Updates! (Or a Lack Thereof)

Hey guys! Not much to say this week… I’m still in the midst of querying literary agents, which is quite the grind. Imagine online dating, but much more rejection, and no weirdly awkward first-dates to break up the monotony. Pretty rough.

Which brings me to my main point: even though querying kinda sucks, you guys keep me at it! Your enthusiasm for my writing helps reassure me that I shouldn’t just shelve this project and give up on my dream of authorship. Thank you so much for all of you who read my random, weekly updates. Thank you for being willing to beta read my novel, and sparing me the embarrassment of typos in the manuscript I’m sending out to agents. Thank you for listening while I geek-out about the latest plot twist I’ve cooked up. And thank you for believing in me, even when I struggle believing in myself.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a village to publish a book.

Thanks for being my village.

Query Letter for Regnum Terra

I just spent the last 24 hours rewriting my query letter… and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. To be frank, I’m pretty sure the stupid thing counts as a straight-up obsession now. Technically, I’m on my 6th draft, but considering the fact that each ‘draft’ went through at least twenty revisions… well, you get the picture. Each night after polishing up my latest attempt at perfection, I’m tempted to quote The Princess Bride: “Good night… Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

Check out my latest draft, and tell me what you think!

Query Letter

Hazel Alina Galbraith is a 17-year-old spy from an alternate reality with a secret that might save the universe. Or destroy it.

The only problem is, she doesn’t remember any of that.

What Hazel does remember is her life on earth: her recent breakup with her boyfriend, Josh; the mean-girl-esque bully who spreads rumors about her; that huge English project coming up. And Alek, an unfairly attractive foreign exchange student with piercing eyes that haunt Hazel’s dreams. Hazel can’t shake the feeling that she somehow knows Alek, and when his strange behavior convinces Hazel he must be hiding something, she decides to investigate.

Hazel’s search for answers leads to an accidental trip to a shadow dimension, an encounter with a pyrotechnic phoenix, and, most importantly, the truth about her past. Hazel learns she and Alek are from a realm called Hespera: a dangerous reality filled with mythical beasts and ruled by a power-obsessed Council of Warriors. Hazel has been exiled to earth for treason. And as she remembers why she was branded a traitor, Hazel realizes she might be the only one who can prevent the rulers of Hespera from destroying the universe.

With the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance, Hazel must decide whether she is willing to sacrifice her normal life on earth to save the world she’s left behind. After all, in a universe where dreams look more like nightmares, being normal might be the happiest ending you can hope for.

REGNUM TERRA is a complete 73,000-word YA genre-splice that blends fantasy and science fiction. It is the first in a planned trilogy, and will be enjoyed by fans of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I have a bachelor’s degree in English Teaching with a minor in Physics Teaching, and I currently spend 40 hours a week working with my target audience as a high school English and Physics teacher. The manuscript to REGNUM TERRA is available, in part or full, upon request.

Thank you for your consideration,

Ellie Penner

Writing a Synopsis

As some of you may know, I’m currently in the process of querying literary agents to represent my novel, Regnum Terra. I’ve really enjoyed the query process because it reminds me a little of turning in papers for my English classes, (which I did, in fact, enjoy. Yes I’m a little weird…) Each literary agent is different, but they all want essentially the same things:

A Query Letter

This is the most essential part to any query. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a letter where you basically ask a literary agent if they would like to represent your book. You introduce yourself and your story in a short, 1-page-ish letter, being sure to include crucial information about your book, such as genre, title, and word count.

Sample Pages

Before you query, (if you’re writing fiction, anyway,) you should have a completed, edited manuscript. Most agents ask for some sample pages, but the number they request varies greatly. The highest number of sample pages I’ve sent thus far is 30, or 3 chapters. Most literary agents request 10 pages, or the first chapter of your novel. The key thing I’ve learned with this requirement is that you should never send your sample pages as a link in an email, unless the agent specifically asks for them that way. All of the information in your query is usually pasted into the body of an email.

The Dreaded Synopsis

And now to the beast… I mentioned earlier that I’ve enjoyed the query process, but for the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to write a synopsis. “What is a synopsis,” you might find yourself asking? That’s exactly the problem… a synopsis is a document that details the narrative arc of your novel, explains the plot, introduces the characters, and spoils the ending. Essentially, you have to condense your 300-plus page novel into 500-800 words. Ooof.

Not all literary agents request a synopsis as part of their submission requirements, so I kept putting off writing it; that is, until I found one literary agency that seemed just perfect. You know how, sometimes, you look across a crowded room and see someone you just know is a kindred soul? It was like that, but for a literary agency. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to work with these people. Only problem? You guessed it: they wanted a synopsis.

“That’s it,” I told myself. “No better time than the present, right?” So I sat down and promptly re-wrote the first paragraph of my partially-started synopsis… and re-wrote it… and re-wrote it… until, an hour later, I was on my sixth-or-so draft, and absolutely exasperated with the whole thing. I mean, it took 300 pages to tell this story; how could anyone expect me to condense it to 500-800 words, and still expect things to be interesting?

After a lot of internet research, a ridiculous number of drafts and edits, and cutting out way more of the side-plots than I would have liked, I finally finished my synopsis. I’ll be honest: it’s a little dry, but that seems to be the norm for these kinds of things. The moral of the story? Sometimes, you just have to sit down and do something hard. Finding time, consistently, to sit down and work on my book was hard. Figuring out the ins and outs of the querying process has been hard. Sending out drafts to beta readers and taking their feedback has been hard. Writing that darn synopsis was really, really hard. But in every single case, doing the hard thing has been absolutely worth it.