From Hospice Chaplain To Author: Bridging Personal Stories And Hard Facts

From Hospice Chaplain To Author: Bridging Personal Stories And Hard Facts

As a freelance editor, I have the opportunity to work on all kinds of projects, and one author I am extremely proud of is Maryclaire Torinus. A former hospice chaplain, Maryclaire had a powerful, poignant, and hard-hitting story to tell when we met. Unlike some manuscripts, it didn’t fit neatly into one particular category. She had beautifully written patient stories to share, chronicling their emotional final days, but this was more than a memoir. It was also an exposé that spotlighted the inner workings of for-profit hospice providers run by professional investors and the harmful effects on patients, families, and staff. Not only that, but it’s also a how-to guide for families. It’s a must-read book for families exploring hospice care and is truly an eye-opener. Below, Maryclaire shares how she blended enlightening stories at the bedsides of dying patients with the facts and statistics of investigative journalism. 

After wading through a mountain of research and working on my hospice narrative for six years (on and off), my book was released in mid-October with the Manhattan Book Group in NYC, a hybrid publisher. Surviving Hospice: A Chaplain’s Journey Into The Business Of Dying has finally found a home in the marketplace.

Early on, when fellow authors questioned me about the genre, I couldn’t quite put a finger on the category. It was complicated. My first attempt at writing this narrative was as a creative nonfiction piece; it seemed to fit my premise the best. In my lap, I had an expose written from a chaplain’s perspective sitting at the bedsides of dying patients. An untold story. Indeed, I had a lot of stories—those of my patients and my personal experiences during that period—and a poignant memoir was in the works.

However, when our company was purchased by a NYC equity firm (unbeknownst to us) and our hospice mission changed, our resources shriveled to the most basic care to increase the profit margin. Our best clinicians left for other hospice companies. The consequences of the new financially-motivated policies began to trickle down onto the beds of patients and into the lives of staffers. The harm occurring in our company, corroborated by negative hospice headlines appearing across the nation, was frightening.

Consequently, when the investors had evolved into the primary stakeholders of our hospice company, I started to possess more and more sobering statistics on the harm to patients from our lapse in care— separate elements—but, all based on a unifying theme. So, I needed to conflate the interaction of true events, facts, ideas, patient stories, and my personal experiences. I needed to gather the information and organize the literary styles into something that resonated with my readers. A clear, logical, unified, well-paced description that didn’t come across as a stuffy newspaper article. I knew I would need help.

My first attempt to begin my book was based on the current reality of the hospice market. The graying of America, coupled with the commercialization of the hospice benefit, has transformed hospice from a mission of mercy into a multi-billion-a-year healthcare enterprise. Every sector of society has been preparing for an aging world. Consequently, senior nursing care coupled with the hospice market is expected to grow into a $550 billion-a-year market by 2024. Nobody wants to die. But death is inevitable; so then, no one wants to die badly. Good hospice care offers the best hope for dying well and living fully until we do. Doula workers tell me that ‘their goal is to restore death to its sacred place in the celebration of life.’ As a result, consumers needed to understand the revelations highlighted in the July 2019 report released by the Department of Health and Human Services. Blah, Blah, Blah.

My book now begins with stories so my readers want to keep turning the pages.

In my third week on the job, I arrived at 7:30 a.m. and bumped into one of the medical directors at the front desk. The first words out of his mouth were, “I’m glad I’m not in your shoes right now.” He cocked his head toward the conference room. My pulse quickened as I rounded the corner and stopped just short of the conference room door to find members of my interdisciplinary team gathered inside around an oblong table, drinking black coffee. No doughnuts or creamer in sight.

No idle chatter, just heads huddled. When I entered the room, four somber faces turned to me in unison. As I pulled up a chair, Sandy, the registered nurse announced, “A chaplain is the most qualified person for this situation. You should go first. They all nodded.”

