5 Surprises at a Writer’s Workshop

Cold and a book









I learned many things during the Portland Writer’s Workshop, and thought I would share them. Some surprised me, others succeeded in adding a new layer of understanding, and a couple left me shaking my head and asking myself, “Where have I been?”

  1. Beginning of a Query Letter

Here are the first two paragraphs of my query pitched at the Portland Writer’s Workshop (entire query is here):

A disheartened immortal craves the final death; instead, he is cast into the body of Prince SYJER when the body he occupies is killed.

THE RETURNING, my 125,000-word fantasy novel, chronicles Syjer’s struggle against the wish for anonymity and the people’s need for a leader against the deranged King.

My reasoning was to hook the agent (hints of genre, etc. within the first sentence), then explain my book as to length and scope. WRONG, I was told—the first paragraph should be the explanation of the type of book, length, asking for representation, etc., followed by the hook.

  1. Italics

I have been writing for a long time with some minor successes. Instruction always included that words to be italicized should be underlined to make it easier for the typesetter. WRONG, two agents at the conference agreed. Forget the underline and use italics where necessary.

I write fantasy, a genre where there tends to be more italics than other genres—invented words, for instance; other writing types generally only italicize internal thoughts to differentiate from regular text: Oh, no, Julie thought, not that.

  1. Synopsis

In my study, many agents/editors ask for a Synopsis to be included in the “package” with the query and sample of one’s writing. I geared the Synopsis to be double-spaced, yet Chuck Sambuchino remained adamant that Synopses are single-spaced. A sigh of relief since that format gives me 500 words to explain my 125,000-word novel rather than doing so in a meager 250 words. Still, and this is crucial when researching agents/editors, follow each one’s specific guidelines. Since returning from the Workshop, I have seen many agents that do require a 1-page double-spaced Synopsis.

E-Publishing and New Truths

Since the advent and popularity of ebooks (Amazon, Kindle, etc.), the market has and is changing in some dramatic ways. Despite the changes, some things remain entrenched—good writing trumps all else, ie., many ebooks are unpolished (improperly revised) works that are not worthy of traditional publishing.

Given the changes in e-publishing is perhaps the reason italics within the manuscript have become conventional. Rising from the new publishing “form” has evolved a couple constants.

  1. Traditional publishers (normally) do not publish a sequel or remainder of a trilogy once the first novel has been e-published. Their reasoning is simple and a matter of economics (publishing is a business, after all)—why would they want to publish a follow-up novel to one that only sold a handful of copies?

Of course, if the first novel sold in the neighborhood of 10-20,000 copies, they may reconsider, but most ebooks fall far short of that goal.

  1. Ebooks do not get reviewed by newspapers, major magazines, industry publications, nor will the writer be able to secure interviews on TV and radio shows. Also, major brick-and-mortar booksellers will not put your novel on the shelves next to writers conventionally published. Again, this can be different if you have a “Best Seller” ebook, but the odds are against you.

Where does that leave the writer? As always, research the parties you are interested in pursuing and follow their guidelines exactly. Oh, and write well.

Now, go write that masterpiece, and Best Wishes.



This Week’s Writing Quote:

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”–Toni Morrison

This Week’s Links:

Project Gutenberg: FREE books to download–a treasure trove of classic prose and more
George R.R. Martin’s Original Game of Thrones outline:
Library Online–Writing Helps
Developing a Writing Plan



Author: Rick "C" Langford

Writer, blogger, Business Owner, dreamer, and fantasy lover

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