Monday, April 13, 2009

The One Sentence Summary

The One Sentence Summary

Someone mentioned that my weekly summary sounded a bit like a “snippet” which is something I wrote every week at my previous job. So avoid sounding “professional”, this week’s progress post will be written in a more expository manner.

My main goal last week was to send a Query Letter to one agent, just to get the process started. I didn’t anticipate the difficulty this process would entail. The basic concept of the Query Letter is to describe your entire 600 page novel in only a couple sentences. This must somehow capture an agent’s attention in like 10 seconds of reading. It’s the entire intricate plot with dozens of characters summarized into a precious few pithy passages.

I literally spent the entire week banging my head against this. I soon discovered that I didn’t really understand my own damn novel. What are the important plot points? What are the goals of each character? What is the most important parts of the story? At the beginning of the week, I started out with something like this:

In a world heading for calamity, Dawn Anami rises from intensifying desperation and destruction to fight for humanity's last chance to escape from Earth's final demise.

Okay. Not so bad, but does it really capture what Dawn is fighting? Let me think….there’s the tyrannical Susan Franklin, a power-hungry woman who challenges Dawn every step of the way. But the story isn’t really about Dawn’s encounters with Susan. They are pretty secondary to the story, more like inconveniences. I kept re-reading important passages until I found this clue:

[Dawn is talking to Izzy about herself in the 3rd person] “And what if she doesn’t want to. I mean, what if she doesn’t want to be a savior and save the world and everything? What if she just wants the visions to go away and be left alone?”

Ahh, much better. That is an insight into Dawn’s inner conflict. The world is telling her to be something other than what she believes she is. The story is really about Dawn coming to grips with her real identity, accepting her role/fate/destiny, and discovering what all those pesky visions of dead and dying people are all about.

So now I’m up to this one line:

On a planet reeling from unprecedented disasters, can struggling psychic Dawn Anami find the strength to conquer her delusions and self doubt and accept her destiny—to lead the ragged remnants of mankind on an improbable path to safety?

I don’t think it’s quite there yet, but I think it really summaries Dawn’s struggle, and conveys the essence of the story. There’s a contest today for one line summaries…the top 3 lines get to submit a partial manuscript to an agent. I just saw they closed the contest…but I submitted anyways…it will be depressing if they don’t even look at it. I guess there are too many desperate authors out there.

I was going to send in a second line, just a random thing I thought of…don’t know if an agent would find this interesting or annoying.

Is it possible to have too many disasters in one book? I don’t know, but I gave it a try.

Okay I know that’s two sentences but whatever…they point is to get the agent to read the rest of the letter.

I will be getting a query letter out this week. Everything else is secondary right now.


  1. The first letters I wrote to agents were so cringe-worthy I don't even want to think about them anymore. I got a little better after I had a sort-of publication cred to my name, but I haven't been successful in getting anyone to bite yet. You might try Andrew Zack. I know he has at least one sci-fi author in his stable all ready. (John de Lancie, the guy who played "Q" on one of the later Star Trek series.) He blogs, and is very good at keeping queryiers (is that even a word?) abreast of his progress with letters and manuscripts.

  2. Yeah my first couple of attempts have been very poor. My biggest issue is that I don't even know what my book is about...but I'm getting an idea. Trying to pitch the book in 150 words...whew...


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