Monday, September 1, 2014

New Beginnings: A writing tip to snag that elusive publishing contract.

New Beginnings: A writing tip to snag that elusive publishing contract.
So you’ve finished your manuscript…yay! Way to go!

No, seriously, it’s an awesome accomplishment to have poured your heart and soul onto paper (or screen), created memorable characters, and devised a plot twisting story. So kudos to you.

Maybe along the way you’ve had it critiqued, entered a few contests for feedback, and edited it to hell and back, lovingly polishing into a shiny patina.

***rubs hand together with an evil gleam in your eye saying, ‘muwhahahaha’***

(Not the visual you’d use? I write paranormal, so I tend to go with the evil witch-type visual, use whatever suits you!)

What!? You haven’t polished your manuscript yet?

Well, do it now. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.


Okay, good.

Next…research editors and agents. Find one’s who’ll be interested in your story. Stalk them. Yes, I said stalk them, but not in the creepy kind of way…just observe. Find them on their blogs,

…they’re there. Most will be posting about books they want to represent, or books they love, which is your clue as to whether you should send your baby to them or keep looking.

Done that? Good.

 No, it’s not good, you say. You’ve received a gazillion rejection letters, had your hopes so high in the clouds only to fall down into the deepest of gutters.

*Sigh* Been there, done that.

 Forty seven times! Yes, you heard me right…47 times, 47 hopes dashed with 47 rejection letters.

Every writer has been there, maybe not as many times as myself, but they’ve been there. It’s part of the business of writing. A sucky part, but a part none the less.

*Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help, was rejected 60 times before becoming a bestseller.

* Stephen King’s, Carrie, was rejected dozens of times.

*John Grishim’s, A Time to Kill, was rejected by a dozen publishers and 16 agents.

*Margaret Mitchell’s, Gone With the Wind, was rejected 38 times.


You think you’ll never sign on the elusive dotted line of the much coveted publishing contract, right? Wrong!

Put on your big girl/boy pants, take a deep breath, and listen closely.


You’re probably saying to yourself ‘What the heck is she talking about?’

Well, I’ll tell you.

Be STUBBORN…never give up!

You may have received 10, 20, even 30 or more rejections and thought nobody wants my baby. And that may be true…for now, or it may not. It may be you just haven’t found the right fit, or your genre is saturated (those who write paranormal, like myself, will relate to this), or…

You haven’t been FLEXIBLE enough.

Now you’re saying, ‘Sophia, you just told me to be stubborn, how can I be flexible?”

Here comes the meat of this post, and hopefully the tip that will take your manuscript from unsellable to signed contract. It’s what I did, and my debut paranormal romance novel, Protect Her, will be released October 2014 from Soul Mate Publishing. (Yes, a little unashamed self-promotion here)

Get on with it, Sophia!
Okay, here goes…

Give your manuscript a new beginning!

Whoa there, crazy lady. Do you know how long I put into my beginning? It’s had the most edits, polishing, and critiques, and now you want me to rewrite it? That’s just looney tunes!

No, I don’t want you to rewrite it,

 I want you to pull out those shiny scissors.

Put your finger on that big delete button, or click on the cut and paste feature, and get rid of your prologue, and first 1-3 chapters. (Save them in another document first, I’ll tell you why later)

Oh my, this lady it totally nuts.

My sanity is beside the point here folks, the method to my madness however is not, and I’ll tell you why.

1.   Most editors and agents hate prologues.
2.   The first few chapters are most often full of backstory, and thus, boring to the reader.

How do I do this?

To give you an example I’ll use Twilight, as most of us have read or seen the movie.

It starts out when Bella moves to Forks. That’s the exact moment her life changes, when the story begins.

But what if Stephanie Meyer had done something like this:

Prologue: Bella is a child in a dance studio. She’s klutzy and her mother’s filming her trying to dance, but she’s terrible at it. We find out her parents are divorced, but Bella’s mother is loving.

Chapter one: Years later, Bella’s at her house in Arizona trying to decide if she should move to Forks. We meet her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, and find out what her life is like there.

