Conference Tip # 4 Synopsis and Proposals

Here is my repost from my archives of Conference tip#4. Write To Publish, my conference of choice, is fast approaching and this is great time to review your synopsis and proposals if you already have them written. Fresh eyes might discover a few places you’ll want to improve. Hope you find this tip helpful. Don’t forget to share your own insights at the bottom in the comments. I love reader feedback.


Two great proposal writing books from my library. There are sections in each focusing on writing a synopsis. Two great proposal writing books from my library. There are sections in each focusing on writing a synopsis.

You’ve made your business card and you may or may not have opted for a sell sheet. Another option is a synopsis of your book. A more complete presentation of your project is a proposal. It is a sell sheet on steroids containing pages and pages of information. Let me give a brief description of these and let you decide if you want to bring them to the conference.


A synopsis or summary condenses your entire book content to as few words as possible. The goal of a synopsis is the same as a sell sheet—to get interest in your project during appointments. This must be concise, complete and compelling. You should know your story well enough to tell it without rambling. As you write your first draft, you will probably…

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Why Authors Should Close Their Eyes

writingToday we are going to do an exercise to help bring more sensory texture to your writing. Isabella is a character in my WIP. Before being adopted, she spent her early childhood homeless. The world around was not always pleasant. She would close her eyes to experience all the beauty beyond sight. In adulthood she would capture pleasant memories the same way.

Here’s what Isabella did

She would store in her mind the smells of flowers, food cooking or fragrant perfume. The feel of a leather seat or prickly wool blanket. The silkiness of a dolls hair or the slimey feel of a worm between her fingers. The air caressing her cheek or a blustery cold day or the sun’s intense burn on her skin as the sand trickled between her toes on the beach.

Charley's flower 2

My hubby took this photo from our garden.

What to do

Choose a place. Any place really. The park, your favorite easy chair, the mall or the public library. Close your eyes and experience the place. Relax and absorb the moment. Open your eyes and write down your sensory observations.

I tried it

I walk the dog a few times a day around the yard. Today I stood with my eyes closed. The Chickadees, Cardinals and Robins chattered incessantly. Squirrels barked. A neighbor’s dog whined for attention. The wind rolled across my cheek (that’s how it felt—amazing) as it traveled to the trees nearby. My little dog snuffled loudly as his nose explored the ground. The leash grew taunt around my wrist and began pulling my arm behind me, stretching the muscles and forcing me to reposition my feet. My nose was assailed by the earthy scent of upcoming rain. Doggie damp fur and the ripe smell of his morning toilet take center stage with my eyes closed.

I also discovered

Did you know silence has a feel? At the library the lack of noise is soothing. It quiets the mind drawing it into the stillness. The other senses are magnified in the depth of the quiet. There I experienced murmurs of voices, muffled coughs and loud whispers of children. The flip and crinkle of magazine pages resonate in the silence. The shuffle of a chair against the floor carries on the wings of quiet to everyone in the room.


Taste buds can speak to us

Last night my son prepared a marinade for chicken that had a delayed kick. My taste buds had a fun time describing to my brain exactly what flavors they were experiencing. First sweet barbeque then a warming after taste, not too hot but lingering in my mouth.


Sight the overpowering sense

Sight is often the only sense mentioned in a novel’s first draft. It’s the description focus of a travel article. Even a witness at a crime scene tells what he saw. But there is so much more to bringing the real or imagined world around us to our readers.


You try it

Close your eyes and experience your setting. Note all the sounds, feels, smells. All sensations.  Switch to another setting and try it again. Write down those sensations. Let your mind choose the creative words. I really did feel the wind roll over my cheek.

You might try this when you need more depth in your description of setting and character.

I’ve shared with you my responses to this experiment. Share yours with me in the comments. I can’t wait to learn from your experience more delicious details about the  the world around us.


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Conference Tip # 3 Preparing Clips and Samples

Continuing my reposts of conference tips from last year. Clips and samples are important to pack for a conference. Add your comments on how you prepare yours I’d love to hear about it and any questions you may have about them.