The Health Insurance Accountability Act sets standards and regulations to protect health information and patient privacy. To maintain these standards in my narrative, I reviewed the guidelines for confidentiality in the HIPPA. I was not able to locate the families of my deceased patients, so I fictionalized identifying information. The stories I related were a composite of my actual experiences ministering to patients and families over the course of my hospice internship and clinical career. Chaplains are trained to retain patient information and to archive it for documentation. We learn to write verbatims (word-for-word notes) during hospice visits to accurately record patient comments and the type of counseling provided at each appointment. I also learned to keep extensive notes on my patients to accurately reflect their lives to deliver heartfelt eulogies at their funerals.

Obviously, it would become necessary for me to look for the intersections or commonalities between the seemingly disparate categories: memoir, a how-to guide, and the sobering statistics of an end-of-life medical industry suffering under the sway of professional investors. Often, the two hundred sixty-five pages of patient accounts, my personal stories, statistics, and horrific facts seemed to take on a life of its own, more like a living species. It seemed too unwieldly to manage.

Therefore, it was not surprising that my first attempt to consolidate the breadth of my work was not satisfactory; the order was not compelling. I had begun the first chapter with the nuts and bolts of the current hospice market. The tempo was stoic and plodding, and I hadn’t captured the emotion and drama of what really occurred at my for-profit hospice company. I needed to rethink the approach.

As I began to query agents, it had become clear to me and to them that I had two books in the works: a memoir and a research-driven investigative piece. A lot of agents were interested in my timely topic and requested that I write two separate accounts of what had occurred at my former company. But I wasn’t interested in that approach. Writing one book was challenging enough. Sometimes a writer needs to do what I writer needs to do and that’s what I did. I said thanks, but no thanks. In the end, I did what was best for me. I didn’t want to write two books; I wanted to use my patient’s experiences to deliver the statistics.

And to be honest, I was weary of jumping through the hoops sometimes demanded by agents and owners of independent publishing firms. It’s important for authors to have boundaries and to be true to themselves. So, it was on me to figure out how to compose a unified and fluid account for the benefit of my readers and the integrity of my patients. One agent suggested I write an annotated outline of each chapter (which was a lot of work) to clarify the goals of my writing, and what order would best address my broad target audience: hospice consumers, hospice clinicians, chaplains, professional hospice trade organizations, lawmakers, lawyers, and medical personnel.

I also began to search for books that had similar themes as mine to see how the authors managed to mix stories with statistics. I stumbled upon the book called The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. He utilized a character-driven narrative to tell how professional investors foresaw the collapse of the mortgage market in 2008 and then pocketed millions from their bets. The Boston Globe wrote about his style, “Lewis expertly describes a broken financial system that rewarded bad decisions and fraudulent alchemy, and then shifted the inevitable losses to the strapped U. S. taxpayer.”

My premise was so similar; it addressed the hijacking of hospice by private equity firms to generate wealth and the subsequent harm to dying patients, the hospice staff, and the image of the hospice Medicare/Medicaid benefit. Professional investors in the hospice market also left taxpayers holding the bag for their gaming of the hospice system. So, I decided to begin my narrative with the poignant stories of dying patients in pain and weave the data and facts of the current state of hospice care through those heartbreaking stories.

At this stage, I knew that I had at minimum, a solid memoir on my desk, but I still needed to jettison my two genre conventions (memoir and data-driven journalism) in a way that would keep my narrative from becoming too broad and confusing. Like Manhattan Book Group, a combination of traditional and self-publishing, I was creating a hybrid genre. I understood that stories were powerful and if the readers could just fall in love with John, Martha, Helen, George, and Mark, the statistics would bear the faces and voices of real people. Consequently, I decided to cordon off the information into three sections.