Chapter two: She’s at the airport in Arizona in a long drawn out emotional scene saying goodbye to her mother. Maybe the baseball-playing boyfriend is in the background checking his watch because he has to get to Florida for spring training. Then Bella gets on the plane and flies away to Forks and meets her father at the airport in Washington where we have pages upon pages of her settling into her new life and we learn about her past.

Chapter three: We finally meet Edward.

What’s wrong with that beginning? It’s boring. We don’t care about her dance studio days, because we won’t find out its significance until much later in the story. And we don’t know Bella at all yet, so we won’t feel all that emotion when she’s at the airport with her mother in a chapter long scene. We don’t really care about her settling into the house with her father. Yes, we want a few tidbits for setting, but not a whole chapter. 

We want to meet Edward.

Twilight begins with a half page long preface and this first sentence:

“I’d never given much thought to how I would die-though I’d had reason enough in the last few months-but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.”

Sucks you right in, makes you wonder what the heck is going to happen. No backstory. Turn the page.

In chapter one, we find out with a line or two about her relationship with her mother, what Bella looks like, that she hates where she’s moving and that she’s estranged from her father. Just little bits of info tucked in here and there, then partway through the chapter…

She meets Edward.

We don’t find out about her dancing days until much later in the book when she’s at her old dance studio about to be killed by a vampire when it’s relevant. We don’t find out the full dynamic of her relationship with her parents until it’s sprinkled in throughout the story, adding layers.

Had Stephanie Meyer written it the way I had, we would have been bored. We would have wanted to get to her meeting Edward. That’s where the story begins. Make sense?

Okay…start reading your manuscript from chapter 2, 3 or 4. See if it makes since. Does the action/dilemma start there? See if you can take any of the relevant information you have in those cut chapters and sprinkle it in later.

Like where your main character grew up, or what happened to them as a child that makes them the way they are. Are your first chapter or two leading up to when the actual story begins?

Start your book where the book starts, not what leads up to it. What I mean is, get rid of the backstory, the story that came before the story you’re trying to tell. All those needed details of the characters lives that came before the actual story your telling can usually, with success, be added as a line or two here or there throughout the rest of your manuscript.

This keeps the reader guessing (and turning the pages), and keeps the story interesting as we read on wanting to know why the character is the way they are, but also we’re in the story, the here and now of it.

Most new authors, myself included, tend to think we need it all in the beginning or the reader won’t know everything they need to about our characters. And there may be a few things we need to know, but most often, this information needs to come later. Start the story in the thick of it, get to the good stuff NOW. Add the other things a little at a time throughout the story.

That’s it!

Once you’ve done that and polished your story back into its illustrious shine, find new agents and editors to send your baby to, and see what happens.

Remember those 47 rejections I told you about? I cut, the prologue and first two chapters of my story, and had 3 contract offers in one week. Yes 3!

Then I had the problem of deciding which publishing house I wanted to go with. A problem I loved having!

I’m not saying this is guaranteed to work for you, but if you’ve had more rejections than you’re comfortable with having, it’s worth a try, and you just may find that elusive contract in your inbox one day.

What do you do with the chapters you cut and saved? Well, I sent them to my editor, really hoping she’d say yes, we have to have these in the book. Those chapters were the first thing I’d written, I loved those chapters. What did she say? Nope, nadda, don’t need them.

However, I didn’t get rid of them just yet…I used them in other ways. I wrote a character interview with one, and I plan on having a deleted scene or two on my website. Sooo, you can still use them, just not in your book!

If you get anything out of this post, I hope you learn…





Maureen said...

Great post Sophia! Very inspiring.

Sophia Kimble said...

Aww, thank you!

Jessica Jefferson said...

Very good post. My first book went through a similar slice and dice, and now that I'm on book 3, it may have finally stuck. I like to think being an author is a true test of humility. When am I being true to my art versus when am I just being too stubborn by not taking criticism.

Sophia Kimble said...

I couldn't agree more, Jessica. As I wrote book two of my series, I kept having to stop myself from adding too much backstory, but thank goodness I caught most of it, and my critique partners caught the rest. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Diane Burton said...

Great post, Sophia. I hate cutting my ms, even when I know it's for the best.

Sophia Kimble said...

I know,'s so very hard to snip away at your baby!

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Inspiring post! Thanks for sharing, Sophia :)

Sophia Kimble said...

Thank Joanne! :)