I carry my clips and samples in a three ring binder with plastic sleeves. I carry my clips and samples in a three ring binder with plastic sleeves.

Clips and samples show the writing world what you can do. Appointments with publishers go smoother when you can show rather than tell what you write. Let me define the two.


These are articles, poems, stories, devotionals, editorials, whatever you’ve had published. The term clips refers to articles cut out of magazines and periodicals. Some of your clips might be copies of magazine pages or print offs of website articles. Your most recent publications are best. No need to show twenty year old newspaper clippings. (I really have some of those.) Be sure the date and magazine title are somewhere on the copy. If you have a link to your work, I suggest you share a hardcopy. Wifi access may not be available where you meet with publishers and you waste precious minutes of your…

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Three Ways Your Life Experience Can Be Shared With The World


Book heart-2

Your true story doesn’t have to be written by you. Check out a professional.

Often I hear from people who learn I’m a writer that they are going to write a book someday. Many people may profess it, but few actually do it. I’ve read a variety of blogs and heard speakers tell of people sharing how everyone says their life should be a book and their story needs to be told to the world. Those bloggers and speakers share helpful hints with their audience on how to determine whether your message should be dispensed in book form.

Because most of my posts for the next two months are going to be reposts of my ten conference tips, I thought this subject blended well. Because at every conference there are people with a passion to get their story told but no idea how. They hope to find an agent or publisher to agree to publish it.

Is this a book of my heart?

There are many things that have happened in my life—true miracles. There are tragedies as well. None of which I have felt at the present are a book of my heart. Some of those experiences take form in some of my characters in my fictional world however. But if one or more of your life experiences burns in your heart to be told, then I’ll help you explore ways to accomplish this.

Scenario one

Let’s pretend for the sake of this blog post that I have had a wondrous experience, and every time I share it people insist I need to write a book.  I’ve never written anything so I find the idea daunting. Yet, the thought takes root in my heart and won’t let go.

Let’s assume I know a writer. And I share my story and my desire to write a book. They smile politely and tell me to take some writing classes to learn the craft. I’m a little offended that they should suggest such a thing. After all, this story needs to be told. I don’t have time to waste on classes. Besides don’t publishers fix your mistakes?

So I attend a writer’s conference with the intent of finding an agent or publisher. I have a handwritten copy of my story and determination on my side. Okay, so maybe I have a typed copy, but it is single spaced. Perhaps I have a copy in 16-point font, single spaced on pink paper all neatly bound in a colorful cover.  A few copies even. You see where I am going with this.  No publisher or agent takes these kind of presentations seriously. There are industry standards which I will not discuss here.

Even though I strike out achieving my original goal, I make a connection. A writer hears my story and suggests I get a ghost writer. She connects me up with a fellow-writer. During a meeting he decides what I need is a writing coach to help bring my story to light.

Another scenario

This time I am joined at my conference lunch table by a magazine editor. I share my story and my battle plan for getting it published. He asks, “Have you ever consider writing an article about your experience.”

“But I want to write a book.” I declare. I am thinking a magazine article would not have the same impact.

“Our magazine has a circulation of 100,000. I’d love to publish your story.”

“Wow! I had no idea.”


Heart microphone-2

Sharing your story to groups of people may be another way to get a publishers attention.

Still another scenario

During a break I am trying to decide what class to take when I overhear someone singing the praises of the Speaker class. My curiosity is piqued and I attend. There I discover a new possibility. Speaking in various venues. I learn how to get the word out about the story I want to share. I immediately order all CDs.


My point

Book form may not be the best way to get the story of your heart before your desired audience. At least not at first. A magazine has large readership and gives your story a great chance to be read by many more than you may get in book sales. The article or series of articles could get you the attention of a publisher and be the outline for a book. Again, learning the craft of article writing is a must.

