Monday, January 10, 2011

Admit That You've Done This

Practiced writing queries for books you haven't finished.  C'mon, you've done it, right?  Or something like it?

Well, OK, maybe it's just me.  But I think it's actually practical exercise.

Some time ago I realized one of my ongoing challenges is keeping my novel attempts focused; I often can't easily describe my WIPs because, frankly, the deeper I get into them, the less I understand what they're really about.  (That's bad, but at least I'm honest with myself and not pretending that my stories are just too complex and important to be trivialized into an elevator pitch.)  This also means I've had a lot of trouble finishing novels; how does one satisfactorily end a story with no coherent object?

Meanwhile, I've noticed that the kind of novels I like best are devoted to solving a single central problem, introduced on the first page and tied up on the last.

I've also read a lot of what agents have to say about queries: that good queries present the protagonist, the problem, and the stakes; that they demonstrate a compelling voice and style; that they do this in about 250 words.

So I've been trying to think about my WIPS in these terms.  If I can identify a single problem, I can identify which parts of the story are extraneous.  If I can describe the stakes in a single sentence, I can tell if they are high enough.  If I can refine the style for 250 words, I can test the rest against that standard.

Maybe there's another word for this: extract?  treatment?  I dunno, and it doesn't matter what it's called.  It's helped me more than outlines or synopses.  What do you do to keep your WIPs on track?

No comments:

Post a Comment