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Submit Prologue or not?
Heather Pemberton
Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 9:39 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 6

At a conference last year, agents said never to send a Prologue in a submissions. But my prologue is an important foundation for the plot. Yes, readers can start with Chapter one, but they'll be missing out on a nice set up. So, I turned the Prologue into Ch One. But since it's in third person and quite different than the protagonist's 1st person voice, I may not be getting reads because the agent can't get a sense of what the book is really like. So, I've turned it back into a Prologue and now wonder: should I just submit Ch 1 to agents and then send the Prologue if they request pages? Both are posted if you care to review... thanks!
Heather Pemberton
Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 2:30 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 6

After writing this thread and posting my first few chapters, i realized I'm asking a question I know the answer to. I put the Prologue later in the book as past history and used Chapter One to cut right to action.

I'd love any feedback out there!
Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011 11:10 PM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 157

If an agent or publisher is requesting a partial submission, usually three chapters or 50 pages, they generally want to see chapters 1, 2 and 3. Submitting anything else can cause them to wonder why a writer doesn't consider the first three chapters strong enough to grab a reader.

Also, with Kindle offering a first chapter download for books there is more of a focus on wanting the strongest first chapter a book can offer since that is what a reader will make a purchase choice from. Of course if an agent or editor requests a full submission, you send everything.

Just something to consider - I know an acquisitions editor who handles lots of fantasy, SF and related work. Writers can submit without an agent, so she sees work before it's gone through the careful hands of the agent. One of her top ten reasons for rejecting a work is "It had a prologue." Oh, she doesn't reject for a prologue alone, but she finds that works with a prologue are more likely to have other problems. Something to think about.

Elizabeth OConnor
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 4:49 PM
Joined: 5/11/2011
Posts: 22

I am also having the same problem. I have not sent out any queries yet, but I had originally intended on sending out my prologue with any chapter that they requested. The prologue is independent of the novel, but gives key insights into my protagonists motivations. The basic plot of the book is given in the prologue.

I have recently posted my prologue and first chapter, and would love any feedback on how the prologue reads - or if I should just use my first chapter to query.

My book is The Dorian Stone which I have classified under Urban/Fantasy.
Joe Selby
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 5:03 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30

From popular and respected industry blogs like Kristin Nelson and Nathan Bransford, they both say generally the same thing. Send them the manuscript form the beginning. If you begin with a prologue, that's where you begin. (This is why also the often ask for the first 30 pages and not the first three chapters, as that may not be the same thing.)

To follow that thread further, is the prologue actually necessary? Or is it an opportunity for the author to preface the story with setting information or backstory. Usually it's the latter and this isn't a strong way to begin your novel. Movies do this a lot, I notice, and perhaps that muddies the water, but starting with an info dump, whether it's in a prologue or chapter one, is not the way to capture your reader's attention.
Elizabeth OConnor
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 5:19 PM
Joined: 5/11/2011
Posts: 22

That is the problem I have. The prologue is an action packed moment, with bits of insight, but no real information on what or who the character is. I felt it is intriiguing and gripping, but then again, we all think that of our own work, don't we?

Would you mind reading it and letting me know what you think?
Heather Pemberton
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 11:00 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 6

Good points and I like to hear that some agents are open to receiving a Prologue. Many thrillers and suspense novels tend to start with Prologues and the most effective ones seem to be action packed. It's true, you have to grab the reader in that first chapter, whether Ch 1 or a Prologue, so simple backstory won't cut it.

I thought my now Ch 4 was a great way to start the story but while it drives the villain's story line and is a big thread in the plot, it doesn't take you to the heart of the protagonist's dilemma. I wrote a new Ch 1 that hopefully sets up what's at stake for the protagonist and is more action packed.

I'll take a look at Elizabeth's chapters - this is a helpful discussion!

