Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Writing a Synopsis...The Dreaded Task



Writing a Synopsis for Your Novel

After enjoying fireworks and champagne in celebration of writing and revising your novel, the party is cut short when you realize you have to write a synopsis. Whether you’re submitting to an agent or editor, there’s no way around needing a synopsis. Along with the first three chapters, a synopsis is probably the most required item when shopping and sending your work. Being the creative type that you are, chances are good that you rank writing a synopsis up there with paying income tax and having a root canal. But have no fear. With the recent completion of my latest WIP, I went straight to the task of writing the blasted tool, skipping the fireworks and champagne all together. Here’s what I learned:


1.       You need a finished product. No need to dive into writing a summary until your draft is polished and has had several read-thrus. When you’re feeling solid and comfortable with where your manuscript is at, then you’re ready for the synopsis.

2.       Your finished manuscript makes it EASY. Yes, I went there with capital letters. With your WIP upgraded to a DMS (Done Manuscript), sit down with a notepad and skim through each chapter, jotting down the major highlights. Put down everything that jumps out to you as important.

3.       Longer is better. No size jokes, please. Once you have your list of highlights, put them together like a recipe and allow 1-2 sentences per highlight. At first, you may find that you have a 10 page outline. Cool. Keep it, because some agents / editors ask for a long synopsis, so you’ll be ready.

4.       “Trim”. Here’s the hard part. Other agents may ask for a brief synopsis (3-4 pages), and some will want a 1-page synopsis. Shave that long version down until you have both.


It took me several days to accomplish this, and I only say that so you can expect to take longer if needed. There’s no rush, because the important thing is capturing the essence of your story. Once you’ve tackled and completed this process yourself, you’ll agree with me that writing a synopsis is no longer the equivalent of battling the Kraken (sans Medusa’s head). Good luck!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Avoiding Quicksand


Meme shared from Weird Hollywood (FB), originally created by John Mulaney


Wasn’t that the truth? If you recall much of anything from 1970s / 1980s TV, how often did quicksand threaten our favorite characters? Somebody was sinking at least once a week. Although I can’t say what most endangers today’s characters (since I don’t watch much episodic TV), this image made me think of writing. Back in the day, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ when ‘the Butler did it’. I’m not how those phrases originated and became cliché, but any writer sticking to old-time devices, such as opening with the weather, a wedding, or a funeral, should beware! Agents and/or edits might toss that manuscript into the Reject pile, publishing’s version of quicksand. Other no-no’s include an overuse of adjectives and adverbs, too much description (when it’s not vital to moving the plot/characters forward), and subplots that don’t contribute to the character arc or main plot. At a recent monthly meeting, we SiCCOs also learned storylines to currently avoid are sex trafficking and drug lords/mob wars. Some might argue that the vampire, whether sparkling or simply blood sucking, has had his day, along with chick-lit tales. That’s not to say you should burn your story if it involves anything mentioned above. All you have to do is strong-arm your manuscript, Steve Austin-style pretty please, out of that quicksand and give it new life. Sure, you might have to hose it down after, give it a day or two to let the trauma subside, but clean that baby up and go for it!

#amwriting #amediting #writinggoals #writerlife

Monday, April 27, 2015

Writing...For the Pain, For the Pleasure

I know plenty of people who struggle with writing. As writers, we've all been there, whining, "The words won't come," "I don't know what happens next," "I hate this story," to even "I can't make myself do it."

Some of these notions stump me. If you're the one in charge, creating your own story, in a setting of your choosing, with characters you've brought to life, then how can you be miserable? Despite what anyone tells you, writing is work. Hours of sitting at the computer, alone, 'talking to yourself''. Who does that? Only those crazy enough to stick with imaginary people and make stuff happen to them for 300 pages.

On the flip side, I know there are plenty of authors who LOVE everything about their story. It's their darling.

I was feelin' the love with my writing this past week. Although I only had time for two writing sessions and my word count isn't brag worthy, I wrote several scenes with passion. Those are the sessions I live for, when it's all smooth and flowing. But if it isn't, then it's our job as master and commander to fix it and make it so. If we're having trouble writing the story, then who wants to read that?

Of course, we struggle through certain points in our work, and we're thankful for editing, but writing shouldn't be a torture task. If it is, you need a good chat with your writing pals to find the source of the problem and eradicate it. Find your writing pleasure!

