The Dreaded Book Proposal

The time has come.

A little over a year ago, after hearing about the book I was writing, an author friend suggested I find an agent. I didn’t feel ready. In fact, I felt completely inadequate as a writer with so much more to learn, that while I felt encouraged by her advice, I simply couldn’t follow it at the time. Six months ago, a well known author critiqued a portion of my first novel at the Mt Hermon Christian Writers Conference and indicated that I should consider looking for an agent and thinking about which publishing house I’d like for my contemporary fiction manuscript. Her advice forced me to embrace the idea that perhaps the time was nearing for me to look for an agent.

I can’t put it off any longer.

I’ve finished the first book and with eighty pages written on the novel, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m at the point of needing to write a proposal to find an agent. Can I just say that writing two books has been easier?

I described the situation to my seventh grade daughter like this…

Imagine you are given an assignment (let’s say a paper to write for your language class…). You’ve spent many hours constructing this piece of writing. You’ve written, re-written, had it critiqued, edited, re-written (the fifteenth time now) and finally you like it enough to turn it in. BUT before your teacher will accept your paper, you must write a compelling letter (query) with only enough information and intrigue to make her want to see a summary of your assignment (proposal).

If your teacher decides your letter is persuasive enough, she may ask you to submit the summary of your paper. You hope this is the case.

Now the situation gets even more difficult.

This summary must capture her attention. Each sentence must lead her to the next, and the next creating a longing in her to see your full assignment. (No pressure here!) What if it’s too short? Or too long? How many pages exactly is a “summary”? Do you have enough information to leave her feeling confident with your ability to write, or is it too much and boring her? What details are imperative to create a good feel for the storyline and which are superfluous? What other papers have been written about your topic? Are they same, or different and in what ways? Finally, do you write the author bio in first or third person??

Wow, Mom! That’s intense! I’m glad I don’t have to do my schoolwork that way.

To which I answered, “So am I sweetheart. So am I. Now you know why I put up my little sign that announces, “I’m in my zone. Please do not disturb.”

She got it.

For all of you out there who have written, are writing or still dread the day when you will finally have to write…a book proposal, I salute you. I admire you. Nice job. Keep it up. Don’t delay (it may take longer than it did to write your book). May you find an agent who feels compelled at the “Dear Sir.”

What is your book proposal writing experience? Have you found ways to make it easier?

A great resource:

Roller Coaster Writer

A piercing headache forced me awake this morning. The pain emanated from the region of my right shoulder blade, up the right side of my neck and spread across the top of my head.

What’s up with this? I thought at first and then wondered how I would make it through the second full day at the Mt Hermon Writer’s Conference with a migraine, which seemed imminent. Exhausted, even after almost eight hours of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed, took pain relievers and rushed to get ready for the day. I was already going to be late for breakfast.

I confess the desire to burst into tears. My critique class afforded great instruction and helpful, encouraging criticism, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow the writing direction I felt fairly confident of two days earlier now seemed lost to me.  What am I doing here? How am I going to make it another four days?

Even after taking more medication than I ever allow, my head continued to pound. My classmates commiserated with my pain, and I struggled to accept the fact that the writing assignment I wrestled to produce after three hours the previous afternoon would have to suffice. We would all share our work within the hour. Negative thoughts assaulted me. I don’t mean that I felt a bit insecure about my writing. I mean violent words stabbed at my heart and soul.

Your writing is awful. Everyone will hate it and tear it apart. What makes you think you have anything worthwhile to say. Besides, you can’t write it well anyway. No matter how hard you try, this is too hard! You may as well just quit now. Go home.

I should have recognized the onslaught. It was familiar to me by now; anytime I felt like I had progressed at all as a writer, amateur or not, the attack began. But with my head spinning in pain, I almost gave in. Funny thing though–everyone in my group praised what I had perceived as junk and told me it was the best writing they had read from me. They saw the real me emerge. Wow! I couldn’t have been more surprised, so convinced had I been by the lies I heard in my head.

Stunned, I almost cried. “You all can’t believe what a struggle writing this was yesterday afternoon.” They smiled with understanding.

My devoted husband, Brendan, brought me some forgetten items from home (thank goodness the conference is held close by), and as soon as I saw him, I burst into tears.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My head…” and the entire morning poured out with my tears. Just his being there for fifteen minutes comforted me.

Later, a friend prayed for my headache to go away. It did. During orientation, clarity about the next steps for my writing career began to settle in my mind. I sat in a workshop in which two of the Bible verses used by the instructor were the exact verses I had felt God encouraging me with earlier in the week. My heart lifted and now the tears came out of joy.  Dinner conversation further boosted my spirits. I was given the opportunity to pray for someone else who was struggling. Our evening speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs, entertained us with hilarity and challenged our hearts to trust God with everything. “Just let me love on you,” she said. Sounded good to me!

When I returned to my room, I sent a text to Brendan, and realized the pain in my shoulder and neck were gone.

Phew! What a day.  I rode the coaster up and down and corkscrewed around, but have ended the ride of my day with a sigh of relief and contentment, excited for tomorrow. Such is the life of an amateur writer. I wonder if professionals have days like this? I’ll bet they do.