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August 25, 2014

What is a Chapter Outline?

If you’re like me when you first started writing, you probably thought a chapter outline, which some editors request with the proposal, was Roman numerals I, II, III each with the subpoints of A.,B., and C. And if you’re like me, once you were in the writing /publishing world for any length of time, you discovered that a chapter outline is nothing like the outline you wrote for English class in high school.

To put it simply, a chapter outline is a brief summary, maybe one to three short paragraphs per chapter, explaining in third person your story’s main characters and plot. If you know how to write a good newspaper article, then you’ll do a good job writing your chapter outline.

The Components:

A good chapter outline should include:

1. The names of your main characters

2. The setting and time frame

3. A summary of each chapter (as far as you’ve written if you haven’t completed the book yet)

4. If possible, (and the editor might request this), the outline for the final chapter

A good chapter outline should not include:

1. Dialogue

2. Detailed descriptions of your main characters

3. Your opinions

4. Questions for the editor

To give you an idea of what a chapter outline should be, here’s a sample of one of mine. I’ve included only the first three chapters of twelve in the book:

SNOW

By Marsha Hubler

Chapter Outline

Chapter One

Dallis Parker is a thirteen-year-old tomboy who loves horses more than anything else in the world. However, she fell off a pony when she was six, breaking her leg in three places. Since then she walks with a brace and a limp. Because of her bad leg, Dallis has a poor self-image, is withdrawn, and does not make friends easily. Dallis’s parents will not allow her to be around horses, let alone own one. Yet, she has never given up her dream to have a horse again someday.  Much of her time is spent dreaming about a white stallion named Snow who leads a herd of mustangs in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.

Living in farm country, Dallis raises chickens and shows them at 4-H Club. Her only friend, Sheila Elliot, is an African American girl who lives with adoptive parents on the farm next to the Parker farm. Sheila is also a member of 4-H and raises lambs. Matthew Spencer is an eighth grade boy whom Dallis has had a crush on for years. A member of 4-H, he shows his champion quarter horse, Scrabble. Unfortunately, two other members of 4-H, Jane Dowling and Courtney Fulmer, who also show horses, dislike Dallis and belittle her constantly.

Sheila invites Dallis to go to a youth group meeting one Friday evening in the fall. Dallis is reluctant to go because she’ll be forced to mingle with kids she doesn’t know. But when she finds out Matthew will be there, she sets out to gain permission to go.

Chapter Two

At the youth group meeting, Dallis focuses on one person, Matthew Spencer. She ignores the events of the evening, studying him and resenting Jane and Courtney who latch unto him all night long. Near the close of the meeting, Dallis finally tunes in to Mr. Markham, the youth group leader, when he announces that the group will be going on a four-day survival camping trip to the Pocono Mountains in December. One of the reasons for the trip is to look for Snow, a “phantom” white stallion, supposedly the leader of a small band of wild Mustangs that roam the Shamokin State Park. When Dallis hears about the horse and learns that Matthew is going on the trip, she makes up her mind that she is going too.

Chapter Three

 

Dallis is overwhelmed with the beauty and excitement of Camp Icy Maples with all its activities to enjoy in new-fallen snow. There are eleven youth groups with over a hundred teens at the camp. However, she’s more interested in a certain young man who, as usual, is constantly smothered by Jane and Courtney. Dallis faces new ugly feelings about the two girls, feelings of jealousy, which she doesn’t like at all.

The first night of activities, while her youth group goes sledding, Dallis sits alone at a pavilion watching kids build snowmen and ice skate on a large pond. Even though others have invited her to join their activities, she chooses to wallow in self-pity and watch the fun from afar.But as she hobbles toward the gymnatorium for hot chocolate, Matthew joins her. As they walk together, they share their excitement about the next two days when the group goes to survival camp, looking for the white stallion.

*****

So there you have a sample of a chapter outline. For those of you who fly by the seat of your pants and you’re never sure what’s coming next, a chapter outline will be a very difficult task to accomplish. But if an editor from a prospective publisher wants one, then…well…

…start writing.

 

TODAY’S WRITERS’ TIP: The Elements of an Eye-Catching Fiction Proposal

In your writing and publishing venture, you might be asked to submit a proposal to an editor or agent once you’ve caught his/her attention.  So what is a proposal?

Other than asking someone to marry you, a proposal in the publishing world is quite the complex project. Of course, the first thing you want to do is check the publishing house’s guidelines. They might have them outlined for you on the website or if an editor asks for a proposal, then you ask him/her for their guidelines. If there are none, then follow a standard format that all editors will accept and get to know you and your project better.

