Prologue, Wherefore Art Thou?

[found on; by Bharti Kirchner]

“• How do you make a transition from the prologue to the opening chapter? A prologue raises questions and is often imbued with conflict, none of which will be immediately resolved. “I think that bridging is the most challenging aspect of writing a prologue,” Barnes says. “How did you adjust the tension once you’re building the story scene by scene? It’s not very often that readers can tolerate the intensity of presentation and emotion found in some prologues for the next 300 pages. The transition is the most difficult, and I often polish and tweak the few pages of a prologue more than I do any other set of pages in the book.”

• Should you use a prologue or not? “The most common mistake I see when writers try to use prologues is that they’re simply writing Chapter 1 and calling it a prologue,” Shortridge says. “If the text actually begins the story in place and time, if it is followed by the same story it begins, then it’s not a prologue and shouldn’t be treated as such.

“I think some early writers feel that prologues have a certain cachet, a sense of sophistication, when in fact they are simply a tool we get to use to introduce disparate elements into the beginning of a story. Not all stories should have prologues, and in fact, probably very few of them are served well by them.”

• Alternatives to prologues. Although a prologue has benefits, some readers skip them, deeming them optional, and plunge straightaway into the first chapter. Some industry professionals, too, frown upon prologues.

“Basically editors and most agents hate prologues,” says agent Andrea Brown, president of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. “They are sorely overused and seem like a cheap device. Much better for authors to be creative—come up with ways around them and start the novel with a great first chapter.”

What are your options then? Well, you can incorporate a past incident that was highlighted in the prologue into the main story line. You can dole out the data presented in the prologue a little at a time throughout the book without overburdening any single passage. “A skilled historical novelist won’t need to lay out a solid chunk of history [in a prologue] because the necessary historical details will be woven seamlessly through the story,” Donsbach says. This suggestion can work with any genre.

In the final analysis, use a prologue if it can enhance your narrative. When in doubt, leave it out.”

To read the complete article on prologues, or to read more excellent articles from, click here.

[found on]

How to: Nonfiction Proposal

[found on; by ]

“How To Write A Non-Fiction Proposal

Most non-fiction books are sold on the basis of a book proposal, often with one or more sample chapters rather than on a completed manuscript. While every agency and editor may have a slightly different opinion on the mechanics of writing a winning non-fiction proposal, most successful proposals have the following elements in common:

  1. Overview
    This is an introduction that summarizes the book’s contents and tells why the book should be published. In essence, this is your main selling statement. Concisely address all that is the most exciting, interesting, introspective and unique about your book. Make it clear that you are the best and most qualified person to write this wonderful and very necessary piece of non-fiction, as well as make a persuasive case for your intended market.
  2. Competition
    Understand and present how your book will fit in the marketplace. Select 4-6 of your major competing titles and compare them to your own. How is your book different and unique? The point here is not to denigrate other works (which may very well be beloved by your audience), but to highlight how your book successfully fills a gap in the market. Be honest but always keep in mind that each component of the proposal is to help you SELL your book, and showing how your project is at the head of the class is an excellent way to do so. It is not advisable to state that your book is “like no other” and decline to cite any comparative titles.
  3. Market
    Who is your intended audience? Who will relate to your book and rush to buy it? In this section, illustrate how the market for this book not only exists, but is a large, robust, book-buying section of the general public. It is unrealistic to make a statement that everyone will buy your book, so be mindful of exactly who your subject will appeal to. If there are any special markets that you can tap through any of your own personal connections this would be the place to mention it. An editor needs to see how your market translates to bottom-line sales.
  4. Biography
    This is your space for telling the editor a little more about yourself, specifically about how your experiences relate to this book. For example, if you are writing a cookbook, you’ll want to tell the editor about your experience working under the tutelage of Jacques Pepin. Be sure to mention your publishing history, if applicable. Keep this section as concise and professional as possible.
  5. Publicity
    If there are built-in publicity opportunities for your project, address them here. Any ideas for marketing or promotions you may have, especially if you have personal connections or direct access to likely prospects, should be mentioned. Make sure you let the editor know if you have any previous publicity experience.
  6. Chapter Outline
    This is one of the most critical sections of your proposal. List each chapter, with chapter title and give a brief description of the material covered. The style in which you deliver the description should be informed by the type of non-fiction book you are selling. A how-to book chapter description would necessarily be quite different from a travel narrative chapter description.
  7. Projected length and date of delivery
    Estimate the number of months you expect to take writing the book from signing to contract until completion. Give either a projected manuscript page length (use the standard of 250 words per page) or word count.
  8. Sample Chapters
    Sample chapters may or may not be necessary if you have written a complete and compelling proposal. If you have a track record of previous publications, you may not need to include sample chapters. If, however, you do elect to write a sample, you should draft the chapter that “puts your best foot forward” so to speak. Write the section that is the most interesting, the most compelling and the one that you feel most passionate about.”

For more tips on writing from Bradford Literary Agency, click here.

[found on]

Want a Great Book?

[found on; by K.M. Weiland]

“Twenty-five ways to write an awesome book:

1. Hook readers with a strong first chapter that doesn’t waste time.

2. Create a sympathetic and/or entertaining character.

3. Give the character a strong goal.

4. Obstruct the character’s goal with equally strong opposition.

5. Create a theme that arises from the character’s inner conflict.

6. Craft a strong plot with proper structure.

7. Do your research and get your facts straight.

8. Expunge unnecessary scenes, settings, and characters.

9. Balance action and character with properly structured scene/sequel pairings.

10. Write realistic, entertaining dialogue.

11. Maintain a consistent POV.

12. Create original and entertaining voices for narrating characters.

13. Tighten descriptions with more strong verbs and nouns and fewer modifiers.

14. Show more than you tell.

15. Dig deep for original ideas and turns of phrase.

16. Properly foreshadow your climax—without giving away any big reveals.

17. Build realistic and engaging settings.

18. Add only meaningful subplots.

19. When you build tension—always fulfill it.

20. Create a dynamic arc of growth for your character.

21. Add interesting minor characters who can power the plot forward.

22. Choose the right tone to enhance your plot and theme.

23. Rock readers with a climax that fulfills all their desires for the story.

24. Don’t tie off all the loose ends in your story’s ending.

25. Proofread, proofread, proofread.”

For more excellent tips from K.M. Weiland, click here.

[found on]