Query and Synopsis Class for Novelists — Starts June 13!

Getting Past the Slush Pile:

Writing an Attention-Getting Query and Synopsis for Your Novel

Starts June 13, 2016!

You’ve finished your novel. It’s as perfect as you can make it. Now it’s time to find an agent or a publisher. To do that, you need a query letter and a synopsis. If the very thought is enough to make you archive your novel for about six months, you’ve come to the right place.

In her four-week Getting Past the Slush Pile e-course, Jennifer Lawler – a novelist who is also a former fiction acquisitions editor and a former literary agent – will show you the ins and outs of writing a query and a synopsis that will help your novel get out of the slush pile and into the hands of a someone who can help you make your dreams of publication come true.

Every Monday, you’ll get a lesson covering that week’s assignment and you’ll email your assignment back to Jennifer at your convenience.

In Week #1, we’ll cover the basics of how fiction acquisitions and book publishing works, and why you need to have a solid query and synopsis even though your manuscript is already written. This background will help you create the right type of query and synopsis for your project. You’ll be asked to investigate your genre and develop an understanding of where your book fits in the market.

In Week #2, we’ll get into the specifics of writing the query, and you’ll receive feedback from the instructor on ways to make your query shine.

In Week #3, we’ll delve into the difficulties of the synopsis – what it needs to do and how it needs to do it. You’ll receive feedback from the instructor on ways to polish your synopsis. You’ll develop two synopses: a one-to-two page brief synopsis and a five-to-seven page fuller synopsis so that you’ll be ready to supply whatever is requested.

In Week #4, you’ll create a submissions plan to keep you on track to find the agent or publisher your book needs. You’ll research your options and come up with a plan that’ll help you deal with rejections instead of letting them set you back.

The four-week class is just $299! Use the Paypal button below, or email jennifer@jenniferlawler.com for more information.

On how to write just right





Every time a writer asks me, “Do you think if I do what this editor suggests, my novel will get published?” I have to pause to experience a moment of pity before I can respond. If only it were that simple.

Let me explain. In one corner are those editors who you might hire yourself to get your book ready for self-publishing or just to help you figure out why you’re not succeeding. These editors are not unlike the friends or colleagues you dragoon into reading your manuscript and whose responses you keep in mind while you’re revising. They are the editors who might have great ideas but they’ll never be able to offer a publishing contract. When you get advice from these editors, you have to consider whether it makes sense, suits your overall vision for the book, and is an actual improvement instead of just a change. So if that’s the kind of editor who has made the suggestion, all I can say is you know better than I do whether you should revise.

Then there are the editors who could publish your novel but they have no plans to do so. They usually send form letters and sometimes writers mistake these for something else. “When the editor says, ‘Not quite right for us,’ do you suppose it’s because I’m two thousand words over their stated word count?”

No, I don’t suppose that. Because if the only thing standing between you and glory was two thousand words, the editor would have said so: “This is an amazing novel but it is too long. Can you shorten it by two thousand words?” And if you got a note like that then my answer to the question would be yes. Yes, I do think if you were to do what this editor suggests, your novel would get published.

You can usually identify an editor who wants to work with you in this way because she will say so: “This was a terrific read but I didn’t love the ending. Would you be open to revising?”

Or she will say, “This is just not my cup of tea but send me your next novel.” So you know what to do, right?

But the not-quite-form rejections are the ones I hear about most, where the editor says something like, “I found the plot engaging but I just couldn’t get interested in the characters.”

Editors will sometimes explain a rejection instead of just sending a form rejection because they think you have promise and they want to give you a little encouragement. Sometimes it’s because you’ve submitted through an agent and they want to maintain a cordial relationship with that agent. Now and then it’s because the editor has worked with you in the past. (This happened to me once and the pain is still fresh.) Many, maybe even most, times these not-quite-form rejections are just rejections. It wouldn’t matter if you made the characters more interesting. The editor still wouldn’t buy the book. She didn’t like it. She’s never going to like it unless you write a new book. Then she might like that one.

An editor who is not buying a book is not spending a lot of time analyzing how and why it isn’t working for her. She just doesn’t have time for that. She’s not trying to be a mentor or give you a blueprint for revision, she’s just telling you she thinks the book may have had good points but it’s not going on her list, thank you anyway. So, no, I don’t think revising the book according to her suggestions will, necessarily, get you anywhere. On the other hand maybe she’s pinpointed a problem that suddenly you recognize as the reason why your book isn’t working and yay! You know what to do. 

I know what you’re wondering now. You’re wondering, if you get a rejection like this, with no invitation to revise and resubmit, should you revise your novel anyway for the sake of future submissions? On the grounds that Editor B will like your novel because you fixed the problems Editor A identified? A lot of writers think the answer is yes, but my answer is a resounding maybe. Just because Editor A has a problem with, say, your characterization, that doesn’t mean any other editor on this green earth will. Editorial opinions are subjective. They may be informed opinions, but they are still just opinions.