Let’s look at the basic elements of a good proposal for a fiction manuscript. In later blog posts, we’ll look at samples of each of these (if applicable). One word of caution is merited here. Be careful to spend quality time on your proposal. Depending on how many sample chapters you send, your proposal could easily be 40 to 60 pages long. It’s not something that should be taken lightly because your proposal will either earn you a contract or send your manuscript back to you to try again some other place.

Basic Elements of a Good Fiction Proposal

  1. Cover page – includes title of your work, your name, address, phone number, email, website, and to whom you’re sending the proposal
  2. Table of Contents – list all the sections included in your proposal and their page numbers
  3. Synopsis: a one-to-two-page synopsis of your entire manuscript, including the climax and resolution. Don’t keep the editor/agent guessing how it’s going to end.
  4. About the Author – a one-to-two-page bio of you, including a photo, a little background, and your writing credits and awards won; include your involvement with social media, i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, blogsite, etc. with all URLs.
  5. Character Sketches – a one-page description of your main characters (one or two main characters, no more); include time period, personal appearance, quips, goals in life.
  6. Market Potential (this one takes the most time) – spend quality time in bookstores and/or online, researching the other books already published that are in the same genre and age group. Include these elements: Layout and Audience, Competitive Works, Marketing Ideas, and Date of Completion.
  7. Chapter Outline – this is not a I, II, III, A, B, C “outline.” It’s a one-to-two-paragraph summary of each chapter in your book. If your work is not finished, just write the outline to match the last chapter you’ve written. If you have some idea how the story ends, include that.
  8. Sample Chapters – the publisher’s guidelines might indicate chapter one, two, and the last one, maybe chapters one, the chapter in the middle of the book, and the last one. If not designated, send the first three chapters.

Well, there you have the basic elements of a proposal that will catch that editor’s or agent’s eye.

Why is the proposal so important?

If and editor reviews a well-done proposal, he/she recognizes that the author already has good writing and organizing skills, has a goal set to finish a project, and can meet deadlines. All these qualities are essential in maintaining a good relationship between the author and editor.

Write an eye-catching proposal, and you’re one step closer to reaching that unreachable star: publication!

 

 

July 29, 2014

LOUELLEN FRIESEN CLOSES OUT THE HHP BLOG TOUR!
By Marsha Hubler

For the last fifteen days, several Helping Hands Press authors have participated in a summer reading blog tour where we introduced the blogging audience to our stories and characters. To end the tour, I now introduce you to one of my main characters, the wife of Eli Friesen, in my Amish/Mennonite novel, LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN:

1. What is your name? Mrs. Louellen Friesen
2. What one word best describes you? Forgiven
3. How do you first become involved in this novel? I make my entrance on the first page. I am cleaning house for an “English” doctor, David McAndrew, and, God forgive me, I have strong feelings for this man even though I’m married to Eli Friesen.
4. What worries you? I am childless, which is a blight in the Mennonite community. I worry that I’ll never have children.
5. What is your favorite song? After reviewing my life and how God has shown his mercy and grace to me, I’d have to say my favorite hymn is “Amazing Grace.”
6. What is your favorite food? Everyone knows the Amish and Mennonite communities know how to cook. I have many favorites, but at the top of my list would be chicken pot pie with home-made noodles and fresh chicken prepared at our Snyder County farm.
7. What do you think of the other characters in the novel? Oh, there are so many folks in this story, I can’t comment on all of them, so I’ll just mention a few. I think my husband Eli has grown so much in the Lord as we’ve worked out our problems. Doctor McAndrew and his two teen girls, Andrea and Jenna, are wunderbaar “English” folk, and I care deeply for them, but our paths had to separate due to unforeseen circumstances. My Amish community? There are so many dear folk that Eli and I have to leave behind when we are shunned, and then we must eventually leave our friends. My heart still aches to see them all.
8. Are you pleased with your life as the novel ends? I am extremely well pleased because God performs several miracles that bring Eli and me closer than we’ve ever been before. And God gives us a special blessing that you’ll only discover when you read LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN.

Check out the other authors in the

HELPING HANDS PRESS SUMMER READING BLOG TOUR

They all have exciting tales to tell!

