Toolbox 21: Synopsis The Hell Out of It

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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I’ve read several different methods on writing a synopsis.

Some suggest reading through the project, taking notes chapter-by-chapter, and going from there. This can work but I’ve always landed up with several pages.

Then I’m struggling all over again.

Others suggest only using plot points. This certainly shortens the summary, the number of characters included and cuts away sub plots.

I do a campfire story—my kind of outline—and tell the story as if I’ve got a captured audience. It comes out as third person present tense and I get the extra bonus of finding where the tension lags and plot holes hide.

It’s all done before the heavy lifting, my method may not be what an agent or editor wants and the why is covered farther down.

A Synopsis is a brief summary of the completed project and can range from one page to ten.

It should include the time and place, the goal, the obstacle, the main character’s motivations, plot twists and the ending. Don’t forget to show the main character’s arc.

That’s quite a bit, no need cluttering it up with the supporting cast (and their problems) or the subplots unless it takes direct action upon the outcome. Even then, keep it basic.

Read the agents/publisher guidelines for guidance. Some want the style of your project reflected (like my outline); therefore, it becomes a mini-version of the story with the same feel, word choices and emotional impact.

Others prefer a summarized report of what happens. Why and how the story is resolved. Clean, direct and sometimes dry. This one is more about the events than about writing style.

It’s a good idea to write one of each. There will be enough to worry about without adding unnecessary stress when submitting. Be kind to yourself.

Remember that a synopsis is not a book blurb (and you might as well write one of them as well). But the blurb is another beast, it is designed to prompt your reader once the cover has caught their eye.

Addition: If you use The Query Shark method, then the blurb is your query letter. Here’s the link for more on that.

To stay on track while summarizing, many write a logline. A single sentence description of the work. This is good too and could be punched up for later—twitter pitches, etc.

Formats demands vary so always check the submission guidelines. If none are available, it is safe to use what is suggested below.

One page or less general format: Single spaced with line space between paragraphs. Otherwise same as below.

Two pages or more general format: Third Person. Present tense. Double spaced. Align left. All margins 1.25 inches. Indent 0.5 inches. No spaces between paragraphs. Times New Roman, black, 12-point font. Use all caps for the first appearance of major characters. Header should include: left side only, author’s last name, title (or key words) synopsis, and page number if there is more than one.

Brenda Drake also says to include a hook as the first paragraph. Answer the question: What makes your story unique? She suggests finding and including that special something that sets a story apart from the rest. If you don’t use this in your synopsis, consider including it within the query letter.

Just a thought.

Do you have any tips that may help? I’m all ears.

Gleaned from:

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IWSG 61: Lost and Confused


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This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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Co-Hosts:

Diane Burton | Kim Lajevardi | Sylvia Ney | Sarah Foster | Jennifer Hawes | Madeline Mora-Summonte

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

I read everything, but have spent most of my writing life trying to figure out what genre I prefer to write in. Everyone that knows me knows I love mysteries. I read them and dabble in them. Sometimes it goes pretty well.

The IWSG question got me thinking about what I’ve been doing.

So far, I’ve jumped from sci-fi, fantasy—even tried magical realism—and mixing up my POV from first-person to third-person omniscient.

I hope I’m not sharing too much, but I have a huge fear of success, and change.

I thought I was rolling with it, but here’s the thing. A while back I started writing a magical realism and had a hard time pinning it down, so I returned to my middle grade. I’ve been working on it for years.

It looked good and I firmed up its middle. Left it to rest and it still needs a read through. Started a fantasy-mystery that with a non-magical detective. It’s fully outlined and I’ve written three chapters.

First chapter went really, really well.

But when put chapter two before my critters at the Grand Forks Writers Guild, it was not so good. The group is always supportive and kind. Chapter two fell flat. The emotion wasn’t there and I was left with trying to figure out how to find it.

I did in chapter one. I know it’s possible.

I feel like someone lost in a labyrinth. There’s a way out, but I just seem to go deeper.

Is the answer more knowledge? Is it facing my fear? I don’t know, but I’m back at reading how-to writing manuals to put the emotion into a scene and yeah—topping it off—I’m using omnipotent POV. Because I need a challenge or because failure is where I want to live.

I know one thing for sure: I’m lost and confused.

Anyone gone through this. What did you do?

