A Path to Publication, part 11: Yeah, what IS your book about?

For the past week I have been frantically editing my manuscript, molding it word by sentence by paragraph into a shape that looks remotely like something the agent who requested it will like. Of course, that is an impossible task, because to what she will ultimately say yes or no, is as beyond my control as the weather. So, I just have to be happy with it. Ha.

One of the projects I set myself before I began editing, however, was to run my “story” through some tests: asking it questions and analyzing the answers, making sure we are on the same page.

The following questions to ask your story are from a presentation by author Jo Knowles at the most recent conference of the League of Vermont Writers.

1. What is the book about?

2. Beneath that, what is it really about?

3. What does your character want?

4. Beneath that, what does he/she want?

5. What is your character afraid of?

6. Beneath that, what is he/she really afraid of?

7. What’s your W.O.W? (with credit to author Holly Black)

Want: What does your character want?

Obstacle: What do they have to overcome to get it?

Win: How do they achieve their goal and change in the process?

And this question, which seems so obvious but stumped me, came from an agent during my pitch session:

8. What’s the take-away?

These questions came from agent Katherine Sands during her presentation:

9. Why would *you* buy your book?

10. What makes it intriguing? What’s the juicy premise?

So, put your story, your article, your essay, your memoir to the test. There are no wrong answers, just — hopefully — some clarity and focus.

To read snippets of my memoir, click here. I will be adding more as this journey progresses.

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