Part I includes how I ministered to my patients and their families under the selfish motives of a greedy owner and under the restraints of professional investors who had purchased our company (memoir). Part II includes the qualities of a reputable hospice provider and how to locate a trustworthy provider. Part III addresses the results from the 2019 OIG Report on the state of hospice care across the country, and what might happen next to dispel professional investors from end-of-life medical care. I also needed to include end notes and an index after the second and third sections of the book. In my preface, I explain to readers how to read through the schema of my narrative.

This partial list of chapter titles will give you an idea of the memoir section.

Part One – Spiritual Stories of Crossing the Threshold

Going Back * The First Year * On-Call * John and Martha * A Bullshit Barometer

Dark Nights * Secrets Lie in Shadows * A Day Away From Death

A Company Ruse Backfired * Let Them Eat Cake * The Quantum Leap

Part Two – How to Make What’s Invisible, Visible

Qualities of a Reputable Provider

How to Find a Trustworthy Provider

Behind the Window Dressing

Part Three – Helping Hospice Return to its Roots

Dying for Dollars

Weak Oversight Breeds Neglect

The US Government Sound the Alarm

Next Steps

As I was preparing to submit this beast to hybrid publishers (who do not accept every manuscript submitted), I hired Stacy Juba to do a thorough developmental edit of my second attempt to consolidate the unruly information into a unified structure. She did a fantastic job. I never could’ve gotten the professional results to publish this crucial and timely book without her expertise, experience, and talent.

hospice memoir

Buy the book on Amazon.

About the Author

Maryclaire Torinus received certification in Clinical Pastoral Education for Chaplaincy at St. Camillus Senior Living Residence. She worked as a hospice chaplain and as a hospice consumer advocate for eight years. She also worked for two years as a pastoral counselor in an acute-care wing of the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Complex. Maryclaire is a Wisconsin native and met her husband, Mark, in the fifth grade. She and Mark were married for 37 years until his passing in 2013. They have three children and three grandchildren.





How To Become A Ghostwriter – Busted Myths With The Ghostwriter JB

How To Become A Ghostwriter – Busted Myths With The Ghostwriter JB

how to become a ghostwriter

Have you ever wondered how to become a ghostwriter? My friend JB Favour, a ghostwriter and coach for aspiring ghostwriters, stopped by to explain how to become a “Ghost” and busted some common myths. Read JB’s post below.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me how they could become a ghostwriter–I’d be able to buy out my favorite Nike sneakers in every color possible. Thing is, ghostwriting has become a buzzing topic especially with the mouthwatering pay attached to it whenever it makes the news. Emphasis on the news, because not every ghostwriter gets to make headlines unless by facts you are ghostwriting for a public figure or celebrity. Now how many of us actually belong to that elite category? No shades, I’m not there either. 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, back to the million dollar question. How does one become a ghostwriter? In this quirky yet informative article, I’ll be guiding anyone who has ever wanted to become a Ghost through some common myths and busting them along the way. 

Let’s go!

Myth 1: Anyone can become a ghostwriter. 

Yes and no. 

How can anyone become a ghostwriter? I’ll answer this in simple, plain baby language. 

By waking up one morning and declaring that you wanna become one! Seriously, mindset first. You have to actually want it enough to get it. And I say this because you will need to put in some serious work and it is only if you want it bad enough that you can stick around till the end.

Next, you have to brush up your writing skills if you don’t already have one. Many writers recommend reading as one sure way to do this and I gladly agree. Books will open you up to a lot of awesome vocabulary and give you an idea of how a good book should look and sound. If you don’t have a strong command of language–abort mission. One of the key requirements of ghostwriting entails being able to express and communicate accurately in the language of your specialization. For example, if your primary writing language is French, what good will it do you to try writing in French without understanding French grammar or tenses first? Now you get me.

Fixing up your fluency in the language of your choice is my ultimate first step recommendation. Take spelling classes, grammar lessons, vocabulary classes, dust your writing and comprehension skills first.

