Works of Richard Marsden

The Works of Richard Marsden. Writing and Historical European Martial Arts.

Writing Hints Blog

Sample Chapters - The Novel 4

Posted by rmarsden on September 8, 2010 at 7:11 PM



Time to discuss sample chapters.


When an agent/editor likes a proposal they may ask for sample chapters. Sample chapters are a snap-shot of the author's writing prowess. Where as the synopsis is mostly about the 'story' in a nut-shell, the sample chapters are about the writer's 'talents' in a nut-shell.


Editors usually ask for about 3-5 chapters as a writing sample. This is where the author needs to shine. Editors are not looking to edit, they want to do the least amount of work possible on a story before it gets to market.


This may sound cynical, but the truth is there are plenty of authors out there, so many that an editor is bound to find a good story. The trick is finding a ready-to-sell good story. The more time an editor has to work on a project, the less financially rewarding it is.


This means an author's sample chapters need to be as close to perfect as possible. Minor errors and major must be purged from the document and the prose must be a good representation of the author's style.


Additionally, the opening chapters of a book are like the opening scenes of a movie. Think how Saving Private Ryan started. Nazis, guns and Americans in boats! After that, the plot was quickly revealed.


That doesn't mean the novel needs to start off with D-Day, but it does have to be attention-getting to maintain the reader's interest. Editors read thousands of proposals, so the 'slow-burn' to a plot method will probably fail as they find more digestable, quick-paced, novels to take up.


As for formatting, standard manuscript format will usually work. Be sure to save in RTF if using the electronic method and to use clean, white, heavy bond paper if using the snail-mail method. Use courrier 12 or New Times Roman font and use internet searches on 'selling a novel' for finer details.



Sample chapters are an extended way to 'sell' the novel. So...

1. Make it error free

2. Make it engaging

3. Ensure 'style' can be detected


Good Hunting!

Categories: Novel Advice

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