Now, if all of your rejections are saying much the same thing then you can assume that fixing that thing would help. If Editor A says, “I couldn’t follow the plot” and Editor B says, “The plot made no sense to me” and Editor C says, “I liked the characters but not the plot,” you’ve got the kind of consensus that suggests something’s wrong with the plot. So you know what to do.

[Note that the same general principles apply to querying agents.]

Getting published is certainly about writing a good novel. But it’s also about finding the right editor.  A few years back, when my then-agent was trying to sell Dojo Wisdom, she forwarded two rejection letters to me in the same day. Editor A said, “The audience for this book is too narrow; we could never publish it successfully.” Editor B said, “The audience for this book is too broad; we could never publish it successfully.”

I kid you not. Exactly how would I have revised the book to make both of these editors happy? I didn’t try. My agent went on to find Editor C, who thought Dojo Wisdom was just right, and who managed to publish it quite successfully.

In other words, sometimes it’s about you but sometimes it’s about them. The hard part is knowing which is which.


If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get a free ebook version of Dojo Wisdom for Writers. Just type your email address in that little box that’s on the right-hand side of your screen unless you’re looking at this on your phone and then I don’t know where it is. Oh! Don’t forget that I’ve collected some Jessica stories in Travels with Jessica.

My buddy Jill Haymaker has a novel releasing today! Breakfast for Two is available on Amazon here.

And I love this tidbit sent along by writer Lynn Crandall: “A scent by any other name may be an odor. Unless my heroine has just been cleaning stalls, I don’t want to use the word ‘odor’ in her description. In writing a scene describing my heroine, I knew she didn’t ‘smell’ and she didn’t have an odor, but I’d used the word ‘scent’ a lot. My mind reached for the just-right word. Then I found a website that offered some help, here. It prompted the word I’d been looking for as well as a suggestion for a name of the scent. Sometimes a little help is needed.”


Fall Classes

I know it’s only July and you want summer to last a little longer, but I wanted to let everyone know about my upcoming classes. These are all ecourses, so you can participate from anywhere. Here they are, all in one place:

For Writers:

  • Write Your Book Proposal ecourse, four-week class, starts September 14. For more information, click here.
  • Getting Past the Slush Pile: Writing a Query and Synopsis for Fiction (offered by The Loft Literary Center), four-week class, starts September 14. Click here for more information.
  • Edit Your Novel Like a Pro (offered through Udemy) is a self-paced class starting any time you like. Use this link to get a 50% discount off the regular price.

For Editors:

  • Beginning Developmental Editing for Fiction, four-week class, starts September 14.
  • Beginning Developmental Editing for Nonfiction (new!), four-week class, starts September 14.
  • Intermediate Developmental Editing for Fiction, four-week class, starts October 12.
  • Intermediate Developmental Editing for Nonfiction (new!), four-week class, starts October 12.
  • Advanced Developmental Editing for Fiction (new!), four-week class (an extra week is added to the schedule to accommodate for the Thanksgiving holiday), starts November 9.

All courses for editors are offered through the Editorial Freelancers Association. The EFA course catalog is here.

New–for writers!

I just finished two small books for writers. Both are based on popular classes I’ve taught. The first is Finish Your Book, a short guide (about 25 pages) that offers tips and guidance for overcoming the stumbling blocks that keep you from finishing that novel you started last year. The other is Write Your Book Proposal, a slightly longer piece (about 35 pages) on putting together a proposal for a nonfiction book. Both links will lead you to the Kindle edition. Both also have paperback versions, here and here. It always takes Amazon a while to link the two together.

Hope you find these helpful!

Some good news!

One of my lighthearted paranormal romances, Lessons in Magic, has been accepted for publication by Crimson Romance, and will be out on September 1.  Yay!

NOTE: Jessica Starre would like to make it clear that she is the alter ego responsible for this work and that it will be coming out under her name. She thinks I don’t give her enough credit, and she’s all, “You like Jenny Jacobs better!” Which is not true! I love all of us equally.




My collection of travel stories, Travels with Jessica, is now available! Kindle and paperback here; other ebook formats here. And I’ve published my essay “For Jessica” as a small book. Kindle and paperback here; other ebook formats here.

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! I give random stuff away—and I tell more stories. Just wander over to my homepage.

Finish Your Book Bootcamp – New Class!

A lot of my students have expressed frustration with getting stuck when they write a book. They get started, but then comes that slog in the middle and they lose momentum and don’t know what to do next.

That’s why I’m starting a new class, my eight-week Finish Your Book Bootcamp. This first time around, I’m going to offer the class for a much lower price than it will be in the future because y’all are going to be my guinea pigs. We’ll explore what habits and methods are most helpful for getting through the slog.

And this time only, I’m going to be following along with my own project, a novel I haven’t finished, even though I really really want to. So you’ll get the rare chance to kick my ass if I don’t produce!

More info the class  can be found here.