What's Your Novel About? --Create Your Plot Statement


Visitors: 238

You have finished your novel and are attending a writers’ conference hoping to get an agent or editor to read your manuscript. You work your way through the crowd with your gaze focused at name-tag level. Suddenly you spot a gold-bordered tag reserved for editors. Heart pounding, you approach and introduce yourself and say you have just finished your novel.

The editor smiles and replies, “What's your novel about?"

The moment of truth is at hand. This woman knows why you're here. The conference brochure describes the reception as the place where writers can meet editors and agents.

Now's your chance to convince this editor to ask you to send her your manuscript. So how do you answer her question?

Just as she had her question ready, you need to have your answer prepared. If you're a savvy writer, you began working on your plot statement as soon as you signed up for the conference.

What's a plot statement?

A plot statement is the hook you need to make your storyline sound like a winner so the editor asks to read it.

Just as she got right to the point of talking with you, she expects you to get right to the point by telling her what your novel is about. She doesn't want a long rambling dissertation about the characters, background or details of who does what in the plot. She wants you to capture her interest by making the book sound too exciting to pass up.

Any book she recommends the publisher buy must be one she can convince others in the publishing company will sell. Publishers are in business to make money, and she hopes to find a winner among the writers at this conference.

Like a query letter, your plot statement is a selling tool. It's time to forget all those great enthusiastic descriptions of your story you envision on the cover of your published novel.

Cover copy is written to entice the reader to buy the book. It tells exciting details of the story to entice the reader to want to read more. A plot statement is written to excite the editor enough to think the story will sell.

The editor at that conference wants to know if the book will sell and make money for the publishing company.

How do you tell what the story is about without telling the story?

Don't think about the story, think about the original idea that developed into your storyline. What about that idea made you decide it could become a novel? What excited you enough to spend months working on it?

The initial spark usually stirs your curiosity or an emotional reaction. You may want to know who, what, when, where or how such a thing might happen. You may wonder what would happen if one of the people involved took a different turn or made a different decision. The idea may have infuriated you, driven you to tears or scared you enough to check the locks on your doors and windows. In other words, it stirred an emotional reaction. Your plot statement must do that now to the editor.

The how-to's of plot statements

A plot statement conveys the main storyline in a way that impacts the editor emotionally so she wants to read the manuscript. You write it after your novel is finished because you need to look at the story as a whole in order to recognize the most important and emotionally charged highlights of the storyline.

6 Do's and Dont's for writing a plot statement

* Write it in only one sentence
* Write in the present tense
* Write in the active voice
* Don't give details of the plot
* Don't use characters’ names
* Choose words that evoke an emotional response

The rules are easy, but don't make the mistake of thinking you can toss off the plot statement for your novel in a few minutes. I have challenged numerous writers to do a plot statement, and none have succeeded quickly. Most needed a considerable amount of time and help. One writer sent an excellent one, along with the admission it had taken him three weeks and fifteen tries.

Once you do one well, it's easier to repeat your success

One picture is worth a thousand words. The old adage holds true for plot statements. Paint a word picture that makes your listener form his own mental images that cause him to feel angry or sad or nervous.

Examples of this appear every day in our daily newspapers. Can you read an account of a nursing home fire in which four patients died without feeling sad, or angry at the people or circumstances that led to the fire? Can you read a story about a child being abducted without feeling heart-felt gratitude that your little boy is safe and sound asleep in his bed?

Our emotional responses to other people's troubles develop out of our fears and concerns for our own and our family's safety and well being.

This is true for editors just as it is for you and me. Editors react to the emotional appeal of plot statements.

How emotion in a plot statement works

Let's look at a plot statement that worked and why. The example was the plot statement for a woman-in-jeopardy suspense novel.

"A recently widowed young mother brings her sick 3-year-old home from nursery school during a devastating Southern California storm and discovers they are not alone in the house. "

Woman in jeopardy is one of the biggest selling subgenres in the mystery and suspense field. Most readers and editors of them are women. For those reasons, the plot statement is aimed at emotions women can relate to and understand.

A recently widowed, young mother is an empathetic, vulnerable heroine. Even if the editor hasn't experienced those problems personally, she can't help but feel sadness at this woman's plight.

Then add a sick child, something every parent and non-parent can relate to and worry about.

With the main character hitting these two emotional buttons, the setting hits another one: “a devastating Southern California storm". Newspapers and television have brought the horror of flooded homes and collapsing hillsides in California into living rooms across the nation. We shudder at the thought of the unpredictable destruction and losses or give earnest thanks that we don't live in an area where they occur.

And finally the statement hints at the menace to come: she discovers they are not alone in the house. An unknown person invading her home plays on the fears of every woman.

Every story element included in the plot statement is an emotional button. Together, they create a dark mood of danger and suspense. And more important, they make the editor curious about how the story will evolve.

The descriptive words in the statement also were chosen for the effect they helped produce. A “recently widowed, young mother" has a “sick" child. The storm is “devastating". These add to the dark mood that enhance a suspense novel.

This statement tells the basic storyline without any details of the action or characters. At the same time, it pushes three emotional buttons for the editor:

* compassion (widows mother and sick child)
* worry (the storm)
* terror (the intruder in house)

The editor knows these emotional buttons sell books, so she is willing to read the manuscript to see if the story delivers on its promise. The plot statement did what it was supposed to do.

If you have finished your novel, start working on your plot statement now so you'll be ready when that editor or agent you meet says, “What's your novel about?"

Copyright 2007

Marilyn Henderson chose writing as a career change so she could work from home. She had no idea how hard it was to make that first sale then keep selling, but she soon learned the difference between writing a novel she hoped would sell and what agents and editors really want. Now after more than 60 novels published, she shares that expertise with writers who want to build careers or make those first sales. http://www.MysteryMentor.com


Article Source:

Rate this Article: 
Sharing Your Personal Mission Statement and Vision Statement
Rated 4 / 5
based on 5 votes

Related Articles:

Create a Mission Statement

by: Jennifer Turner (June 12, 2007) 
(Writing and Speaking)

How To Create A Mission Statement

by: Denise O'Berry (September 14, 2004) 

Colored Laptops Create a Style Statement!

by: Bernard McClay (July 27, 2008) 
(Computers and Technology/Mobile Computing)

Create Your Own Stock Market Mission Statement

by: Alan King (March 11, 2007) 

Create a Style Statement with Christian Jewelry

by: Bruce Markey (March 31, 2015) 
(Shopping and Product Reviews/Jewelry Diamonds)

Create Your Own Fashion Statement With Unique Tragus Jewelry!

by: Kirthy S (December 12, 2008) 
(Shopping and Product Reviews/Jewelry Diamonds)

Can a designer wall clock create a style statement for a room?

by: Lisa Kelly (October 01, 2012) 
(Home Improvement/Furniture)

Floor Fountains Not Only Bring Beauty to Your Home But They Also Create a Style .

by: Loren Taylor (June 17, 2008) 
(Home Improvement/Interior Design and Decorating)

How to Use Your Mission Statement and Vision Statement to Embrace Change and ..

by: Don Midgett (August 15, 2007) 

Sharing Your Personal Mission Statement and Vision Statement

by: Don Midgett (February 06, 2008) 
(Self Improvement/Motivation)