When I say I wrote a book, people often look at me funny. This isn’t information I usually pop into conversation like, “Hey, I had the patience and the empty schedule completely void of parties and glamorous friends, so I sat down and wrote a book.” No, it usually just comes up some how. But I get one of two reactions:
- Wow, that’s great! So what’s it about?
- * Eyebrows raise * Huh, a book? Like a book, book? * Skeptical look * So, like how many pages?
It’s funny, simply put. Since I discovered this passion that I never knew I had, I’ve become somewhat geekily obsessed with the community. The publishing industry is just fascinating. And what’s great about it is that it isn’t a far cry from trying to get published as a journalist. You still send out a query letter (although the format is somewhat different), trying to catch someone’s interest in your story. You have to capture a potential agent’s attention in one page. Basically, you summarize your 300+ novel into a couple sentences, no more. Some agents will ask for a synopsis, which is no more than two pages, and others will even ask for a sample chapter or three.
But most likely, the query is all you get.
Although in journalism you go straight to the source, whoever will be publishing it, with books, you most likely have to grab an agent’s attention, who will then grab a publisher’s attention. Those are the basics, which I’m only explaining because that’s the follow-up question I usually get from inquiring minds. Because I tend to lean on the wordy side during blog posts and my message gets lost in the pointless details, like this sentence, for example, here are the 123s.
- Write a book—to completion! Prepare a one-page query letter and a one-to-two page synopsis.
- Start hunting for a literary agent who has worked with books like yours—or at least represents your genre (women’s fiction, mystery, young adult, etc.). Follow the submission guidelines, which usually includes emailing the agent your query letter.
- If the agent likes it, and he/she asks for your full manuscript, this may lead to representation. After you sign with an agent, he/she then “queries” publishers. Once a publisher likes it, your book becomes available to the masses! Well, maybe not the masses, but it could happen!
So that’s the bare bones of the process. There are dozens of blogs out there that divulge this information beautifully. I simply put it here for my very inquisitive friends and family. If you’re still curious, I happen to like AgentQuery.
Now, back to the personal aspect of my PERSONAL blog. From what I’ve read, the people in the publishing industry—namely writers—often say that your first novel is highly autobiographical, even if it’s fiction. Speaking from my experience, I’d have to agree with this.
Now, I didn’t name a character after myself, or mold characters based on the people in my life, but my main character does share some of my attributes. She’s a writer, sort of. She’s a script supervisor, specifically. She’s obsessed with details. She’s, um, focused, and…ok, so she’s slightly anal-retentive. She needs to have a plan and control in order to feel balanced. She’s a realist and slightly guarded.
But in order to make her someone the reader could root for and care about, I made her thoughtful, honest and sincere. This is the character. I’ll let you all decide if it applies to anyone else ;)
A specific actor inspired my male character. Although, he morphed much more than I was expecting. This is also a common phenomenon that I’ve read about. Your characters take on a life of their own. It’s a bizarre feeling, since you’re the one who is writing their lives. You literally created them, and yet, sometimes, you feel like they take control and it’s your job to detail their life properly. With some scenes, it was like Addison and Mitch were telling me their story, and I had to simply copy it down. Perhaps this is what started Sylvia Plath’s downward spiral…I’ll keep my oven door firmly closed.
I took a few weeks crafting the perfect synopsis to summarize my entire novel, but I’m not going to share it here. That’s specifically for the agents. Instead, I will do my best to summarize it in a couple sentences because everyone asks me what it’s about, and I’m sick of stuttering and failing to tell my characters’ stories with due justice.
Ultimately, it’s about how family defines our lives, and how love, either having it or losing it, affects our decisions and our path in life.
I found a beautiful quote that opens my novel. I think it also explains the premise: “Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl – no superior alternative has yet been found.” –Winston Churchill
So is my book autobiographical? (Which is where I was trying to go with this a couple hundred words back). In a lot of ways, yes. During my “memory” scenes (I don’t like calling them flashbacks) I recount some of my most cherished times as a kid, with my siblings and my parents. They were altered, to fit with the characters, but I borrowed from them often. From the whole family dancing around the living room to an 80s theme song, to sleepovers in an outdoor playhouse and bugging your brother while he plays Nintendo, it’s a little personal.
This is what I love about fiction. Your story changes as if it’s a separate entity, and before you know it, bits of your life are reflected in it. I’ve started work on my second book, which is starkly different from the first, but I’ll always be working on Scripted. It’s a story I want others to read, and maybe, see some of their family in.