>The Book Proposal

>Photo inspiration for my new series.

Well, I’ve just sent my agent the proposal for my new series, The Shallow Sea.

The standard proposal is a synopsis and 3 chapters. I like to include a blurb. Writing a blurb is hard. I heard one author say, imagine two teenagers had been to see a movie of your book. How would they describe it?

Here’s mine.

The Shallow Sea

This is a gritty fantasy series set in a tropical paradise filled with hidden dangers where the inhabitants battle the elements and each other to survive. The first two books form a duology, which tells the story of a reluctant warrior seeking redemption, a ruthless nomad desperate to save her brother and an unwanted misfit who hates the world, but is the only one who can prove the Shallow Sea is sinking. Their paths cross in an assassination attempt.

Then there’s the dreaded synopsis. It’s so hard to condense 400 pages into 5. I ask:

WHO is the story about?
WHAT do they want?
WHY can’t they achieve it?
HOW to they overcome this?

If you have more than one narrative character, then ask the question about each of them, and weave the threads into your synopsis. The lovely Kim Wilkins once said, think of ten descriptive words about your book and use them to flavour your synopsis. Think of it as a selling tool.

And then there’s the chapter samples. Feedback from fellow writers is great, as is feedback from fantasy readers.

Now all I can do is sit back and cross my fingers. Meanwhile, I’ll work on another book.


  1. >Um. I like teenager analogy. If you’ll forgive me, Rowena, that makes me want to suggest a re-write for your blurb. Agents and editors may (possibly) be better educated than teenagers, but they have a low level of concentration as a million and one new proposals appear on their desks. Therefore I always hold that ease of reading is vital for blurbs (likewise blurbs for readers in bookstores). I avoid long multipart sentences, and even too many long words. These both have a place in a novel, but I pare them in blurbs. I always run a grammar checker on a blurb, and these come with various stat analysis tools. Now, a great writer – and you are one – rises above the indications of these stats. In a blurb, however – think bored, dumb teenager…The stats provided by my word-processor give comparisions. This may horrify you. The nearest famous author your blurb compares to (technically) is Charles Dickens. Your natural prose is lucid – and unDickensian. So why do you score as ‘complex’? Well, principally because one of your sentences has 79 words in it. Dave (who hopes he hasn’t ruined a beautiful friendship :-))

  2. >Good luck with the series proposal, Rowena! I’ve got two proposals on my editor’s desk right now. (Twiddling thumbs, resisting the urge to follow up…)

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