Revealing the contents of my novel before approaching appropriate agents

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Greetings fellow colonists,

Here is a question I struggle with every day, and some advice would be appreciated.

I am totaly, uterly, new to trying to get my work published, although, I have been writing for pleasure and to entertain my family for well over 6 years. In that time, I have amassed a body of work. I have developed a concept and expanded the concept.

But what do I reveal before approaching agents or publishers?

I am stunned by the quality of advice available on Litopia, and its a credit to all of you Litopians. But what can I tell you about the 4 books I am writing? can I tell you the whole outline, book 1 to 4, without an agent telling me that the concept is not "unique" as its been published online?

What about characterisation? can I expand on the characters I have in the books here, to get feedback, to see if they are viable entities? would an agent say that this was un-acceptable?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Kevin
 
Well, I don't speak for agents (as I don't have one), but I would imagine that you're probably safe putting pieces of your writing out here (as in, a few chapters), but only if you do it either through email to specific people or in the Houses when they become available to you. That way, the whole writing isn't out there for all the world to access. I don't see a problem if you have questions about your characters as the experiences of others (i.e. Litopians) can only help to build your characters more fully.

I would not suggest, however, putting your entire outline out here, if for no other reason than someone might take it (@Marc Joan and I are the resident paranoids in this world :)). Personally, I draft a blurb (like you see on the back of books) for each of my books and stick them on my website, but that's as far as I get and mostly so either people on social media can find out what I'm writing or agents after looking at my query letter can see what else I'm up to.
 
Yes, thanks, so it would be ok to talk about my characters, what motivates them, descriptions etc.. I often think of a character and say 'but thats just like character ... in another book'. I get the point about the whole book, chapter and verse.

So, I also see a lot of Litopians putting up query letters for comment? does that not give your ideas away, or is that just the synopsis being displayed.

The houses do not exist, they are a figment of your imagination.

Kevin
 
I think yes, talking about your characters is definitely okay. Also, yes, we do post query letters up, but most of us either post in the Back Room (which only members of Litopia can see -- visitors to the site cannot) or we email or PM them to each other and ask for critiques that way. The query letter is little more than an expanded version of a book blurb, so you're not giving everything away. I don't think anyone here has posted synopses (which is the book from front to back). Besides, people here on Litopia have their own books to write. I'm *relatively* confident (looking at you, Byrne) that no one here is going to steal my idea. And, I haven't revealed everything on this site, so even if someone does run with my idea, it will be completely different than what I wrote.
 
First: @Nicole Wilson and @Marc Joan aren't the only paranoids in this group.

Second: I don't think anyone here, that has been here awhile, would steal an idea. We all know that we are all struggling and how much it would hurt if someone did it to us.

Third: As writers, we work alone; in solitude. We need to take a deep breath and ask for help sometimes. I haven't been here that long, but I feel I can ask most anyone here for help, in some fashion, if I needed it, which is nice to have, even if you don't always utilize it. "you have not because you ask not."

I know the Houses are real...I've seen them! Patience!
 
I think yes, talking about your characters is definitely okay. Also, yes, we do post query letters up, but most of us either post in the Back Room (which only members of Litopia can see -- visitors to the site cannot) or we email or PM them to each other and ask for critiques that way. The query letter is little more than an expanded version of a book blurb, so you're not giving everything away. I don't think anyone here has posted synopses (which is the book from front to back). Besides, people here on Litopia have their own books to write. I'm *relatively* confident (looking at you, Byrne) that no one here is going to steal my idea. And, I haven't revealed everything on this site, so even if someone does run with my idea, it will be completely different than what I wrote.
Exactly right. Whatever one's level of paranoia (and there is something of a spectrum visible round here...) it's a long way from posting 'I've had a great idea for a novel about a bloke who goes to chase a whale and grapples with the larger questions of religion and life in the process', to writing Moby Dick.
Besides which, if you do find that Jason has nicked your entire book and is making fortune from the royalties, you still have the law on your side as the copywrite of the material is yours as soon as it hits the page. You could then point to your date-stamped Litopia entry and hit him with a law suit so large it'll make him fall of his sun lounger into his fountain pen shaped pool whilst choking on his chocolate cake (I bet you don't have an image for that one, JB!).
 
I think yes, talking about your characters is definitely okay. Also, yes, we do post query letters up, but most of us either post in the Back Room (which only members of Litopia can see -- visitors to the site cannot) or we email or PM them to each other and ask for critiques that way. The query letter is little more than an expanded version of a book blurb, so you're not giving everything away. I don't think anyone here has posted synopses (which is the book from front to back). Besides, people here on Litopia have their own books to write. I'm *relatively* confident (looking at you, Byrne) that no one here is going to steal my idea. And, I haven't revealed everything on this site, so even if someone does run with my idea, it will be completely different than what I wrote.
I don't have to steal your idea, Nicole.

All I had to do was ask for the whole book.
Evil-smile.jpg~c200



Do a search for "The Grudge, by Bartholomew Alabaster Montague."

Betcha didn't know I had a pen name, y'all.
 
