When we last left off after part 1, I was finishing my proposal and about to send it to my agent. If you recall, I mentioned that I was doing something different that neither my agent nor my editor was expecting.
Now I can tell you what I did…instead of giving them a single, stand alone book proposal, I gave them three completely different ones.
Yes, I said three…individual…story proposals.
Each included the following: A) a ten to fifteen page outline, and B) sample chapters of around thirty pages for each idea.
I know. You’re thinking, What? Are you crazy?
Perhaps. After all, I turned in approximately 120 pages of written material…for a proposal!
(Wait. I am crazy.)
Here’s how it happened. Earlier this year I was at a point with the book I was working on that I had a break of a few days, and, as luck would have it, an idea for a stand alone came to me. In a two or three day period I typed up nearly forty pages of the beginning of the book. Then I saved the file (we’ll call this idea #1), and went back to the manuscript I was working on.
When August came around, my publisher and I agreed that the next proposal should be for a stand alone instead of the fifth in the Quinn series. Almost immediately I had a new idea (idea #2) that I was excited about. I worked on it for several weeks, spending a lot of time just thinking things through. I ended up devoting a lot of time on the trip I took in late August working on it, and had things pretty much had it all figured out by the time I got on the plane to fly home.
Funny thing about flying, often I’m struck with random ideas that momentarily consume me. (Many times they involved planes, for obvious reasons. One such idea occurred on my trip to Bouchercon last week.) This moment of inspiration happened to me on the first leg of my journey back to the States, and for three hours I wrote long hand in my notebook the first couple chapters of a new book (you got it, idea #3). When I got home I still had a few weeks before my proposal was due, so I allowed myself some time to flesh out this new idea and see if it was worth sending in. I’m sure my initial thought was that if it was better than idea #2, it would be the proposal I’d submit.
As I continued on it, I definitely liked where it was going, but I also found that I still really liked idea #2. That’s when the scandalous thought hit me: why not send in both and let my publisher decided.
And seconds after that thought crossed my mind I remembered the story from earlier in the year.
Knowing I probably shouldn’t, I went back and reread it anyway. Damn if I didn’t liked where it was going.
Okay, fine, I told myself. I’ll send them three. Because I knew I’d be happy to write any of them. Let my editor weight in on which one should be next.
As a side note, I should say that this method of giving multiple choices was also ingrained in me during my working days in television graphics. The thing was, if someone wanted a main title for their show…let’s say TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORIES (one of the shows on E! I rebranded)…if you show them one idea they won’t like it. But if you give them choices, they’ll feel like you really put thought into it, and will pick one.
In the case of my proposal, reason behind given multiple ideas didn’t equate to my time at E!, but my thinking was definitely influenced by my process there. The real reason I sent all three was because I was happy with all of them so it didn’t really matter to me which one I did.
The last Friday of September, I emailed the proposal to my agent without any warning about what she would receive. Was she impressed? She sounded like it to me. That following Monday, she send it on to my editor.
Since my proposal was rather bulky, and my editor also had other things on her plate, it took a couple weeks for her to get back to me. She finally did the Friday after my last Murderati post (two weeks ago tomorrow.) Thankfully, she was very happy with all the material, and while she liked aspects of all three idea, she went with idea #2.
(Funny tangent…the down side of doing this (besides all the extra work) was that once I sent the proposal in, one of the ideas started to pick at my mind. And since I had nothing else to do, I put in a little time on it, developing it further. And, you guessed it, that wasn’t the one chosen. Oh well, it’ll be the next one if I have any say in it!)
So I’m back at the daily writing thing now, working on making idea #2 into a finished, kickass stand alone. I’m pretty excited about it, too, because I’m using a lot of my personal past in it…(the book is largely set in my hometown.)
Now, would I advise doing your proposal in the manner I did? Ah…no. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for all. I will say I don’t plan on doing multiple ideas for future submissions, though, I guess, you never know.
Questions for today:
Brett…crazy/not crazy? (Perhaps we should skip that one.)
For writers, how much thinking to you put in before you start a new book? (Not talking necessarily about outlining, just working the idea and characters in your mind.)
Readers, does this behind-the-curtain stuff even interest you?
And finally…and this is most important…I would love to hear any ideas on topics you like me, or other Murderati contributors, to discuss!
A special hello to all the new friends I met at Bouchercon, and to the old ones I got to spend time with and get to know better. It was an excellent conference and I can hardly wait until next year. If you weren’t there, try to come next time. Hell, it’s in San Francisco! Who’d want to miss that?