So, nope! Anyone who doesn’t have a good command of the language they intend to write in cannot become a ghostwriter. Well, realistically they can tag themselves ghostwriters on any freelance platform of their choice as is common these days, but we all know how that pans out in the long run. 

But, if this doesn’t apply to you – congratulations, you may now proceed to; 

Myth 2: You can’t have proof of your work.

Big fat lie. Being a ghostwriter doesn’t mean you have no proof of work. Sure as Ghosts who typically sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), you cannot disclose that you are the ghostwriter for a work you do unless by sheer will the author decides to give you credit in any way. Typically by ghostwriting, you’re signing away the rights to any material or work you develop under the limitations of an NDA. So how then can a Ghost show that they truly are a writer? 

Easy peasy. We write. Tons of ghostwriters have gone on to become bestselling authors of their own book. So while you cannot claim a work you’ve ghostwritten, you can write yours. Next, you definitely need to have an online digital footprint. I’m sorry but people should be able to find out who you are with a simple Google search or you’re not serious about business.

Build a portfolio or get a simple website and leave samples of what your writing style looks like. There are so many options and if you want to start with a free one–I’d recommend Journo Portfolio. Nope, this is not an ad, it is the one I use and I’m a big fan of the analytics feature it allows users for the free version. Grab a template and edit it to your style and voila – you can start uploading samples. 

Myth 3: You must be on freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and the rest to get clients.

Who says so? No seriously, who is selling this lie? As much as this is not in any way a discredit to those who are actually getting paid their worth on these platforms, the majority of freelancers can agree with me when I say, these places house the most modern form of slavery. The constant bidding and bargaining, the bulk jobs and the fact that these platforms leave freelancers at the mercy of prospective clients who can simply wake up one morning and cancel an order. Talk about audacity–yep, you can find it all on these platforms. 

Every time a newbie Ghost approaches me, I hear one sad, frustrating story after the other. So here’s a secret for free. 

In the last two years, the least I’ve ever earned for ghostwriting a book was $2000 – $2500 for a word count of 50k words. Prices go higher depending on project size, amount of research needed and of course if I’ll be doing an interview, I’ll get paid for that too. Memoirs and autobiographies which have been my special forte for a while have different rates beginning from $3000 – $15,000 depending on the project. 

All this and never having to pitch on any of these freelancer sites. In my early days when I first started, I signed up on as many of them as possible in a bid to get one single gig. Soon enough after burning out, I quit and found a way to get myself to the kind of clients I wanted without having to engage in pitiful bargaining.

Today, I teach those who I coach how to make a career out of ghostwriting, doing it their way and breaking free from the industry’s stereotypes. Listen, there are clients who will PAY. You’ve got to believe this. 

You don’t have to offer work for free, accept poor rates, or even work with middle men or agencies just to get gigs. And you certainly don’t need freelancing platforms to earn. You can be a ghostwriter by simply being good at what you do and learning to find your type of clients the right way. 

Lastly, there are several pathways to having a successful career in ghostwriting and mainstream is often not the only stream. Carve your path and walk the walk. It can be hard, but there’s nothing consistency, effort and knowledge won’t get you.

 More About JB Favour

Meet JB Favour, a passionate ghostwriter with a talent for turning ideas into captivating stories. With over five years of experience in the industry, JB has worked with a diverse range of clients, from memoirists to business leaders, trauma/abuse survivors and inspirational icons to bring their stories to life.

As a seasoned wordsmith, she understands that everyone has a unique story to tell, and is honored to be entrusted with the task of sharing it with the world. With a keen eye for detail and a talent for capturing the essence of a person’s voice, JB has helped countless clients to connect with their audience and inspire others with their message.

But JB’s work isn’t just about writing words on a page–it’s about creating a legacy. By helping people to tell their stories, she believes that they can make a lasting impact on the world and leave a meaningful legacy for future generations.

