July 19, 2009

What Makes Your Novel Different?

While working with someone who was preparing a query letter, I asked, "Just what is it that makes your novel different from all the rest?"

The book in question was a romance novel. Thousands of romance novels are published every year; I wanted the author to come up with one or two sentences that would show the agent she was querying exactly what it was that made her novel outstanding.

Saying a book is an historical romance set in a certain period isn't quite enough, since there are probably lots of queries that come across the agent's desk that fall into the same category. What makes the heroine special? Or the hero? What dilemma do they find themselves in?

I once wrote an historical family saga called Two Ways West that could be summed up with this sentence: Two families travel to California, one by covered wagon across the plains and through the mountains, the other through Mexico and by paddle steamer, facing many obstacles along the way, and finally becoming neighbors in the foothills of the Sequoia.

Because I'm writing mysteries now, I'm far more adept at coming up with a one or two liner (often called the blurb, or elevator pitch) for them.

My latest Rocky Bluff crime novel pitch is: No Sanctuary is about two churches, two ministers, two wives, one murder.

The next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Dispel the Mist could be described this way: While Deputy Tempe Crabtree investigates the murder of a popular female supervisor she has a close encounter with an Indian legend, the Hairy Man.

Not sure that's what I'll use, but it'll be something similar.

The point of this blog is to let authors know they need to be thinking in terms of what they will say about their book that can be condensed to one or two lines that will intrigue and agent, publisher and ultimately the reader.

Writing a synopsis is difficult, but personally, I believe this is even harder. So think about it, what makes your novel different than all the rest?

a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

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At July 19, 2009 at 5:03 PM , Blogger Dorinda Ohnstad said...

Definitely the hardest. How to sum up an entire novel in a few words? Seems impossible, but it's not as you've shown us. Just got over the feeling of being overwhelmed and delve in and tackle it.

At July 20, 2009 at 3:59 PM , Blogger F. M. Meredith, author said...

I had someone tell me her novel was different because she wrote it. Yeah?


At August 23, 2009 at 3:29 PM , Blogger coffeelvnmom said...

This is the exact issue I am having at the moment - I even posted about it on my blog not that long ago. Because a query letter frightens me, to be honest. I can't figure out how to say everything just right in just a few simple paragraphs!


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