Sunday, May 30, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Now that you know whether you have a preface or a prologue, you have to decide if you really need it.
If you read ANY agent blogs or follow agents on Twitter, you will see that a good majority of them HATE prologues and prefaces. A lot of them even say it turns them off of the manuscript completely. Many of the agents I follow say they can't gauge your writing, your voice, or the tone of the book based on a preface or prologue. Also, think about one of the cardinal rules of writing. You never dump backstory into your first chapters. You always want to craft the backstory into the plot throughout the book. But, by using a preface or a prologue, you're essentially dumping backstory on the agent in the first few pages.
My personal opinion is that I don't mind prologues, but I despise prefaces. A prologue serves a purpose for the story. You need the information from the prologue to understand the rest of the book. But a preface is just a retelling of something (usually part of the climax) that happens later in the story. I've had so many authors tell me they included a preface because they felt like they wouldn't be able to pull a reader in with their first chapter. If you can't grab a reader with the first few pages of your first chapter, you're certainly not going to be able to get an agent's attention. I've even read that some agents completely disregard prologues/prefaces sent to them. Agents are trying to get a feel for your writing style, voice, and the plot. They can't do that from a prologue/preface. If you're worried that your first chapter, or even your first few paragraphs won't keep a reader's attention, you need to rewrite.
Now I know you're thinking that if prologues and prefaces are so unpopular with agents, why do so many books have them? I've wondered that myself and this is my theory...I think a lot of editors like what a prologue or preface can do for a book. Most people buying a book like to scan the first few pages of the book before they buy it. If there's something interesting in those first few pages, a reader is much more likely to buy the book so they can find out what happens. My day job is in marketing/advertising/PR and from a marketing perspective, the preface prologue strategy makes a lot of sense. I’m sure there are other reasons as well--like maybe to help the audience understand an important part of the book or something intense or emotional the character is going through--but like I said, from a marketing perspective, it’s a very good idea. So while agents may not like prologues and prefaces, it's smart marketing on the side of the editor and publishing house.
So where does this leave you? Well, if you already have a prologue or preface, take a serious, unbiased look at it and ask yourself if it's really important enough to your book to risk the possibility of turning an agent off by sending it with your query. If you choose not to include your preface or prologue, it doesn't mean you have to give it up. Keep it around because an editor might want it someday. :)
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I started this post about prologues and prefaces a while ago and as I've been working on it, it just keeps getting longer. I decided to split it into two posts, so for the first, I offer you a definition.
Prologues and prefaces seem to be all the rage lately--especially in YA books. Since Eternal Starling was YA, I seriously debated whether I should put one in. I mean, lots of other YA writers were doing it, should I do it too? The problem is that I'm not a preface or prologue fan. And I found out most agents aren't preface or prologue fans either (more on that in post #2). I had to decide what I wanted to do with Eternal Starling, but first, I needed to find out what the difference between a preface and prologue actually was!
There are SO many conflicting ideas out there about this--everywhere from mywriterscircle.com to absolutewrite.com. I finally found an answer that made sense to me and then found the same answer over and over again as I researched. Though, like I said, the opinions are conflicting, so feel free to do your own research and decide for yourself. You can also check this link from writersandeditors.com for a more detailed prologue and preface definition summary.
If you're confused like I was, read on for a definition and example.
A prologue is used to give the reader critical information that happens before the story starts. The reader will need that information later to understand what's happening in the book. A good example of this is the prologue in Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick. The prologue happens in a completely different century than when the book takes place, but the information in the prologue is important to the plot of the book.
A preface is a retelling of something that happens later in the book and is often used as a way to hook a reader. A good example of this is the preface for Twilight. A lot of YA books use this tool as a way to get the audience immediately interested in the book and make them want to keep reading.
Now you know the difference, you can check your own preface or prologue and figure out what it actually is! In the next few days I'll post my take on why so many agents seem to hate prefaces and prologues, but editors seem to love them.
Monday, May 3, 2010
The real reason for my lack of posts is that I'm in my editing cave. I'm about half way through my revisions on Branson Falls and hope to finish them in the next couple of days! Then I'll send the ms. off to my crit-partners for comments and more revisions. Ah, it seems like it never ends. At least the query is done though, and I'm still planning to start sending out queries at the end of May.
I'm actually pretty excited to finish, not only because I love having a shiny new manuscript to query, but also because I have many topics I want to blog about including a question that many writers seem confused on: the difference between a preface and a prologue. And because I'm a little bit opinionated (my husband literally laughed out loud when he read that), I'll give my take on prefaces and prologues, as well as why agents hate them, but editors seem to love them.
So, keep checking back because I'll be out of my cave soon! Thanks for reading!!!