When she is not ghostwriting, she is running her agency FAVES_PEN, which is a content, branding and marketing agency for businesses and entrepreneurs who want to grow sustainable brands. In her free time she enjoys watching movies, listening to BTS and binging on K-drama. 

Connect with JB online:

Coaching with The Ghostwriter JB

Visit her website

Follow her on LinkedIn



5 Tips On Improving Your Writing Flow

5 Tips On Improving Your Writing Flow

improve writing flow


This guest post on how to improve your writing flow was written by Asha Caldwell.   

There’s no single best way to define what writing “flow” looks like, but the Writing Center at the University of Carolina explains that writing that “flows” is a piece that can be read smoothly from beginning to end. Readers should be able to easily establish connections between ideas without stopping or having to reread. To put it simply, it’s writing that’s easy to digest and follow. To make your writing flow seamlessly, it has to be cohesive and well-written.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Tip #1: Sentence and Word Variety

Vary the types of sentences you use. You should mix up the length of the sentences to create a natural rhythm for your readers. This ensures that they are carried from one sentence to the next, enabling them to move easily through the prose. Additionally, you should also make sure that you don’t keep repeating the same words. If writing fiction, there are some words that should be used sparingly, with the most infamous ones being “look” and “said.” Check out our ‘Reduce Overused Emotion Words In Your Book’ post for tips on how to conquer crutch words.

Tip #2: Brevity

World famous author Stephen King in On Writing highlighted the need to always be looking to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases as a crucial step in writing. King relates how some of the best advice given to him was to always look to take things out during the rewrite. He emphasizes how simple writing delivers without the need to over-explain. For example, a sentence with too many descriptive words or unnecessary articles can detract readers from understanding what you want to convey.

Tip #3: Structure

The structure of an article or e-book is fundamental in terms of flow. A reader should be able to easily follow the prose as it moves from one topic to the next. If the writing lacks a cohesive through-line the reader can easily get distracted or lost. When writing an article, you should outline the key points in the introduction and continually refer back to them throughout the article.

Tip #4: Old-to-New

An old-to-new approach to writing means you don’t presume that readers are familiar with the subject matter. Instead, writing experts at the University of Arizona recommend that you consider anything already mentioned in the piece to be old and all concepts and ideas written for the first time to be new. This lets you build a solid foundation for your readers that they can easily follow. Anything you’ve already put in writing can serve as a springboard for future paragraphs and sections. Writing this way reduces the likelihood of readers needing time to pause and do additional research on the topic, which hinders them from reading the material as intended.

Tip #5: Inspiration

Writing should be inspirational, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.  Put simply, there has to be a purpose behind your writing. There has to be an end goal. For fiction writers, outline the story’s key points so you know what the ideas are leading up to. Similarly, nonfiction writers should have a thesis statement or a definite opinion on which everything hinges. This helps you streamline your piece and keep everything in a cohesive flow.

Just as everyone has their own writing style, each writer has their own way to make their writing flow. That being said, these tips are excellent starting points for finding your unique flow.


Why Journalists Make Great Novelists

Why Journalists Make Great Novelists

why journalists make great novelists

As many of you know, I was a journalist before I became a freelance editor and online course creator. Although I had published a YA book before getting into journalism, my job working for a daily newspaper inspired my first adult novel, Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, about an obit writer and aspiring reporter who becomes obsessed with solving a cold case.

That’s why when Asha Belle Caldwell approached me about a guest post on why journalists make great novelists, I loved the idea. My reporting experience definitely improved my overall fiction-writing and editing skills. I used to handwrite my first drafts until one of my editors caught me writing a School Committee meeting article in a notebook, shook his head vigorously, and said, “There’s no time for that. You have to write on the computer.” That skill quickly transferred to my novels. Journalism also taught me about the importance of hooking the reader with a lead, doing research, meeting deadlines, and much more.

Below, you can read Asha Belle’s article delving into the topic of why journalists make good novelists.   

