A Little Post for Valentine's Day
And a lot of talk about book proposals
Happy Valentine's day!
Whether you've got a hot date or a pair of jammies and a movie with good food lined up for your day of love, I hope it's just what you're looking for. And I hope there's chocolate.
So given the day, it only makes sense to talk about love - more specifically, making an editor fall in love with your book proposal.
Er...that's not too much of a stretch is it? Cut me some slack, I'm trying to honour the occasion. Basically I've been writing proposals for publishers all week so that's what's been on my mind. And here's what I've come to: proposals are hard.
You know why? Because you basically have to write the whole book. Without writing the whole book.
What does that mean? I’ll tell you! A fiction proposal is different from a typical submission. Typically, a publisher wants to see a full first draft before they'll consider buying it. The proposal is, in my experience, that rare unicorn of an opportunity where a publisher will consider a book without the full manuscript. They just want to see (in most instances) three chapters and an outline.
Pretty sweet right? It takes me at least a year to write a full length novel. You're telling me I can skip all that and just submit three chapters?
There’s been a lot of sweat (still is cus I'm not done). Because the thing about a proposal is a proposal needs an outline. A full outline. The beginning, the middle and the end. The complete blueprint of a whole entire book. And it needs to be entertaining at the same time. Well, maybe it doesn’t need to be entertaining, maybe a dry list of bullet points is just fine for some proposals. But I imagine an editor, reading proposals and submissions, not to mention their own projects, day in and day out, will want to get a little enjoyment out of reading my little idea otherwise why bother picking it up? So I try my best to make the outline read like its own mini story.
So here’s the thing - I was, at one point, a pantser. It was a long time ago, before I had to write the outline for a proposal for my second book and realized how helpful having an outline actually was to my writing process. But, despite having learned the magic of a well constructed outline, I am still - at my core and in my marrow - a pantser. I like discovering my story as I go, unearthing it from the dirt of my mind and being surprised.
But for more than one of my works-in-progress my pantsing ways lead me way too far off course and the stories got unwieldy and out of control and ended up in the bin. Hundreds of pages, tossed. All because I couldn’t control the power of the pants. Sure, writers manage it. They can harness the power of the pants and drive down that dark foggy highway without going out of control. Not so for me. I learned the hard way that I need a smidge of a plan. Usually that plan is the three chapter plan. I plot three chapters and don’t worry about the rest until I come to the end of those three chapters. I always have a vague idea where the story will end up, but I don’t like to marry myself to it until I see how the story pans out on the page.
With an outline - no dice. You have to know not just the ending, but every twist and turn on the road to getting there.
And that, dear reader, is a hard thing to do.
How can I possibly predict what my story is going to do before I sit down and actually write the thing? How can I possibly know how my characters are going to react to the situation before I stick them into it? The outline demands that a writer know these answers. And the truth is, I don’t have them.
But that’s the other thing I’ve come to learn about outlines - I may not have the answers, but I can guess. I can offer my best estimate as to what will happen in the story, like a weatherman. The beginning, the middle and the end - a well-thought-out guess. And make it entertaining.
So I’ve given in to the process and forced myself to sit and work out how I plan for the story to go.
And you know what? It’s kind of nice having a road map. The story may deviate from that map when I actually sit down to write, but it won’t go wildly off course. And anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Because a proposal is just that - a proposal. There is no story yet. Just an idea. And maybe the publisher reading that idea will like it. And maybe they wont. But whatever happens, I will have that thorough outline. Which is basically the whole book. All I’ll have to do is add the frilly words.
What are your Valentine’s plans?
WHAT I’M WORKING ON
It’s been a busy couple of weeks! After the OLA Super Conference in Toronto, I got to work on these top secret proposals and I am nearly finished!
I also found out that The Bear House has been chosen for the 2023 TD Summer Reading Club and I am so honoured and excited! I’ll be doing a lot more visits to schools and libraries in the coming months to talk Bears with students and I am realizing I am going to need more stickers!
And my new hi-lo title with Orca Books, Countdown, is out in the world TODAY! Happy book birthday little story! To celebrate, I will be talking with several other authors who are also releasing new titles to Orca’s hi-lo series this week. We’ll be talking about our books and about writing for hi-lo audiences! If you want to learn more about hi-lo, join us! The registration link is here.
What I’m reading
Book: The Bear and the Nightingale
Because it’s Valentine’s Day, I highly recommend this article about Caroline Lamb’s heartbreak notebook from Noted by
Also, I am excited aboutSubstack that has just started up!
Finally, since it’s Valentines, you can treat yourself to 10% off all products at Ferris Wheel Press if you use my code: MEG
Ok, that’s all from me. Happy Valentine’s day!
Thanks for the shout out! Loving your newsletter :)
Oh, outlines! I love them once I've done them, but I'm so bad at actually getting myself there. And so exciting to hear about all of your progress and success!! I just bought myself some crazy-expensive watercolors, otherwise I might splurge on a fountain pen! Oh, and thanks for your very kind mention of Lady Caroline :)