Perhaps sharing your story in a speaker’s format is more effective. Some stories are best shared orally. These days it’s easy to place stuff on You Tube or create a podcast to share your story.

A writing coach or ghost writer might be the best way to get your message in book form quickly. Otherwise it is imperative to learn the craft of writing well. And that can take years.

Ghost writer pic-2

Ghost writers and writing coaches may be just the ticket to getting your story told in a compelling way.

Be aware that coaches and ghost writers do this for a living and will expect to be paid. It is worth every penny to give your story its best chance at sales. Many wonderful true stories which have soared to the best seller list were written for the individual by professional writers. Ninety Minutes in Heaven is a great example.

If you have a book in your heart, perhaps these tips will help you decide how you want to share it with the world.


I’d love to hear any questions from those who want to get their story out there. And if you’ve successfully shared your life experience to the masses, please tell us about it.


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Conference Tip # 2 Prepare a One Sheet

Here is Conference Tip #2. A repost from last year. As you gear up for the many writer’s conferences coming over the summer I want to offer these tips once again. There are 8 more to follow which I will repost over thenext few weeks.


A One Sheet is an important tool for pitching your manuscript. But to a newbie it is a mystery. A One Sheet is an important tool for pitching your manuscript. But to a newbie it is a mystery.

When I attended my first conference, I didn’t have one of these. I had nothing to really pitch. No one told me about them, and I never saw one before that first conference. If you have a book to pitch, a one sheet helps showcase it and draw the attention of editors and agents.

A one sheet sometimes called a pitch sheet or a sell sheet is a page of information. The most important things about your book and you are available at a glance. It contains a blurb about your book and your bio. It can have artwork or be plain. If you aren’t good at creating flyers, I would definitely suggest keeping it simple. Use a one-sheet for both fiction and non-fiction.

Here are two links for examples. Fiction

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Musing About Storytelling

Long Ago Pic-2

“A fabulous writer is not necessarily a good storyteller.” Victoria Alexander from her article Twenty Things I learned in Twenty Years as an Author.

The Seekerville blog post was full of been-there-done-that moments for me. But the quote above caused me to pause. I have no idea what the author meant by her quote from her own personal experience. But her list was to encourage fellow writers and allow us to draw our own conclusions.

So, here are my thoughts on the difference. I remember as a child listening to various older people tell stories of their childhood. They didn’t just say I walked three miles in the snow. Instead they would captivate my imagination with details. I could imagine their array of friends who accompanied them along the way. The mean boy who ripped her dress whom she then chased down the street and pummeled him much to her parents’ chagrin. The unusual things they would see or find along the way.

Memorable Storytelling

It wasn’t just the incident but the things building up to it. I noticed my friends who grew up in other countries are wonderful story tellers. They build suspense as they give account of something they experienced. I remember one story that in and of itself was amazing but the added details made it more unbelievable. My friend’s family found three precious gems wrapped up in a cloth by the side of the road. Cool—right.

But the story started with her very poor family praying for God to make provision for them. They were Christians. The minority in a country where Buddhism was the recognized religion. Their faith kept their father from having steady work. We can picture in our minds how difficult that would be. Then she shared how much they enjoyed their worship time every morning. Now we know they are happy even in poverty. My friend speaks about how they all worked together to keep their home spotless. Now I can see a clean, happy, very poor family who pray and believe.

As she, her mother and another sibling were walking down the road. (I don’t recall where they were going.) my friend finds a wadded up rag and picks it up. Her mother scolds her. She was concerned about what might be in the dirty pouch. Again another bit of tension. Before she throws it down they open the bag. Inside was a ruby, an emerald and a sapphire. They are excited. Rejoiced in God’s provision all the way home. Their father takes the gems into the city and sells them. God has met their needs. End of story. But the reminder of God’s provision stays with me all these years later.

Fabulous writer????