From the outside, journalists and novelists seem like they belong at the opposite ends of the writing spectrum — one dealing with hard reality and the other with made-up worlds and scenarios. Yet the opposite is true and many of the skills journalists have learned have helped them become novelists. For example, author Sara Goudarzi outlines that her science journalism background helped her cope with the unfamiliar loneliness of writing a novel.

And she is far from being the only journalist- turned author. Some of the most popular authors that we know of today started out as journalists. Mark Twain, the icon of sharp-witted admonishment about racism and slavery, started out as a journalist. Fantasy author Neil Gaiman, whose richly imagined fantasy works have consumed pop culture, also started out as a journalist. Other remarkable novelists belonging to this roster include Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, and a score of others.

Journalists’ interaction with the real world allows them to scavenge great material for their novels. Here are a couple of reasons why.

Many journalists start with fiction

Writers are often avid readers, and fiction is often the first encounter we have with literature as children. So the most straightforward explanation for why journalists make great novelists is that many of them were already reading or writing fiction. Even renowned fiction authors like Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith have come to contribute to established publications like The Guardian and The New Yorker to provide critique on culture and current events.

Of course, there is a wide gap between the creative process for journalism and fiction. But working under the pressure of deadlines and having to practice economy of words is sure to enrich journalists’ writing style and discipline, even when applied to writing novels.

Journalists are storytellers

It’s time to break the myth — journalism is never objective. This is because all successful journalists and other formal writing professionals have one common essential communication skill: a commitment to storytelling. Even though the discipline focuses on the facts and upholds truth, at every point in the writing process, journalists will be framing the narrative in a way that gets the readers to empathize with their version of the story.

The Pulitzer Prizes annually award journalists for exceptional reporting. For example, in 2020, Ben Taub of the New Yorker won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for a deeply perturbing, and yet melodically lyrical, account of a man unjustly kidnapped and detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. His works exhibit the skillful crafting of a real-life story to illustrate the emotional depth of what would otherwise be an unheard story.

Journalists have to choose which elements to highlight and whose perspective to prioritize. In a similar manner, these skills of selecting elements and enhancing perspectives are useful in the novel-writing process when writers have to set the scene, drive their theme forward, and get the readers to feel the way they want them to.

Journalists learn about the world

Fiction does not exist in a bubble. It’s important to portray real human emotions and create imaginary settings that are believable to make your story convincing for your readers.

Journalism serves as an incredible resource for learning about the world and acquiring information that can benefit novelists. Journalists are always meeting new people and visiting new places. The late Joan Didion, for instance, wrote about California’s hippie counterculture in the 60s and 70s with unconventional novel-like qualities. She also observed and critiqued Hollywood in all its glamour and horror, and wrote about pivotal events like the Manson murders and the women’s movement.

Ultimately, journalist training offers writers the opportunities to expand their perceptions of reality in ways that can be explored further in fiction.

When it comes to the creative process, writers aren’t that much different from one another. At the heart of telling stories are sensitivity to the world and the impulse to portray it with your words. Journalists-turned-novelists prove that when it comes to the creative process, you can derive endless material from the world around you.

How To Write An Effective Query Letter And Synopsis For Your Book

How To Write An Effective Query Letter And Synopsis For Your Book

how to write an effective query letter and synopsis

My editing clients often ask me how to write an effective query letter and synopsis. Thank you to the team at for offering to write this guest post which outlines the difference between a query letter and a synopsis and shares some tips for how to write each of them. I’m sure you’ll find it informative. Remember, there is a free blurb unit inside the Shortcuts for Writers Facebook Group. Once you’re a member, you can download the toolkit, 7 Simple Steps to Nailing Your Book Blurb. Your blurb will become an important part of your query letter.

What’s The Difference Between A Query Letter And A Synopsis?

The publishing world is difficult. Your work isn’t over once you finish your manuscript. In fact, finishing your book is just the first step to populating bookshelves with your masterpiece! You’ll need to decide between traditional publishing and self-publishing, but if you want to see book stores stocked with physical copies of your book, traditional publishing is your best option.

