Archive for May, 2011

Writers’ Tip for the Day: Writing an Eye-catching Proposal, Part 3

The Character Sketches and the Backdrop

So far in our review of what makes an eye-catching proposal, we’ve looked at the Title Page, the Table of Contents, the Synopsis, and the Author Bio. Today, we’ll review Character Sketches and the Backdrop.

As previously mentioned, editors and agents might offer different guidelines for their proposal’s components or they might have the components listed in a different order. Always ask for their guidelines before you spend much time writing your proposal for a specific request. However, I think it’s a very good idea to get a proposal ready with the basic components as soon as you start working on a new fiction manuscript. It’s much easier to tweak a 60plus-page proposal than start from scratch, especially if the editor or agent wants the proposal ASAP.

Below I’ve included samples of some character sketches and backdrop. The character sketches are “sketchy,” which might be adequate for some editors, but for others, might not be. Perhaps they’ll request a full-page sketch of the main character or a few of the secondary characters, as well. So be prepared and give the editors what they want.



Louellen Bidleman Friesen – twenty-five-year-old Amish woman unhappily married to Eli Friesen, a mid-twenties Amish man. Louellen feels trapped in her life for two reasons: she craves love from her husband, which she is not receiving because she can’t give him children, and she is questioning her Amish roots and belief system, which leaves her empty and with no assurance of God’s love or her eternal destiny. Louellen is a beautiful woman, slender with long wavy auburn hair, green eyes, and a rosy complexion.

Eli Friesen – mid-twenties six-foot-tall Amish farmer with thick, brown wavy hair, dark brown eyes and curly eyelashes. Eli is a troubled soul, who publicly fits into the Amish mold but in his heart questions his Amish beliefs and longs to know God more intimately. Eli also guards another secret well that only he and his medical doctor know – Eli is the reason he and Louellen have no children, but his pride and bitterness cause him to resent Louellen and ignore her longings to have an intimate emotional relationship with him.

Dr. David McAndrew – 40 years old; gentle brown eyes, wavy blonde hair, tall, and handsome; doctor of obstetrics; not a Christian; bitter at God for taking his wife; performs abortions; finds himself romantically attracted to Louellen Friesen.

Andrea McAndrew– 18 years old; blonde hair, brown eyes; slender; interested in spiritual matters but doesn’t tell her father because of his bitterness toward God; would love to see Louellen and her father get together; a freshman in college.

Jenna McAndrew – 16 years old; blonde hair, brown eyes; slender; interested in spiritual matters but doesn’t mention it to her father; would love to see Louellen and her father get together; a junior in high school.

Cheryl Whentfield – 32 years old; RN who works in obstetrics with David; divorced with two boys, Brent, 15, and Conrad, 13, and would like to connect with David; deep blue eyes, long styled black hair (bottled because of premature gray); shapely and very attractive; wears make-up fashionably; not a Christian. 

Jacob Knapp – Amish farmer; neighbor of the Friesens. Married to Emma and has five children, ages 16 to 5.

Ezekiel Romig – Amish farmer;  neighbor of the Friesens. Married to Martha and has six children ages 17 to 3.

Zeb Clouser – Amish farmer; brother-in-law of the Friesens. Married to Esther, Louellen’s sister and has three children, ages 7 to 4. Two girls, Rebecca, 7, and Sarah, 6, and Joseph, 4

Pastor Hugh Grove – pastor of Community Fellowship Church where David and his wife went before she died; mid-fifties; parts graying hair down middle; has pot belly; passionate about soul winning and cares deeply for David’s soul.