Monday, July 14 – Ruth L. Snyder http://ruthlsnyder.com
Tuesday, July 15 Cindy Noonan http://CindyNoonan.com
Wednesday, July 16 Mishael Witty http://bluebrownbooks.com/
Thursday, July 17 – Michele Huey http://michelethuey.com/
Friday, July 18 – Patti J. Smith http://gridirongrannyfootballfanatic.blogspot.com/
Saturday, July 19 – Amber Schamel http://amberschamel.blogspot.com/
Sunday, July 20 – Mark Carver http://www.markcarverbooks.com
Monday, July 21 – Marian Baay http://marianbaay.blogspot.nl/
Tuesday, July 22 – Jen Cudmore http://www.jencudmore.com
Wednesday, July 23 – Tracy Krauss http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com/
Thursday, July 24 – Marcia Laycock http://marcialeelaycock.com/thespur/
Friday, July 25 – Joy Davis http://www.joyrossdavis.com
Saturday, July 26 – Travis Perry http://travissbigidea.blogspot.com/
Sunday, July 27 – Mark Venturini http://markventurinijourney.blogspot.ca/

Monday, July 28 – Iola Kirkwood  http://iokirkwood.com/

 

Meet the Author Marti Pieper

Photo.Marti.Getting the Story_Pieper (2)

Marti Pieper’s passion to read, write, and pray has yielded all kinds of adventures. In 2005, her involvement in a prayer project led her to assist Brent and Deanna Higgins as they told their son’s compelling story. The resulting memoir, I Would Die for You: One Student’s Story of Passion, Service, and Faith (Revell, 2008), became a young adult bestseller that the publisher has called a “missions classic.”

Today, Marti continues to use her gifts as author, collaborative writer, and editor. Her latest release is Escape the Lie: Journey to Freedom from the Orphan Heart (Randall House, 2014) written for Dr. Walker Moore, President and Founder of Awe Star Ministries, a student missions-sending organization. This is their third book together.

In addition to her work with nonfiction books, Marti writes and edits for popular Christian teen girls’ magazine, Sisterhood. She also serves as Director of Prayer and Publication for Awe Star Ministries and writer for the Shelby Kennedy Foundation, sponsor of the National Bible Bee.

Marti’s passion for mission service has been reflected in her work. She has had the privilege of traveling to Mexico and Panama with Awe Star Ministries and to Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and (this July) Costa Rica as the writer for the Never the Same missions trip co-founded by Susie Shellenberger, founding editor of Sisterhood. Last summer, she climbed several hundred steps in the slums of Lima in pursuit of a story and also had the privilege of joining teens in sandboarding down dunes more than 200 feet high.

Marti is a popular speaker at writers, homeschool, and missions conferences where she shares the wisdom gained from her experiences in writing, editing, homeschooling, and serving on numerous short-term mission trips. Marti also speaks for churches, women’s retreats, and young adults on topics related to missions and prayer.

Marti holds a B.S.Ed. from The Ohio State University and M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is wife to Tom, a worship pastor, and mom to five young adults. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at http://www.martipieper.com.

Check out Marti’s novel, ESCAPE THE LIE

Pieper.Bk.Cover.escape_lie

Satan’s deceptive tactics block most Christians from the lives God intended. We hide behind rules, masks, and manipulation. We preach the gospel, but our lives proclaim destruction.
Escape the Lie provides answers for the deep-seated problem known as the Orphan Heart. Through powerful, biblical teaching and compelling true-life examples, the book unlocks the door to help you escape the wounds of the past and move into abundant life.

Purchase Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Lie-Walker-Moore/dp/0892656859/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/escape-the-lie-walker-moore/1119464716?ean=9780892656851
Christian Book Distributors: http://www.christianbook.com/escape-journey-freedom-from-orphan-heart/walker-moore/9780892656851/pd/656851
Randall House: http://www.randallhouse.com/shop/escape-the-lie/

July 7, 2014

The Elements of an Eye-Catching Fiction Proposal

In your writing and publishing venture, you might be asked to submit a proposal to an editor or agent once you’ve caught his/her attention. So what is a proposal?
Other than asking someone to marry you, a proposal in the publishing world is quite the complex project. Of course, the first thing you want to do is check the publishing houses’ guidelines. They might have them outlined for you on the website or if an editor asks for a proposal, then you ask him/her for their guidelines. If there are no guidelines, then follow a standard format that all editors will accept to get to know you and your project better.
Let’s look at the basic elements of a good proposal for a fiction manuscript. In later blog posts, we’ll look at samples of each of these (if applicable). One word of caution is merited here. Be careful to spend quality time on your proposal. Depending on how many sample chapters you send, your proposal could easily be 40 to 60 pages long. It’s not something that should be taken lightly because your proposal will either earn you a contract or send your manuscript back to you to try again some other place.