What is a fabulous writer then if not a storyteller? You might think they write non-fiction. Perhaps. But the story I just related was factual not a fiction. But it was the style of the telling  that made it memorable. A fabulous writer can weave words with grammatical perfection. Facts have been checked, research completed and no stone left unturned. Whether they are writing an exposé or a novel, the point of touching the reader is missing when perfect grammar and strictly adhering to facts loses emotion. The heart of the story doesn’t reach the reader.

This is why a storyteller may sell more books than a fabulous writer. Readers will overlook imperfections in style, grammar even head hopping if the story engages with their heart.

Some people are natural storytellers. And when they share anything at all, people listen. Mark Twain was one of those. He turned ordinary situations into character studies his readers could relate to.

We all want to be fabulous writers who have learned the craft and practice it daily. However, if we can capture the ability to be a storyteller, readers will wait with anticipation for our next book and will carry the lessons set forth in their hearts for years to come.

What author do you love to read who has perfected the art of storytelling?

I’ll be posting another conference tip on Thursday. Here is the link to Conference Tip #1 in case you missed it. If you haven’t signed up to receive Writer’s Patchwork in  your email click on the link to the right so you don’t miss any of the ten tips I am reposting from last  year and other writerly posts.


Conference Tip #1 Writers need Business Cards

Because I am gearing up for the Write To Publish conference again this year I thought I’d repost my conference tips from last year. Many of my readers found them helpful. I’ll repost one or two each week, Please leave comments with your own suggestion on each topic. I always love to learn from others.


businesscard11 This business card is perfect for an artist but may not give the vibe you want as a writer. Whether you print your own with a template or order them be sure to have business cards before you attend a conference.

My yearly conference is coming up in a few weeks so I thought I’d share what you need to bring to make your conference experience the best it can be. If you’ve never attended one before I hope these tips will erase the deer-in-the-headlights feeling for you. Hopefully, it will give you a bit of confidence as well. There are many things you need to do to get prepared for a writer’s conference, so twice a week I will post a few details about items on my to-do list.

Today we are going to talk about business cards. Never attend a conference without them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve…

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Author Andrea Merrell Shares Editing Tips

Andrea Merrell Photo 10The toughest part of writing a manuscript is editing it into shape. Reshaping our baby when we feel it is perfect and the best it can be is a very emotional thing.

I’ve asked Andrea Merrell to join me and discuss some tips from her book Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard.

Andrea, I wish your book had been available when I started this writing journey. Your tips would have made it so much easier. This small book is power-packed. Tell me why you wrote it and how you chose the content.

Thanks, Cindy. It’s an honor to be with you today. Murder of a Manuscript basically evolved out of all the notes I use to teach workshops at writers’ conferences. As new writers, we have to start with the basics. Even as seasoned writers, we sometimes need a reminder of the little things that can send our manuscripts to the editorial graveyard. My book is not an exhaustive guide on every single thing a writer needs to know. Instead, it is intended to be a quick, easy-to-read-and-navigate guide to help writers understand what agents, editors, and publishers are looking for. Like you, I wish something like this had been available when I first started my own writing journey.

My favorite part was your honest confession of how you put together your first book as a naive novice. Please, share it with my readers.

This was my first major faux pas as a new writer. I had put together a story that was sure to be the next best-seller. J My manuscript was 14 pt. Comic Sans, single-spaced, and filled with words in all caps, bold, and underlined. It was loaded with exclamation points and thoroughly sprinkled with clichés. I had designed my own cover and even used colored paper. Sure that I would wow the ladies at my first-ever critique group, how embarrassing to find out all my hard work screamed “Newbie!” Thankfully, the leader of the group lovingly and patiently explained to me that everything I had done was unprofessional and would be immediately rejected. She, along with the group, pointed out the correct way to format, along with all the things not to do. It was a learning experience I will never forget and will always be extremely thankful for—especially since I was headed to my first writers’ conference.

Why did you decide to add a recap section?

