Continuing about The Good Synopsis. We were at “upper-mediocre.”
Eventually, my cover got me as close to a book/movie deal as I may ever get. It didn’t start out that way. In the beginning, my Hook was:
- Literary fiction; a girl and her backpack in Southeast Asia.
- This pitch worked from the beginning. I have never changed it.
In the next paragraph or two, the pitch/hook/elevator speech expands to describe the book. Originally, my opening paragraph read:
- When we met at (place and time), you requested to see my novel, The Invincible Summer, a travel adventure of primarily internal terrain. It is as much a story of learning to thrive from what life hands you as it is about using tai chi, the Chinese art of self-defense and self-examination, to survive incest.
- The Invincible Summer: pretty words; doesn’t describe the book.
- A travel adventure of primarily internal terrain: what the hell does that mean?
- A story of learning to thrive from what life hands you as it is about using tai chi … Ditto.
- Incest: “Dear Writer. No.”
I went into a four-year re-write, and then sent again.
- Agent signed me. Didn’t sell. Agent dropped me.
- From her cover letters, learned how to write a better one.
(Agent you know) suggested I contact you regarding my novel, Wave Hands Like Clouds.
The novel’s title comes from a scene halfway through the book, when the leader of a tai chi class in Japan says, “Now we learn Wave Hands Like Clouds.” It is at this point that the protagonist Jen opens herself to an entirely different life.
In her early teens, Jen endures heinous sexual abuse at the hands of her family doctor, her parents’ attorney and her father. In this manuscript, this sad, ugly, overdone and often overwrought issue becomes the narrative force. Equally welcome is the discovery that Jen is no one’s victim. She is a fighter. She begins systematically stealing money from her father’s business, where she works; and at l7, with a passport and $10,000, flies to Hong Kong, where she falls in with the international backpacker community.
- “The Invincible Summer” becomes “Wave Hands Like Clouds.” Still intangible, but better; has Asian imagery.
- A travel adventure of primarily internal terrain: gone.
- Incest: inferred.
- Jen opens herself to an entirely different life: what does this mean?
- Focus is on telling the story. (Perhaps in too much detail)
I started sending out again. Had a child. Slowed up on the sending.
- Workshopped the novel. Teacher referred me to his agent.
Thank you again for the opportunity to submit my novel. Wave Hands Like Clouds is The Lovely Bones meets The Beach—a teenager steals $10,000 from her abusive parents and runs away to Asia. Peter Jackson’s film of The Lovely Bones, expected in theaters in 2007, offers a remarkable opportunity to reach readers with a comparably innovative abuse story.
Michael, who works with hundreds of writers each year, had this reaction: “This is amazing. There is a great, sweeping style here that is so visual. Truly original and heartbreaking without being sentimental, this is a bestseller waiting to happen.
In her early teens, the protagonist, Jen endures heinous sexual abuse at the hands of her father and his two best friends. In Wave Hands Like Clouds, this sad, ugly, and often overdone issue is rendered with what Michael calls “economy and great honesty that resurrects the incest story and keeps it interesting and free of melodrama.”
That agent said No (“Too dark for my tastes”). A different agent got me as close to a book/movie deal as I may ever get. When her No came down, my cover letter still had everything an agent would need (if they wanted this kind of novel) to request the full manuscript:
- The Hook: 25 words or less; includes name-drop, marketing tie-in, and comparisons to recent books that sold well. Designed to spark interest in full manuscript. did not try to sell the whole story.
- Bonus Points: blurb from respected author;
- The Expanded Hook: opens up The Hook, just enough.
- one more graph describing (get this) just the first 70 pages; and
- a final, short graph posing a question that establishes a compelling interest in the rest of the book.