Basic Elements of a Good Fiction Proposal

1. Cover page – includes title of your work, your name, address, phone number, email, website, and to whom you’re sending the proposal
2. Table of Contents – list all the sections included in your proposal and their page numbers
3. Synopsis –  a one-to-two-page synopsis of your entire manuscript, including the climax and resolution. Don’t keep the editor/agent guessing how it’s going to end.
4. About the Author – a one-to-two-page bio of you, including a photo, a little background, and your writing credits and awards won; include your involvement with social media, i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, blogsite, etc. with all URLs.
5. Character Sketches – a one-page description of your main characters (one or two main characters, no more); include time period, personal appearance, quips, goals in life.
6. Market Potential (this one takes the most time) – spend quality time in bookstores and/or online, researching the other books already published in the same genre and age group. Include these elements: Layout and Audience, Competitive Works, Marketing Ideas, and Date of Completion.
7. Chapter Outline – this is not a I, II, III, A, B, C “outline.” It’s a one-to-two-paragraph summary of each chapter in your book. If your work is not finished, just write the outline up to the last chapter you’ve written.
8. Sample Chapters – the publisher’s guidelines might indicate chapter one, two, and the last one, maybe chapters one, the chapter in the middle of the book, and the last one. If not designated, send the first three chapters.

Well, there you have the basic elements of a proposal that will catch that editor’s or agent’s eye.
Why is the proposal so important?
If an editor or agent reviews a well-done proposal, he/she will recognize that the author already has good writing and organizing skills, has a goal set to finish a project, and can meet deadlines. All these qualities are essential in maintaining a good relationship between the author and editor.
Write an eye-catching proposal, and you’re one step closer to reaching that unreachable star: publication!

pen and quill

Meet the Author Max Lewis
A Former Green Beret and Lawyer Now Shares Fourth of July Thoughts

Happy Fourth of July!

Lewis.Joe. standingphoto - cropped

Imagine how the signers of The Declaration of Independence feel while looking down from heaven and listening to their critics. The thought never occurred to me until my publisher asked me to write a fictional short story relating how John Hancock experienced the 4th of July. Before starting, I read Herbert S. Allan’s even-handed biography of Hancock. Yes, the founders were all human: Hancock was vain and a clothes horse, for example. But when you study the founding of America from the perspective of a founder, the greatness of these men staggers you.

“But they didn’t free the slaves and women and blacks couldn’t vote!”

Guess what? No one could meaningfully vote and everyone, everywhere, was in some form of bondage. The English themselves were “subjects.” Except for royalty and a small number of men in a handful of tiny Greek city states, no one had ever controlled their destiny.

Writing in the first person forces you to see things through the eyes of the character or historic figure, to imagine what they felt, wanted, and thought. The founders were operating on uncharted waters, laying the foundation to free all mankind and making things up as they went. They were doing it while at war with the most powerful Empire on the face of the planet. On January 1, 1776, George Washington discovered he had only 8,000 enlistments instead of the 20,000 planned. Georgia and South Carolina announced they would not sign if slavery were denounced, let alone outlawed.

As I imagine Hancock saying, “The hard truth is we will not free the Negro slaves . . . not because we don’t want to, but because we can’t. The southerners would revolt . . . freeing the black man will require a war and the forces of liberty are barely able to fight one war, let alone two.”

On July 4, 1776, the founders were almost to the man well-educated, affluent, and doing quite well as subjects of Britain. In the 18th century, traitors were hung from a gibbet with their hands tied behind their back. Rather than breaking their necks, the traitor took about ten minutes to strangle to death. Traitors’ property was forfeited, so their families were left impoverished. While the founders were signing their own death warrant, Benedict Arnold was trying to keep his army from disintegrating as he retreated from the disastrous Canadian campaign. “I have often thought how much happier I would have been,” said Washington, “if, instead of accepting a command under such circumstances, I had taken up a musket on my shoulder and entered the ranks.”

They were great men; yet, consider the petulance with which they were treated. While reviewing “The Price they Paid” e-mail about the founders, the left wing site “Snopes” called it part true, part false. Why? Here’s an example: “Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.” Snopes – “yeah, well . . . she was already sick.” Seriously. I paraphrase, so check it out for yourselves. Part of the disdain appears to be petty racism, sexism, and anti-Christianity.  The founders were white male Christians, but there may be something deeper. Writing about an attack on the the framers, Professor Walter Williams wrote, “If I believed in conspiracies, I’d say (Time’s) article is part of a leftist agenda to undermine respect for the founding values of our nation.”

Hancock might have said, “No doubt, those who hate liberty and embrace hate amongst the races will use this against us not only now, but far into the future. We can only trust this and future generations will be wise enough to detect the charlatan, understand his aim, and reject his deception. That battle is for another time and will be fought by other men. We must fight the one in front of us now.”