Trailer Bride
Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 2:26 AM
Joined: 5/8/2011
Posts: 31

You have to have faith in yourself. If the perceived wisdom makes you think harder about your book, then good. If thinking hard helps you find a way to improve your book, then better. But don't change it just because a guideline says you should.
T R Garris
Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:46 PM
Joined: 4/3/2011
Posts: 2

I think my short little beginning blip is wrongly titled as a prologue it should be better titled as a prelude. It is only 440 words and starts a year before the actual story. It does not however need to be sent off to an agent for them to understand chapters 1-3.
I find it odd that so many agents use this as a nix factor rather than reading the work and choosing whether they like or not.
Many authors that I love have prologues and preludes. David Eddings is a perfect example of this.
Can you imagine a world without him? I can't! but we all in the end have to choose what we will do to our books in order to get them published.
Julie Butcher
Posted: Friday, May 20, 2011 2:34 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 1

IMHO, David Eddings is a big name and can do as he likes. Until they're multi-published authors, writers should toe the line. Most agents don't like prologues. Life would be easier if everyone knew our back stories.

Sometimes writing the prologue is necessary for the writer to understand their own story. This doesn't mean it is necessary for the reader.
Toni Wyatt
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 11:13 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 53

I've gone both ways. On one project, I had a prologue. I liked it. But, like you said, Heather, I realized that it could be absorbed throughout the story to make the story more interesting and flow better, so I chopped it. On another project, I found the prologue was useful and helped the reader connect to what the storyline would be in a clearer manner. I've kept it. I've found that if I pick up books randomly off the shelves at the bookstore, a lot of them have prologues. One recent example would be 'Water For Elephants.' Nora Roberts also put prologues in some of her first books. When all is said and done, it is about the story. If it adds something necessary, who cares what the words above it are..whether they are 'prologue' or 'chapter' isn't really going to matter. What is going to matter is whether the material is best used in that manner.
Ravenna Gray
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 7:18 PM
Joined: 5/21/2011
Posts: 9

Timely discussion for me, as I JUST posted the prologue to my novel, Lost Spirits, on here, and had a lot of internal debate as to whether I should change it to Chapter One or not. In the end, I left it as is, because it's an action sequence and starts off the story with a bang, which most editors/agents ask for, but wouldn't work as a first chapter because it doesn't really introduce the character fully. I think prologues are fine, personally, but I know exactly what agents are bitching about: sometimes, a prologue is an indication of bad writing, in that the author doesn't know how to start a novel without resorting to a stylistic trope. Maybe that's what I've done as well. I guess I'll have to wait for the reviews to find out! :>
Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2011 8:03 PM
Joined: 3/29/2011
Posts: 44

I've read in Writer's Digest Magazine and in the Guide of Literary Agents, that they don't prefer prologues, whereas epilogues are okay. It doesn't matter on what genre. I had to change one prologue of my novel from prologue to chapter one, without changing a thing, though it was flashback. Prologues are debatable. It's up to you, if you want to do a prologue or not. I do have one for one other eco-thriller though. For my new Julno mss I'm planning to write, they'll be a prologue there.
Heather Pemberton
Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 1:21 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 6

Interesting that the latest reviewer of my book, HIDDEN BELOW, suggested I call my new Ch 1 a Prologue or remove it and make Chapter 4 a Prologue. That's what I started with originally as the Prologue! Maybe it's meant to be....

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 6:23 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 11

I think it's important to note that not all prologues take place in the past or are info dumps. Many prologues are actually flash forwards---snippets of a scene that occurs much later in the book. It can be an interesting taste of what's to come and can pique a reader's interest. Any prologue can be called "chapter 1" but in the case of a flash-forward prologue that would make it seem like the book is all in flashback rather than seeming like it is a glimpse of what's going to happen. The bottom line is, if it entices the reader, it's working, if it doesn't, it's not. Agents are just like any other readers, they want to be drawn into the story, they want to be curious too know what's going to happen next. If the prologue accomplishes that, send it.

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