1.08.2007

My fantasy is fewer words

Dear Miss Snark,

I wasn't sure if you have already discussed this, but I couldn't find it. I am preparing to query several agents on my fantasy novel which is the first of a seven book series. I wasn't sure if my synopsis should only contain what pertains to my first book or include an overview of the books to come. If it should contain information about the future installments, what percentage of the synopsis is dedicated to the first book? I don't want a long synopsis bogged down with unneeded information.

Also, when the agency wants the first chapter, do I also send the prologue, or only the prologue? (The prologue is the same size as my chapters).



I'm sure this dreadful question is in the Snarkives somewhere but it bears repeating. Even if you're planning to write a seven volume treatise on the politics of Rabbitania, start with book one. Your synopis is short, and it covers book one. You can mention very politely that you envision this as the start of a series. Try to avoid using a number.

Fantasy editors are more forgiving of this kind of thing than other less dragonly editors I'm told, but you have to sell this before you sell it all.

There's nothing wrong with starting at one and working your way up.

And when you're asked for chapters for dog's sake don't send the damn prologue. Send chapter one.

17 comments:

type, monkey, type said...

Ask yourself: which is the stronger start - the prologue or chapter 1. If it is the prologue, rename the thing "chapter 1" and send it. If it is not, send chapter 1, and then figure out how to ditch the prologue.

Dave said...

Multiple book series scare me.

I went Christmas gift shopping last year and ordered a whole mess of neat books. I had a choice to keep Book 1 of the Nulperion Series (492 pages hardbound) or give it away.

Well, the fact that it was xxx pages and there were three books in the saga, the second being 551 pages. I gave it away to my Brother. I'll give him #2 on our birthday and #3 later in the year.

I want to read The Echo Maker, the Thirteenth Tale, Stardust, and some other books. I had to give up a 492 page book with two follow ups.

I can't bear starting a multiple book series anymore. They scare me. My crash and burn was Stephen Donaldson.

I recently read on a blog a statement that the writer wanted a beta reader for his 4 volume fantasy and the first volume, just the backstory was 120,000 words. JEEPERS, that's Das Rheingold and there is no guarantee that I'll like it.

PS. I had Das Rheingold on my mind because that is the prologue to the three Opera Ring Cycle by Wagner.

Mackan said...

And remember that even if you are writing an epic series, you probably still want every book to have a beginning, middle and ending and not two books of "beginning", two of "middle" etc.

Even if you envision the whole story, your readers will be more than frustrated if you have not told them a story (as in one whole story) by the end of your first 50.000+ words.

FWIW.

Luc2 said...

Usually, prologues are redundant and don't add much to the story. Follow Miss Snark's advice, unless you have a brilliant prologue.

And focus on your first book. I'm sure they'll be interested in more if the first one goes well.

Good luck.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

Speaking as a sometime fantasy editor: Best to skip the damn portentuous prologue entirely.

writtenwyrdd said...

"And when you're asked for chapters for dog's sake don't send the damn prologue. Send chapter one."

I bet this is the answer to a question most of the fantasy writers out there wanted to know but hadn't thought to ask.

writtenwyrdd said...

Tolkien's LOTR was a single volume book when the author submitted it to the publisher. The wise editor split it into three volumes. Problem was, the second volume is more a bridge between the first and third volumes than a book in its own right.

I guess sometimes having the books not completely stand alone works. But I wouldn't count on it.

Anonymous said...

writtenwyrdd (re Tolkien's LOTR): I guess sometimes having the books not completely stand alone works. But I wouldn't count on it.

It may work, sometimes, for a trilogy. If you can tell a story like Tolkien. But I very much doubt it has ever worked for a longer series.

~Nancy said...

Tolkien's LOTR was a single volume book when the author submitted it to the publisher. The wise editor split it into three volumes.

It's true that Tolkien wanted LOTR to be one single, massive volume (I gave hubby the nice hardbound version of it years ago, but that's a more recent thing).

His publisher split it up that way because of 2 reasons:

1. The paper shortage in post-WWII Britain; and

2. Being not long after WWII, the publisher didn't think enough people would come up with the money for such a massive book.

Of course, the publisher did the right thing. :-)

FWIW.

~JerseyGirl

Mackan said...

I guess sometimes having the books not completely stand alone works. But I wouldn't count on it.

And sometimes the author is not Tolkien :)

Tolkien might be an exception to the rule, actually. Check out other successfull series, like Harry Potter, and see how often each book contains a story of it's own, contributing to a larger story. But you should probably be able to pick any book in the series and read it without having read the others...

Elizabeth said...

Thank you! My prologue is a stronger starting point than the first chapter, however it takes place twenty years before the first chapter. I can easily call the prologue the first chapter and mention at the beginning of the second that it is twenty years later. I had assumed when you have such a time difference you need to call it the prologue.

I have planned out all the installments and have outlined the entire story from completion to finish - I just have to sell the first one, and I'll focus on that. Thank you all again for the help and advice.

whitemouse said...

I love fantasy, but I can't stand the way it dawdles.

You buy a book, and it's a big whopping brick of a book. Then you start reading, and the story pokes along like a sloth with a cannabis problem. Then you finally slog your way to end and there's no friggin' resolution to the storyline! Wait for book two, gentle reader!

Except that you know book two won't give you any candy either, because the series is intended to be a stinkin' trilogy, or worse.

I can name two authors off the top of my head that I'll never bother reading again because they didn't spot the fact that their fat, slow fantasy trilogy should have been hacked into a sleek and zippy single novel. Thou Shalt Not Waste Thy Reader's Time.

Catja (green_knight) said...

I can only thank everybody who keeps repeating that the prologue should not be written down - although it was necessary for me to *write* it, the book words much better without.

I protested for a considerable length of time...

Elizabeth said...

whitemouse, I agree with you. Regardless of whether you're doing a stand alone novel or book one of a series, every book should begin and end. With a series you just have each book working together to bring more of the story.

I too, can name several authors I don't read because the story "dawdles" (good choice of the word, by the way). I prefer fast paced and to the point.

And I will take the advice on the prologue. I suppose even I have put down books just by looking at the length of the prologue...

lauo said...

I love fantasy, and buy a lot of it, but I've come to hate, loathe, and fear the huge, multi-volumed stuff.
It is my own fault.
My memory is just shot these days.
(Not age, not booze, not drugs. Children.)

Standing there in the bookstore I can never remember what volumes of a series I have or don't have, or what author wrote the thing I was looking for.

So I give up.

Now if I see that something is volume one of the new whatever series, I'm just not going to buy it since I know I'll never remember, when I see volume two float by, that I liked volume one.

If I can't get the whole series all in a fell swoop, I just don't go there at all.
(And don't get me started on series that never get finished....)

So, a seven-volumed series....
Must you?

Elizabeth said...

Laou, I could get all complicated and explain my reasoning, but I suppose it suffices to say that I went through years of world building, and I'm going to fully use the place I created. Why spend so much time on the world for one book, or even just a trilogy?

Elizabeth said...

I forgot to add a thank you. I appreciate the opinions on long fantasy series. The only person in my family that reads fantasy is my sister, and she loves Robert Jordan, obviously she doesn't mind the long series. I however have avoided picking up book one. Maybe I'm a hypocrite.