Word Count on the WIP: 25, 728

Monday, April 20, 2015

That Evil Comparison Game

I suspect many writers do this: compare ourselves, our style, our pace to other writers', and of course, we always compare ourselves to someone who writes 'better and faster'. Yes, yes, yes, I'm guilty of this. I have a friend who writes 4 to 5 books a year, and every time I see one of her updates that reads along the lines of, "Whew, just wrote 9k words today," I feel frustrated with myself, mad that I'm not at that level of production, or cranking out similar results.

But why?

Wasn't it Dr. Seuss who advised: "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken" ? And such wise words, since none of us are called to be 'like' anyone else. Doesn't this also ring true for how we work our talents? Just because some writers can and do finish multiple novels in a year doesn't mean that I'm any less talented. Heck, it has nothing to do with me!

We can only do what we can do. For some of us, that means accomplishing a NaNo draft, then taking 6-ish months to clean and polish it. For others, it means writing a page a day, a book a year. I have another friend who just finished his second novel...that took him 5 years.

So this week's quote is especially satisfying. I didn't managed 7k or 9k new words this week, but I did get ideas to paper. Yay me! and whatever you've accomplished this week, 100 words to 10k words, I'm cheering you on!

Word Count on the WIP: 23,014

Monday, April 13, 2015

Be a Writer

How true is this? When I mention to new acquaintances that I'm a writer / published author, I sometimes get, "Oh, I've always wanted to write a book," or "I've been thinking about doing that, too." Because as we all know, sitting down and writing a book (and then another...) is just that easy. All the characters, dynamics, plot points, and syntax just magically fall into place. Effortlessly.

On the other hand, there are self-defeating writers who want to write and claim to have a story, but their self doubts get the best of them. I feel for these people, because I've been there. The secret to this dilemma is really no secret; it's a truth: you just push through, write anyway.

Last week wasn't much of a writing success for me. I expected it to a degree, but was still disappointed.

What can I do? Hope and aim for better this week.

Happy Writing, My Friends!

WIP Word Count: 21, 360

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Warrior Writer

'How are you feeling about your writing this week?'
(via The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards)

The self-defeating attitude can be a fierce warrior, just as a mild confidence can lull us into complacency. Each day is a battle between the two extremes for writers, right? Sometimes we peck away at our keyboards, flying high and so proud we’ve carved out writing time for the day, only to glance at our words and think, “This is garbage! No one will ever read or buy this!” The secret to winning the war is not to give up. Anyone can quit, let those nagging doubts prevails. But that’s not us. Let’s stand firm and cling to our goals. Plus, why not encourage other writers you know? How, you may ask. Simple. Check in with your writer pals, see how the WIP is going. Spend some time brainstorming with other writers, or talking about the latest trends in marketing. Only writers can understand and relate to other writers. Publishing is a strange game where the rules and design are ever-changing. So the fact of the matter is, whether we’re having a ‘genius’ day or ‘fraud’ moment, we need each other. The world of publishing makes no promises when it comes to fame and success, but that should never keep us from being devoted to our craft and telling the best story we can.
Word Count on the WIP: 20, 878 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing Progress...An Enemy?

Ever felt this way? Like you have the story, the whole picture inside your head, but you can't regurgitate it fast enough?

Well, that's doesn't sound right.

What I mean is, sometimes you know the whole story but it takes longer to express and buld that world than you thought, or at least longer than you'd like. I know people who can write a book in 6 weeks. That's not me. (Maybe one day? Eh, maybe not.) From the start, I think I know I'm a 4-draft writer. At least.

When you're painting those pictures, directing that movie on paper, there's a big transition from your head to a reader's hands--and getting it all right, so the reader's experience and emotions are just what you aimed for.

I had a chunk of time I devoted to my WIP this week, and while I made progress, it wasn't as much as I wanted. It's not enough! Why can't I write faster? is what I kept yelling at myself. For some, me included, such thoughts can work against you. Discourage you, make you quit.

But I--WE--must not stop writing.

I know the first draft is garbage, but I can work with a draft; I can't work with an unfleshed idea or an empty page.

So as I take a deep breath and launch into this week (already worried that upcoming commitments will deplete writing time), I'm making the decision to be happy with Progress. Any Progress.

And I'm going to keep telling the story.

Here's an article (a little dated but still good) on writing and making progress.

Have a great week of writing, Friends!

WIP Word Count: 18,420