixable.

For synopsis help, I recommend Charlotte Dillon's fab website ( You can also Google "synopsis" and find a lot of advice.

As the fabulous Miss Snark used to say, the purpose of a synopsis is to assure the editor that aliens don't suddenly arrive in chapter 14. Your synopsis just gives the editor a chance to see that you know how the book ends, and that it ends without an unnecessary alien invasion. The writing is what really matters. (Remember, you're talking to the girl who cut and rewrote everything after page 50 of her first book.)

PM has nothing more to add since PC did such a great job.

SP concurs. :)

Insti: Slackers. :-) But yeah, I agree with PC. I'd like to add not to let worrying about manuscript length infringe on your creative abilities. Don't get bogged down in minute details that in the grand scheme of things don't matter. What's more important is that you're writing a good book with believable/identifiable characters. Concentrate on that first. When you have a first draft - and only then - worry about things like word count.

As for writing a synopsis I like to use the layer method. Start with the things that are most important - and leave out everything else! Once you know how long the important things are (character, turning points, voice/feel of story, a tiny piece of backstory) you can add anything else that's important if you have the room. Putting a 50K word book into 5 pages can be tough but you need to be ruthless with what's important for the editor to know up front.

Angel: The only thing I have to add is for the synopsis: try to write it with the same voice as your book, so it reflects the tone and word usage of the rest of your writing. AND, if you don't have it by the time you're done writing (and rewriting) it, you haven't done it right. :)

*Patsy Lynn, send us your address to claim your prize!

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