In most cases, to pursue traditional publishing, you need to work with a literary agent, who will represent your manuscript and pitch it to publishers. Landing a literary agent can be a challenge, however. When doing research on pitching your manuscript to agents, you’ll come across terms such as “query letter” and “synopsis,” which may be unfamiliar to those new to publishing.

In this post, we’ll take you through the key differences between query letters and synopses and offer some tips on writing both.

What Is A Query Letter?

When you pitch your manuscript to a prospective literary agent, the most important element is your query letter. Your query letter is your chance to introduce yourself and your manuscript to the literary agent and explain why she should be interested in representing your book. The key purpose of a query letter is to intrigue the literary agent into requesting more info about your manuscript, and your query letter thus represents your first step in the publishing process.

Query letters are short, no longer than one page, and provide only a brief overview of your manuscript and your author bio. Since your space is extremely limited, you’ll need to make every word count. Essentially, you have only a few sentences to sell your book to a prospective literary agent.

What Is A Synopsis?

Whereas the query letter focuses on the whole picture, meaning you, the agent, and your manuscript, the synopsis is concerned with your manuscript alone. In essence, a synopsis is a one-to two-page description of the entire plot of your book, including the ending. It gives a prospective literary agent an in-depth glimpse into your plot and helps her determine whether your manuscript may be worth a full read.

Sometimes, literary agents ask prospective clients to submit a synopsis along with a query letter, but in most cases, the synopsis is the second step in the publishing process. In general, if you manage to pique a literary agent’s interest with your query letter, she’ll follow up by requesting a synopsis, and if she likes your synopsis, she’ll request your full manuscript.

How To Write A Query Letter

Typically, a query letter consists of two main parts: the hook and the pitch. In the hook, your job is to draw the agent’s attention with an interesting opening sentence that captures the essence of your manuscript. The pitch elaborates on the hook, providing an overview of your manuscript in two to three paragraphs that may include mentions of comparable books on the market. Finally, your query letter may include a brief author bio describing your experience and reputation—for example, if you have previous publications.

The main purpose of your query letter is to succinctly sell your manuscript. Condensing your 80,000-word manuscript into a few sentences can be difficult, so it’s better to start small and build up. Start by summarizing your plot in one or two sentences and build off that, adding only the most relevant and intriguing information. Take some time to consider the main themes and questions your manuscript deals with to help you best summarize your work.

Use others’ query letters to inspire you, as well. With a quick Google search, you can find thousands of query letter examples, so do some research into what kinds of query letters have successfully landed literary agents for other authors in your genre. This will give you a better idea of how best to structure your query letter for success.

Finally, always personalize your query letter. You can find out more about the agent you’re pitching to by browsing her social media or website, which will likely reveal her interests and the books she has represented previously. If it’s relevant, include this information in your query letter while explaining why you think this particular agent is a good fit for your manuscript.

How To Write A Synopsis

As with a query letter, your primary goal with your synopsis is to succinctly summarize your manuscript in a way that intrigues literary agents. A synopsis gives you more room than a query letter: Typically, a synopsis should be 500 words, or around two pages, unless the literary agent specifies another length. This affords you enough words to explain the main points of your plot and give the agent a solid overview of your story.

Think of a synopsis as an abridged version of your manuscript. It tells the same story, but all the details are cut out. It simply moves through all the key plot points. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end, just like your manuscript. A good way to build a solid synopsis is to start by condensing each chapter into one or two sentences. From that, build a comprehensive synopsis with a clear narrative arc that explains the major plot points.

Your writing style matters in your synopsis, too. Keep things clear and concise—no flowery prose or wordiness. At the same time, don’t just mechanically explain each event. Use your personal style and make the literary agent feel something. Your synopsis should be a mini version of your manuscript, not an emotionless description.