Louellen’s family –

  1. Dad Bidleman – thin mid-forties Amish farmer; graying beard; brown eyes; leathery skin
  2. Mom Bidleman – plump mid-forties Amish housewife and mother; graying auburn hair in bun and kapp; green eyes and rosy cheeks
  3. Zeb Clouser – brother-in-law; blonde hair, blue eyes; thin farmer with weathered skin; 28 years old; farmer
  4. Esther Bidleman Clouser – 27 yrs. old; same features as Louellen; often mistaken for her twin
  5. Rebecca Clouser – seven years old; looks like father; blonde hair; blue eyes
  6. Sarah Clouser – six years old; same features
  7. Joseph Clouser – four-year-old nephew of Eli and Louellen; the boy Eli idolizes
  8. Samuel Bidleman – Louellen’s brother; typical Amish man; auburn hair and brown eyes; 29 years old; farmer; kind
  9. Marie Zook Bidleman – Samuel’s wife; 28 years old; plump; dark hair; brown eyes; pregnant with third child
  10. Samuel Bidleman – eight years old; looks like his father, Samuel. All boy
  11. Adam Bidleman – five years old; rosy cheeks; brown hair and brown eyes; plump




Mapletown – small town in central Pennsylvania where the story takes place

Presbyterian Community Hospital– where Dr. David McAndrew works

Washington High School– where Jenna McAndrew attends

Wellington State University– where Andrea McAndrew attends

Bald Eagle Valley– where Friesens and other Amish families live; west of Mapletown


In an Amish/Mennonite fiction novel, in which family is so vitally important to the storyline, it is expected that you would include the family members of the main character. However, in most other subgenres, the editors would probably not ask for such detail.

Next time, we’ll discuss the last components of a good proposal: the Sample Chapters (or the entire manuscript), Marketing Information, and the Date of Completion.

Happy writing!





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Marsha’s Writer’s Tips for the Day

 Writing an Eye-catching Proposal

The Synopsis and the Autobiography

In my last blog, I started sharing information about writing an eye-catching proposal. If you scroll down to the last blog a week ago, you’ll see the first two parts of a proposal, the Title Page and the Table of Contents. As previously said, publishing companies have different guidelines pertaining to what they’d like to see in a proposal, so if you ever get the letter that requests a proposal, be sure to ask for their guidelines if they haven’t already offered them.

Today we’ll show you the next two components of a proposal that’s sure to “catch the eye” of that editor or agent:

III. The Synopsis of the Manuscript: (Two or three pages long; NO dialogue)




by Marsha Hubler


 Twenty-five-year-old Amish Louellen Bidleman Friesen finds herself falling in love with forty-year-old English man Dr. David McAndrew, a widower with two children, for whom she cleans house regularly in Mapletown,SnyderCounty, centralPennsylvania. There’s only one problem. Louellen is already married.

Three years prior and well past the “marrying age,” Louellen Bidleman had wed Amish man Eli Friesen, mostly because of pressure from her family. Eli, also in his mid- twenties and “passed over,” had married Louellen for one main reason, to have sons.

Louellen tries desperately to love Eli, and because of her church vows, sets out to be a proper wife and good mother when God blesses them with little ones. However, after three years, there are no children. Louellen is devastated, and Eli becomes bitter, feeling trapped in a marriage that has produced no offspring, even though he knows that he has the medical problem, not his wife. Although he treats Louellen civil in public, at home he emotionally detaches himself from her and ignores her needs.

Because divorce is forbidden, Louellen tries to be submissive while Eli snubs her, goes about his farm business, and struggles to show her any love at all. Besides keeping her family life “private,” Louellen also hides another secret that would cause her family great shame: she loves music and ever since she heard beautiful piano music played at the McAndrew household, she has had the desire to learn more about the “instrument of evil” and, perhaps, learn to play it herself.

Unknown to either of them, both Louellen and Eli have great doubts about the Amish faith in which they’ve both been reared. Deep in their hearts, they question the legitimacy of a religion that does not afford them an intimate relationship with their God, a relationship they both desperately want and need. Also, while questioning the bishops’ and elders’ control over church members with long lists of restrictions and “forbidden pleasures,” they long to have the assurance that they are destined to heaven when they die, an assurance that is not present in the Amish Ordnung to which they belong.