So many times when we read, especially a nonfiction book, we see things we want to remember and/or find again. I tend to underline, star, or highlight passages to refer back to, but with the new wave of e-books, this is not possible. The recap section is meant to sum-up each chapter with bullet points that, hopefully, the readers will remember. This is where repetition is helpful.

You’ve dedicated a whole chapter to what you term “little foxes.” Explain those.

In the Song of Solomon (2:15) we read about how the little foxes are ruining the vineyards. While the larger foxes were able to reach the fruit, the smaller ones resorted to chewing on the bottom of the vine so it would fall to the ground. That way they could easily reach the fruit. The problem was that the vine was ruined. As writers, we need to watch out for those little foxes that ruin our chance for publication. We tend to see the larger critters invading our manuscripts, but it can be all those pesky little typos, grammar glitches, and incorrect usage that derail our project. This is why editing and proofreading is key. If an agent, editor, or publisher can’t get past all the little foxes in your manuscript, they probably won’t invest the time to fall in love with your story.

You’ve listed additional resources at the end of your book, which is so helpful. If you could recommend only one, which resource would it be?

That might be a nearly impossible question to answer. As an editor, it’s essential to use the CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), the CWMS (Christian Writer’s Manual of Style), and the AP Stylebook. These are considered industry standard. I think as a writer, my two favorite go-to books are Polishing the PUGS by Kathy Ide (now Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors) and The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus. My favorite online resource is Grammar Girl and her “Quick and Dirty Tips” ( I would also encourage your readers to visit and subscribe to As editors, my friend Alycia Morales and I share information once a week that is helpful to writers. We have a guest post once a month by a well-known author or editor, and we love to do book giveaways.

Andrea, there are so many books out there about self-editing and how to write. If a writer read them all (okay, realistically a few) on the many subjects of writing well would they still need to hire an editor?

Yes, yes, and yes. J When we’re going through our own work, we’re too close to the story. Our mind knows what is supposed to be on the page, but our eyes can skip over obvious errors. After we’ve read something over and over, we can become blind to what we’re reading. Carefully proofing and editing your work is essential, along with feedback from a critique group. But editors are there to help make your words shine. This is more important than ever now that self-publishing is the new trend. We need to make sure we are putting out the best products available, especially in the Christian market.

I’m confident I know the answer, but I’ll ask what others are thinking. You’re an editor so you didn’t hire an editor for your books, right?

Yes, absolutely. I would never have a book published without using a good editor. I think every editor would say a hearty “Amen.” We’re all fallible. I always say even the best editor needs an editor.

I’ve appreciated our time together. Before you go, please tell us about your other books and upcoming projects.

Praying for the Prodigal is my five-year journey with two prodigals. My son and daughter both took a dark path at the same time, and my husband and I experienced our own personal hell. The purpose of this book is to share what God taught me during this time, and to help restore hope to those who are going through this crisis. There is advice from my former prodigals, along with thirty days of prayers and Scriptures to help parents, grandparents, and guardians battle for the souls of their prodigals.

My short story, The Gift, is part of the Christmases Past Series and the Kindle version is available on Amazon for only ninety-nine cents. It is the story of a young couple’s journey through pain, loss, healing … and an unexpected gift.

There are three novels in various stages that are begging to be completed, but my next book is Marriage: Make It or Break It. I share many things I’ve learned in forty-plus years of marriage that can bless or crush a relationship. I also talk about how our basic temperament and love language can affect our relationships, the difference between the way men and women think, and how to pray for yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.

If you’d like to hire Andrea to edit your manuscript, you can contact her through her website: or e-mail her at AndreaMerrell 7 @ gmail (dot) com.

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Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). She is also a professional freelance editor and has been a faculty member at various writers’ conferences, including:  Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, The Asheville Christian Writers Conference (Writers Boot Camp), the CLASS Christian Writers Conference, and Write2Ignite. Andrea has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues. She is a graduate of Christian Communicators and a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard, Praying for the Prodigal, and The Gift. Andrea has a passion to help writers sharpen their skills and polish their prose. To learn more, visit or


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