Keycon 29, Query Letter and Synopsis Panel

Keycon is my home con, here in Winnipeg, and I’ve gone every year since I learned of it’s existence. They’re always encouraging people to do panels, so this year, I’m jumping in to do one.

With only minor publications to my credit, I haven’t felt qualified to do a panel on anything that mattered to me, in the past, but over the last few years, I had the opportunity to participate in a proposal package focus group as I prepared to submit a novel I’d managed to get to final draft. I learned a lot from that focus group, and came out with a query letter and synopsis that got me a request for the manuscript from a managing editor at one of the Big Seven, and another from one of the six or so agents I sent it to – one of the top agents in the industry.

I haven’t got representation thus far – I’ve decided to go back and revise the novel since, but that’s not what a query and synopsis is for. It doesn’t sell the novel, it gets you the request for the manuscript, and my query letter and synopsis did that with a very good ratio. And so I finally feel like I have proven I know something legitimately enough to teach it.

My panel is tentatively scheduled for 1-2pm on the Saturday of Keycon 29, May 19th, 2012, at the Radisson hotel. I’ll have pens and paper for anyone who doesn’t have them, and there will be exercises. It will be most useful to anyone with a finished novel, ready to submit, but anyone is welcome, of course, at any stage in the writing process. I’m very excited about it, it’s the first time I’ll be running a panel – and on that note, I shall go and finish my notes for it!

For my first Post: Review of Robert J. Sawyer’s Lecture on “Idea is King”

So I’ve made a blog, and a website, and I should probably get some actual blog content up here. Since this will be mainly a writing related blog, I will start with some great writing advice from Robert J Sawyer.

At Keycon I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Robert J. Sawyer about how to write a novel that will sell, and he said in no uncertain terms that the stories that will be remembered, are the ones that take a position on something and argue a point.

People may disagree with you, but they’ll talk about it, and every person you get talking about it is free publicity.

He gave a couple of examples; first, he didn’t name the author, but he referred to an author he met at a con who advocated the best way to get published it to write as much as you can and publish as much as you can. This author had published 100 books in the 20 years it took for Robert J. Sawyer to publish 20 books. *But*, this other author had 6 books still in print, while all 20 of Sawyer’s books are still in print, 20 years later. The difference was not necessarily quality of writing, but the fact that Sawyer’s books each had a theme and a position, whereas the other author’s was purely for entertainment.

His second example was the 2009 oscars. 3 sci fi movies made the short list; Star Trek, Avatar, and District 9. Only two of them were finalists – Avatar and District 9. Sawyer posits that the reason Star Trek didn’t make the finals was the fact that it was purely for entertainment, and made no controversial statement.

The difference is the way people talk about the story. If you ask someone what the new Star Trek movie was about, they’ll give you a plot synopsis. If you ask what District 9 was about, they’ll tell you it’s an allegory of racism and appartheid. They’ll tell you Avatar is about respecting the environment. And it doesn’t matter what side you fall on the arguments the movies make, they get people talking. The Star Trek movie didn’t do that.

When you make a point with your fiction, you get people talking, not just about the plot of your book, but about the issue itself. There will always be people who disagree with you, but that just means you’ve made your point well. (He mentioned getting an email from a reader who disagreed with one of his novel’s position, and he answered it wishing the reader “All the best in one day getting a soapbox as large as mine.”) By opening up dialogue about issues that everyone has an opinion on, people can discuss your book in ways that they can’t discuss a book that is written purely for entertainment.

Anyway, so says Robert J. Sawyer, and I personally agree.