Louellen’s housekeeping “boss,” 40-year-old David McAndrew, a surgeon, at one time considered himself religious. But when his young wife dies of cancer, leaving him to rear two children on his own, he turns his back on God. His two children, Andrea, now eighteen years old, and Jenna, now sixteen, are not “religious” in any way, but both girls have an interest in spiritual things, a desire they keep hidden from their father because of his bitterness against God. Andrea attends the local community college where she is majoring in music. Jenna attends the local high school as a sophomore and is thrilled about getting her driver’s license.

David finds himself falling in love with Louellen and begs her to leave her husband. He showers her with attention in his home, treats her like royalty, and buys her expensive gifts that she can’t take home with her….

(This synopsis has two more pages that fully explain the plot to the very end.)


IV. About the Author/Speaker: (One page long; note it is in third person)

About the Author/Speaker


Marsha Hubler has had a background conducive to effective writing. She has a master’s degree in education from Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA, and has been an educator for forty years. She has co-founded two private schools,Kreamer Christian Academy, Kreamer, PA, and the Bethesda Prep School, Milton, PA, and had served as teacher/ administrator in each. She presently works with homeschoolers in her home in Middleburg, PA, (50 miles north of Harrisburg in Amish/Mennonite country) where she lives with her husband and two dogs.

Marsha has been a foster parent and has owned horses. She also has numerous opportunities to speak at ladies’ events, schools and kids’ clubs, and at writers’ conferences.

Marsha has always had a deep desire to write, but teaching and caring for foster children and horses had allowed little time to pursue her dream passionately. However, since 1990, she has had some success with published articles, children’s stories, and poems. In 2000, the door opened for her to write books. Three years later she had her first book published, a ladies’ Bible study guide entitled DRAW ME CLOSER, LORD by Regular Baptist Press, Schaumburg, Illinois.

Marsha is most excited about her Keystone Stables Series published by Zonderkidz. The eight girl/horse fiction books for tweens, released since 2004, deal with heavy issues such as juvenile delinquency, death of a close friend, foster care, and special needs children. The books have been well received, the first one in the series considered a best seller. Because of the series’ success, Zonderkidz redesigned the books’ size, cover, and titles, and Marsha wrote 20 extra pages of back matter that are addressed to her fans. Books seven and eight were released in the spring of 2010. The same year, Marsha released two other stand-alone juvenile fiction books, RICKIE RIDES TO THE RESCUE and THE SECRET OF WOLF CANYON.

In 2006 a contract with New Leaf Press from Green Forest, Arkansas, has resulted in a helps book for parents entitled WE’VE DECIDED TO HOMESCHOOL. NOW WHAT? The book was released in September of 2007.

Living in a heavily-populated Amish/Mennonite area of PA and personally knowing folks from these religious persuasions have motivated Marsha to try her hand at contemporary Amish/Mennonite romance for adults. With her familiarity with the Amish/Mennonite lifestyles, Marsha believes she can accurately portray the sects’ beliefs and lifestyles factually in a fiction setting. To this goal, she writes.


Well, there you have the third and fourth components in a good proposal. Work on your synopsis with no dialogue. Write it as if you were writing an article for a newspaper. Use description and narration, and make it short. And for your bio, make that even shorter! What the editor or agent is looking for is how well you can write, and he/she will get a good taste of that when you include your first three chapters.

Next time, we’ll discuss Character Sketches and Backdrop.

Happy writing! Happy proposing! Marsha



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Writer’s Tip for the Day

Writing an Eye-catching Proposal (for Fiction)

From Marsha Hubler


In last Monday’s blog, I mentioned the importance of writing an eye-catching proposal. What I’d like to do over the next few weeks is analyze the components of one of my proposals. The latest one that I wrote went to an agent after I tweaked it to her specs. She liked what she saw and offered me a contract for an Amish fiction series.

So, let’s get started with some vital information every writer needs to know to be able to introduce himself/herself professionally to an agent or an editor.

Components of an Eye-Catching Proposal


  1. Title Page
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Synopsis
  4. About the Author (Bio and Credits)
  5. Character Sketches
  6. First Three Chapters of the Manuscript
  7. Synopsis of Other Books in the Series (if writing a series)
  8. Market Potential and Competitive Analysis
  9. Marketing Plan
  10. Projected Time of Completion

Now, these ten components are not set in stone. Editors and agents have different guidelines for proposals. If you get that email or letter giving you the initiative to proceed with your proposal, the agent or editor should offer his guidelines for the proposal. If not, then ask. Sometimes, these components will be in a different order or several might not even be included in that agent’s or editor’s proposal specs.