Exactly right. Whatever one's level of paranoia (and there is something of a spectrum visible round here...) it's a long way from posting 'I've had a great idea for a novel about a bloke who goes to chase a whale and grapples with the larger questions of religion and life in the process', to writing Moby Dick.
Besides which, if you do find that Jason has nicked your entire book and is making fortune from the royalties, you still have the law on your side as the copywrite of the material is yours as soon as it hits the page. You could then point to your date-stamped Litopia entry and hit him with a law suit so large it'll make him fall of his sun lounger into his fountain pen shaped pool whilst choking on his chocolate cake (I bet you don't have an image for that one, JB!).
I confess I do not, Bernard! Only a tennis racket. I'm going to have to combo, this one.
2923019286_b64fa0021a.jpg article-2016104.jpg
c6ed562029e1a1184b672eaff6d781e8.jpg
 
I don't have to steal your idea, Nicole.

All I had to do was ask for the whole book.
Evil-smile.jpg~c200



Do a search for "The Grudge, by Bartholomew Alabaster Montague."

Betcha didn't know I had a pen name, y'all.
Ha! Ever think maybe that was just a trap, Bartholomew Alabaster Montague? That maybe I've been onto you for years and this was my plan all along? That maybe I have something planned for you?

Welcome to my
real thriller novel, Bartholomew.
 
You see why I don't do evil plans. I'm too A+B=C.

I played a super-villain in a GURPS game with a friend, in college, and he had a terrible time with me,
"I'm going to Teleport onto the rear castle and Flame Jet him in the face. Can I account for the momentum differential of the two ships?"
"This sucks! I can't let the hero get near you! You won't tie him to a table and point a laser at him and monologue about your grand plan! You'll just ****ing KILL HIM!"

Zombie armies with torn-off faces... scorpion-demon rape... after that one he made me play a starry-eyed, sixteen-year-old boy-hero, just to lighten the mood.

Oh — we were talking about protagonist idiosyncrasies! That was ol' Aelfric Breccason. The former. Not the latter.
 
So awesome...
OOOOO!!!! *jumps up and down waving excitedly* A novel where the unpublished manuscript is really a ploy to draw unsuspecting plagiarizers into the evil writer's web of horror and terror and gruesome shit??? Love it!!! Can I steal - I mean read - the screenplay???? :D :D :D
*bows* thank you, thank you. I was actually quite proud of that one. :D
 
I think yes, talking about your characters is definitely okay. Also, yes, we do post query letters up, but most of us either post in the Back Room (which only members of Litopia can see -- visitors to the site cannot) or we email or PM them to each other and ask for critiques that way. The query letter is little more than an expanded version of a book blurb, so you're not giving everything away. I don't think anyone here has posted synopses (which is the book from front to back). Besides, people here on Litopia have their own books to write. I'm *relatively* confident (looking at you, Byrne) that no one here is going to steal my idea. And, I haven't revealed everything on this site, so even if someone does run with my idea, it will be completely different than what I wrote.
Oh, right — back to topic — we definitely try to improve each others' queries, and we've talked a bit about the synopsis process, but I don't believe we've actually openly critiqued synopses.
 
Yeah, seriously, in terms of taking other people's ideas...my last novel was lifted straight from my husband's brain...seriously, it was his idea (we talked about it at length), and I asked permission to write it. He said yeah, sure. I'm never going to write it. 'Cause he's a scientist, not a novelist. So anyway, I write the book, and he tells me I got it all wrong! Says the book goes nothing like that! Then he runs down the details of his novel...the one he thought I was writing. Totally different. And I was seriously trying to steal his idea...and I've been married to him for nearly 24 years, you'd think I'd know what was going on in that head. Nah. So I don't worry about anyone stealing my ideas--they'll get 'em all wrong anyhow!
 
Yeah, seriously, in terms of taking other people's ideas...my last novel was lifted straight from my husband's brain...seriously, it was his idea (we talked about it at length), and I asked permission to write it. He said yeah, sure. I'm never going to write it. 'Cause he's a scientist, not a novelist. So anyway, I write the book, and he tells me I got it all wrong! Says the book goes nothing like that! Then he runs down the details of his novel...the one he thought I was writing. Totally different. And I was seriously trying to steal his idea...and I've been married to him for nearly 24 years, you'd think I'd know what was going on in that head. Nah. So I don't worry about anyone stealing my ideas--they'll get 'em all wrong anyhow!
Everybody's a critic.:rolleyes:
 
Yeah, seriously, in terms of taking other people's ideas...my last novel was lifted straight from my husband's brain...seriously, it was his idea (we talked about it at length), and I asked permission to write it. He said yeah, sure. I'm never going to write it. 'Cause he's a scientist, not a novelist. So anyway, I write the book, and he tells me I got it all wrong! Says the book goes nothing like that! Then he runs down the details of his novel...the one he thought I was writing. Totally different. And I was seriously trying to steal his idea...and I've been married to him for nearly 24 years, you'd think I'd know what was going on in that head. Nah. So I don't worry about anyone stealing my ideas--they'll get 'em all wrong anyhow!

I think this is a really good point. There are plenty of stories out there that seem similar (or deal with similar ideas), but are completely different. One example that popped into my head was The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor. Both came out the same year and dealt with remarkably similar themes, but were so very different that one became a blockbuster hit and the other languished in obscurity.
 
I think this is a really good point. There are plenty of stories out there that seem similar (or deal with similar ideas), but are completely different. One example that popped into my head was The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor. Both came out the same year and dealt with remarkably similar themes, but were so very different that one became a blockbuster hit and the other languished in obscurity.

There are only so many story lines...every book is a variation on one of them...
 
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