Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My approach letter to literary agents.

There's an awful lot of advice on the Internet about approach letters, synopsis packages and so on. Unfortunately, much of it is contradictary and leaves the hopeful writer confused and uncertain about how to construct their approach.

I decided that the most important thing was that agents are all very BUSY. They don't have much time to dedicate to searching through the 'slush-pile', and thus if something doesn't grab them within a few lines, they'll pass and move on. For this reason, my approach was as follows;

A) A one-page introductory letter.
B) A one-page synopsis, single line spaced.
C) The first three chapters ( in my case, 21 pages in total ).

Obviously I can't post my synopsis here, but below is my covering letter. This package was sent to ten of the top London agencies in total over a period of two months. Of those ten, only two asked for the full manuscript. Of those, LBA signed me as a client, and I turned down the other one shortly after ( an odd experience in itself after years of rejections! ).

My advice is: Be brief, exciting and professional. Not an easy combination - my letter took several days to perfect, but the effort was worth it in the end.

91 Great Russell Street

Dear Mr Bonomi,

What is the meaning of life? Where do we come from? What happens to us when we die?

I am writing to you as a novelist in search of representation for my commercial fiction thriller ‘Genesis’ (150,000 words). I understand that your client list includes the authors James Becker, David Gibbins and Matt Hilton, and believe that my work may be of interest to you. Genesis tells of a race-against-time search for the existence of xxxxxxxxx, set against the political turmoil of the Middle East. As science discovers an extinct species of xxxxxxxxx and destroys the notion of man as a special creation, powerful groups seek to destroy the evidence before humanity learns of its true origins.

I am thirty-seven years old and have been writing for ten years, with previous work considered as full manuscripts by literary agents in 2007 ( Lorella Belli and Sheil Land Associates ). Genesis is the first in a planned series of novels featuring the protagonist Eddie Warner, a man with a talent for finding lost souls and exposing conspiracies in the world’s most dangerous places.

I have enclosed the first three chapters of Genesis and a short synopsis as advised on your website. Many thanks in advance for any time spent considering my work.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Dean Crawford

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Re-draft.

I've been hard at work since my meeting with Luigi at LBA, trying to make sure that I have a completed manuscript ready by September 2010. Fortunately, despite the amount of work, I'm well on target.

Cutting a 150,000 word novel down to between 110 / 120,000 words is no mean feat in itself, but it's surprising how easy it becomes once you get stuck into it. In my particular case there is a change of story and plot-line to consider, which allows for judicious cutting and editing along the way, but none the less I'm already down to 130,000 words without having lost anything I need.

Harder to achieve is the tremendous amount of research that the story changes require. Years of studying certain aspects of scientific endeavour ( chiefly cosmology and Einstein's General Relativity ) have given way to rapidly gathering information on genetics, mtDNA, Biblical archaeology ( honest! ) and cellular biochemistry. It took me two years to understand relativity. I have two months to master my all of my new subject material, ensure that it's accurate, and incorporate it into the story.

But it's FUN! And that's in addition to Luigi's request for "more action". This has required me to subtly change my hero's motivation and character, giving him a more determined and driven edge to account for his willingness to go on the attack as well as use his wits to achieve his goals. I like my leading characters to be believable, not Uzi-weilding Terminators of the ( yawn ) ex-SAS type, so his actions must be justifiable in the eyes of the reader. To me it's always a disappointment to read about a hero with his back to the wall facing three adversaries, wondering how he's going to get out of the situation, only for him to drop them all using some bloody Vulcan death-grip or something and walk away unscathed, all square-jawed and invincible.

For once, editing and redrafting is a joy, and it's great to see the novel taking its new shape. The pace of the story is almost doubled by removing the things that Luigi felt were unnescessary, and I still have 6-8 weeks to complete the work and polish it before sending it back to Luigi. Onward and upward!