Today we’ll look at the title page and the Table of Contents from my proposal for THE AMISH LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY:

(Page one of the proposal; information centered on page)











By Marsha Hubler

1833 Dock Hill Rd.

Middleburg,PA 17842




(Page two of the proposal)






Synopsis ……….………………………………………………………………………3

About the Author …..……………………………………………………………..6

Character Sketches/Backdrop ……………………………………………..7

Sample Chapters: One, Two, Three …………………………………….9

Synopses for Book Two and Three of Series …………………….50

Marketing Information …………………………………………………………55

Date of Completion ………………………………………………………………55

Next time we’ll look at “About the Author” and some character sketches.

If at any time in this proposal journey you have questions about your own proposal, please don’t hesitate to email me at marshahubler@wildblue.net and ask.





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Marsha’s Comments


If you read my last blog from last Monday, you might have gotten a chuckle out of several of the points in my “writing like a beginner’s” list. However, I believe that all writers at one time or another have experienced one or many of these strange encounters of the fourth kind in their writing careers. One of my friends recently told me that she’s lived through all ten points, and sometimes still does; yet, she’s still writing faithfully. Kudos to her!

I, too, have suffered from “beginning writer’s syndrome” from time to time over the last 20 years of my serious writing. Every once in a while one or two of these evil little entities will poke their ugly heads into my writing business, attempting to throw a monkey wrench into my creative machine. But the key is to keep pressing on.

Let’s look at this ridiculous beginner’s list a little more closely. I’ve made some comments after each one so you will know my opinion about each.

1.  Never read any books in the same genre in which you are writing. After all, you don’t want to steal another author’s voice, style, or story!

Well, it doesn’t mean you can’t read Peanuts in the newspaper or an old Nancy Drew mystery that you find in your attic, for crying out loud!

2.  Write when you feel like it, even if the radio or TV is blasting or your family is demanding supper.

Sometimes  when the noise level is at its highest might mean writing time for you. If the kids are fighting in the bedroom and hubby is blasting the ball game on TV, at least they’re all busy. Grab your laptop, run for the closet, and go for it!

3.  Without trying to publish anything else, start writing the Great American Novel that has plots, subplots, foreshadowing, and complicated characters.

Rarely does a newbie begin nothing else but a book manuscript and get it published. It does happen, but probably one out of five million. There’s SO much to learn before tackling a book project. Work on short stories if you like fiction and articles if you’re a nonfiction writer. All those little nuggets will teach you proper style and good grammar to help you with your book idea in the future.

4.  Start your fiction manuscript with five pages of narration and description from five points of view. Have 600 pages in your manuscript.

Bad idea from the getgo! Modern-day readers, and editors, have no patience with the writing style of many of our classics from yesteryear. Our reading society today wants action, action, action!

5.  Develop a boring plot with no climax, characters with no depth, and dialogue that is flat and the same for all your characters.

I think you would be better off applying to write obituaries for your local newspaper.

6.  Don’t seek any help from anyone or anything like a critique group, “how-to-write” books, or writers’ conferences because God told you to write, what to write, and how to write it.

Honestly, I’ve crossed paths with a number of newbies who have this attitude. (Sorry, guys, but it’s mostly you.) But God is not the author of bad grammar, poor spelling, or lousy sentence structure. Any work written in His name should be at its finest quality. Get help!

7.  Send your manuscript everywhere without querying first. Buy the Writers’  Market Guide, start on page 1, and don’t stop until you get a sale!

You might get a sale by 2020 if you go this route. Better still, here’s a big tip. Study the market. Find out which publishing companies want what you’re writing. Work on an eye-catching query letter and send it to five or six editors at one time. As soon as you get a rejection, send another query to a different company. Make a list and check off the companies as you query them.