“This is a column of opinion and satire” Max Lewis says then adds that he knows of no undisclosed facts. Contact Lewis, the author of John Hancock, in Remington Colt’s Revolutionary War Series, and visit him at josephmaxlewis.com then click on Rimersburg Rules. © Joseph M. Lewis

Dec.of.Independence.Series.Cover.Lewis

The Amazon Kindle link to “John Hancock” is: http://www.amazon.com/Remington-Colts-Revolutionary-War-Independence-ebook/dp/B00KND49O2/ref=la_B008ZHHUBW_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404224548&sr=1-5

To link to listen in on the blogtalk radio show with Joseph Max Lewis discussing “The Declaration of Independence”: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gelatisscoop/2014/07/03/joseph-max-lewis-discusses-the-declaration-of-independence

To stop by Mr. Lewis’ website and connect with him: http://www.josephmaxlewis.com

Lewis.Dec.of.Indep.Vol.4.Cover

June 23, 2014

The Editor’s Viewpoint
That Important Query Letter

As a published author for the last 20 years and as an acquisitions editor for the last year, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of writing a good query letter to catch the eye of that key person at the publishing company.
I’ve known more than a handful of newbie writers who didn’t do their homework, some not even knowing what a query letter is, and contacted editors in a very unprofessional manner. A few writers (right off the bat) sent their entire manuscripts to publishing companies in hard copy (even in this electronic age), and when they heard nothing from the editors, they were perplexed, some insulted to the core that they had been ignored.
Well, folks, that’s not how it’s done! (Their manuscripts probably landed in File 13!)
Editors are extremely busy, and it only takes one of them with years of experience to read a paragraph of anything a writer submits to decide whether to read on. A writer who sends more than a query letter at first decreases his/her chance of even being considered, let alone being read. A well-written query letter will get the attention of that editor, nothing else. So let’s take a look at the components of a good query letter, which should be no longer than one page long:
1. Introduction of your work. (Include any awards or credits the work has earned if submitted to any contests and placed)
2. Short synopsis of the work, including the main character, the plot, the time frame, the genre, and word count.
3. Explanation of why your target audience would like the work.
4. A list of your related credits (If you have a long list of publications in genres not related to this project’s genre, delete them.)
5. Thanks to the editor for considering your work.
6. Closing and signature
Now, let’s look at an excellent sample query letter (compliments of

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter)

*****************************************************************************
Dear (Editor’s name, if at all possible):
According to your agency’s website you’re actively seeking middle-grade fiction, so I’m pleased to introduce my novel, A Smidgen of Sky. This novel won me a scholarship to attend the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. It was also awarded honorable mention in the Smart Writers W.I.N. Competition. A Smidgen of Sky is the story of ten-year-old Piper Lee DeLuna, a spunky, impulsive dreamer, whose fierce devotion to her missing father is threatened by her mother’s upcoming remarriage.
Everyone else has long accepted her father’s death, but the fact that his body was never recovered from his wrecked plane leads to Piper’s dream that he might one day reappear and free her from the secret guilt she harbors over his accident. Her stubborn focus leaves no room in her affections for her mother’s fiancé, Ben, or his princess-like daughter, Ginger. Determined to stop the wedding, Piper Lee schemes up “Operation Finding Tina”—a sure plan to locate Ben’s ex-wife and get the two of them back together. But just as Piper succeeds with step one of her plan, a riot breaks out at the prison where Ben works, and suddenly nothing seems sure.
Since middle-graders care deeply about things and people and love to daydream about their future, I think readers will identify with Piper Lee and find her an appealing heroine as she learns that you can both cherish the past and embrace the future. This story, set in the coastal region of Georgia, runs about 33,000 words and is somewhat similar in tone to Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie.
I’m a 1990 graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, and my work has been published in U*S* Kids, Child Life, Columbia Kids, True Love, Guide and StoryPlus.
Thanks very much for your time. I have included the first ten pages and look forward to hearing from you.
Yours truly,
(Signature)
******************************************************************************
I have two closing thoughts. If you’ve submitted queries to other companies, list those companies and the dates you sent the queries. Also, although this query letter sample suggests sending ten pages of the manuscript with the letter, I beg to differ. I believe that’s a little too presumptuous on the part of the author. I’d submit the query letter only and wait for feedback from the editor. If he/she wants to consider your work, he/she will ask for a proposal or the entire manuscript.
So, write a good query then be prepared to wait. Sometimes it takes three to six months to hear from a publishing company. Unfortunately, some companies have the policy that if you don’t hear from them at all, they’re not interested. And that’s a hard pill to swallow, but that’s the way the publishing business is.

pen and quill

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