The Importance Of Feedback

Aside from helping to proofread your query letter and synopsis to eliminate typos, a trusted writing colleague, beta reader, or friend can be instrumental in providing feedback that helps you detect issues with clarity or style. A polished query letter and synopsis will maximize your chances of success, so seek out and incorporate as much feedback as you can, finding ways to improve your query letter and increase the intrigue.

If you don’t know where to start in terms of writing your query letter or synopsis, reach out to the team at As experienced industry professionals, the team knows publishing inside and out, and they work with authors to help them navigate the challenges of the publishing world and get their books out on bookshelves.

3 Ways To Get Unstuck While Writing Your Memoir

3 Ways To Get Unstuck While Writing Your Memoir

writing your memoir

If you’re seeking tips on writing your memoir, then you’ll enjoy this guest post by Danielle Perlin-Good. Danielle, a book coach, editor, and online marketing strategist, works with many authors who are writing their memoirs. In the below article, she outlines three ways to get unstuck while writing your memoir.

We all have a small, pestering voice that can lead us on a downward spiral. That voice can dictate our choices in life, how we manage our time, and how we tackle our limiting beliefs. By allowing this voice to come in and create our reality, we diminish our courage, confidence, pride, and joy. We ultimately cannot become our best selves. Realizing that this little voice exists, however, is the key to discovering how you’ll be able to start writing your first memoir.

Tackle Your Limiting Beliefs

Many aspiring authors cite that the reason for writer’s block, and the reason that one gets “stuck,” is due to fear—the fear of failing, the fear of being judged, the fear of nobody reading your work, or the fear of finding success. Ask yourself if fear is truly preventing you from reaching your goals. In order to tackle these limiting beliefs about yourself, you need to first acknowledge that you have limiting beliefs.

Next, identify your limiting beliefs. Finally, take responsibility for these limiting beliefs. Instead of saying to yourself, “I am not a good writer. I am never going to publish my book,” change the narrative and say, “I can become a better writer. I will publish my book!” When you cannot take responsibility for these thoughts, you are unconsciously telling yourself that you do not deserve to reach your goals. In order to make room to write your memoir, you must learn how to listen to the positive, encouraging voice inside of yourself. 

Read Memoirs

If you’ve gotten to the point where you can be in a positive headspace, but you’re still having trouble telling your story, I suggest reading memoirs. Here’s a short list of my personal favorites: (click the title to see it on Amazon.)

The differences between these memoirs in particular are quite staggering. You’ll notice that while some of them discuss the author’s life chronologically, none of them would be considered an autobiography. While an autobiography is able to chronicle one’s life story from birth to old age, memoir is simply a piece of one’s life wrapped up, smoothed over, and glistening to give to an eager reader. By reading more memoirs, you’ll become more familiar with the different ways in which you could write your own memoir. 

Think About Your Readership

You’re ultimately making an argument in your memoir about an event or a circumstance that took place in your life. Consider what you learned during this particular time, and show us how you made your way through. Tell us what choices you made, and how you came to decide upon those choices. Make sure that you include transcendence as well—was it one particular piece of advice, one afternoon, or the day someone handed you a baseball? What was the moment that changed the course of your life, and why should your readership care about this? Once you ask yourself these questions, you’ll have a much clearer picture as to how you can begin structuring your memoir. 

Danielle’s Bio

Growing up Jewish, Danielle was always extremely interested in familial history, ancestry, and her roots. She loves helping others share their family’s history and showcase it to the world. She firmly believes in telling stories of the past so future generations can learn from trials and tribulations. Danielle worked at a children’s publishing company as the social media coordinator for over three years, several Chicago-area newspaper companies, and has helped numerous small businesses with their digital marketing efforts. She has more than 12 years of writing experience and has a BS in News-Editorial Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In her free time, Danielle enjoys swimming, practicing yoga, being outside, and spending time with her husband and their baby boy.

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