8.  If you decide to write a query letter, write one that is “unique.” Smother it in chocolate or perfume smells and start the letter like this: “Dear Editor, this is your lucky day. My family has read this, and they absolutely love it.”

Oh, my goodness. All my editor friends tell me these techniques turn them off immediately. These ploys are a sure sign that they are dealing with a newbie and won’t give the project a second look.

9.  Send your very first draft of your very first manuscript to a different editor once every six months, then go into deep depression when it’s rejected.

While you’re writing your manuscript, send out queries. And while the queries are circulating, write an excellent proposal. (Next time we’ll discuss the components of a proposal.) Unfortunately, it sometimes takes from three to six months to hear from any editor, so you can’t sit around waiting for just that one response. And get use to rejection letters. It’s part of the writing/publishing business.

10.  Throw away all rejection letters, including those who suggest changes or editors who would like you to submit other work. After all, if the editor didn’t like your first manuscript, he/she won’t like any of your other stuff, and if you make suggested changes in anything, the manuscript won’t be “your” work anymore.

Danger! Danger! Danger! Do you want to be published or not? What are you willing to sacrifice as far as bad writing? Editors and agents know their business. If they make suggestions about your manuscript, that is a GOOD SIGN. At least, they see some potential in your writing. Take their suggestions to heart, work on improving your manuscript, and revise, revise, revise. Sooner or later you just might see these magical words: “We are pleased to inform you ….”

 If you’re dead serious about being published, take my suggestions and run with them. Then let me know when your work is accepted, and I’ll rejoice with you.








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Writers’ Tip for the Day: What Will Make You Quit?

Take the Quitting Writers’ Questionnaire


Can't Get Published?

Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk!

How long have you been writing? How long have you been thinking of writing?

I’ve crossed paths with many folks who had the best intentions to write. In fact, some of them had really great ideas, but some of those potential writers never got one word on a page.

Hopefully, you’re not that kind of “writer.” You’ve already dived in, head first, and are trying different genres. You play with words like your dog plays with his chew toy. But do you ever get discouraged? Have you tried for years to get published, but you’ve never gotten to first base?

What exactly would it take to get you to stop writing? Do you consider yourself a “writer?”

Let’s take a quickie quiz and see how you measure up to the “Quitting Writers’ Questionnaire.” If you answer yes to more than three of these questions, then maybe you should consider parking your pen or computer in a corner somewhere and take up quilting or gardening:

  1. Do you get offended when someone tries to help you with your manuscript after he/she reads it?
  2. Have you quit the local critique group because the members just don’t “get” your style of writing? Besides, God told you what to write, and it doesn’t need to be “fixed.”
  3. Do you keep revising the same manuscript without starting to write any new ideas?
  4. Do you always let other chores and responsibilities crowd out your time to write?
  5. Are you considering paying a “Vanity Press” big bucks to get your work in print without hiring an editor to revise it and make it publishable?
  6. Have you stopped reading “how to write better” books and books in the genre in which you’re interested because you know all that stuff?
  7. Have you sent your manuscript to at least five different publishing companies, but all you have to show for it are rejection letters?
  8. Are you jealous of friends who are getting published and you have trouble sharing in their joy?
  9. Do you have trouble finishing any project and you have about twelve good ideas started?
  10. Would you rather be doing the laundry or digging weeds instead of writing?
  11. Have you stopped going to writers’ conferences because all you ever hear is “the same old thing?”
  12. Do you have to force yourself to pick up your pen or sit at the keyboard?


Well, what do you think? Do you have that burning desire deep inside your gut that makes you want to write and get your ideas on paper, or are you a paper pen tiger with no guts, no ambition, no desire any longer to write? How passionate are you about your projects?

Maybe it’s time to evaluate your commitment to the writing/publishing business. It took 10 years for me to get my first book contract after I started publishing poems, short stories, and articles. I needed to learn the craft!

Only you can answer the questions above and determine which way to go with your writing venture. Pursue or quit? It’s your choice.

Next time, I’ll address some of the issues mentioned in the list above.





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