 

Toolbox 20: Say, what?

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Does anyone else have trouble finding/sharing/maintaining a narrative voice?

It’s supposed to be familiar. Similar to our speaking voice.

Easily recognized by tone, phrasing, and specific word choices.

Some might recognize our voice by the abundance of profanity—think Margo in The Magicians—or lack of it. Professor McGonagall, I’m talking about you. We may get louder the closer to heart we are, or in some cases quieter.

We might color our language with our own kind of slang. I’m thinking TV’s Buffy and Firefly. Joss Whedon was a master. Some people still use the term ‘Scooby Gang’.

Unless they’re doing a Lemony Snicket, the writer shares as much about their likes and dislikes as the characters. Examples: Love of Scooby Doo, or the colorful addition of human or fairy anatomy.

Whether we mean to or not, our voices can add our assumptions and prejudices. Personal perceptions can be in every descriptor. Pet peeves or favorite outlooks influence our themes. Not intentionally but naturally. The words flow from our fingers like magic because we see the world uniquely and we feel the inner need to share what we believe in.

We feel. We color. We decorate our work.

And it is glorious!

Don’t edit it out. It may bring on feelings of insecurity, a need to pull back, or worry about going too far. It’s natural because if the voice is too close to home, we feel vulnerable.

With our voice out there for everyone to read, it could be criticized. Takes bravery to put our work out there as it is.

It’s hard to stick to our decision when we seek out feedback.

But should their opinions or our inner editor squash the nuance of voice? What would Joss say to that?

“What! No Scooby Gang.”

We may choose not to be the next Joss, or Lemony. Many authors use a more neutral voice. That’s fine too. Whatever works.

You want to use your own voice? Then give yourself the freedom to say it how you see it.

Any other voices out there? How about books on the subject? Feel free to share.

Gleaned from:

IWSG 60: Sticks + Stones


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This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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Co-Hosts:

Lee Lowery | Juneta Key | Yvonne Ventresca | T. Powell Coltrin

“Sticks and stones break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

From: The Christian Recorder of March 1862 (according to wiki)

OPTIONAL Question:

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I hate to admit this but I’ve never been perfect.

*snort* I KNOW! Shocker.

Sometimes I made others angry. Some of their words left scars. Deep scars I carried with me for years. Logically, the source was angry, and I knew it. I understood it. But I also believed what they said. Their words were vicious and cruel. I still think they meant them.

I’d get sad. It haunted me. Time doesn’t heal everything. Sometimes it makes it worse. I’d hear those words over and over again.

It took time, but I learned from this.

To prevent harm:

I understand feeling anger and being cruel are two different things. When I’m angry—still not perfect—I watch my mouth.

I found a solution (for me at any rate).

And to protect myself:

I remember that I’m the one that gives those words power over me. To take the power away, I must not believe them. Sure, everyone has a right to an opinion.

It doesn’t mean it’s true—period. Or that everyone agrees with them. Or that I should accept their opinion as a fact.

I refuse. I’m in control.

With that simple opinion—my opinion which is just as valid as theirs—I take the power of hurtful, thoughtless words and make them disappear.

Behind our good manners and overall respect for others, we don’t know what we do. We all have history. Nics and cuts from long ago. So does everyone else.

One small comment. A teasing joke meant as acceptance. A thought said aloud, normally harmless, can cut to the core. We can’t prevent it. We’re not psychics.

Know this. Feel this.

Be honest if you can and gentle if you can’t.

That said, each reader has a choice to suspend disbelief and dive into a story. I hope each time they do, they have a hell of a ride.

Words are power.

Please add your thoughts on how words work for you. 😉

Toolbox 19: Building Scenes

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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When I started writing, it was about escape. I’d leave my daily troubles behind me and visit a far off land with some far out characters. I never considered conflict or tension or any other writing convention.

I felt it was time for me to review building a basic scene. Many of you won’t need a refresher, but I did find some golden nuggets that might help any one of us.

…scenes strung together like beads on a wire, with narrative summary adding texture and color between.”

quote from Writer’s Digest.

A function of a Scene is to:

  • move the story forward
  • show cause and effect
  • reveal dilemmas and consequences
  • ensure the story is easy to follow

its Building material:

Paragraphs must not be ignored. Each starts with a topic sentence and is followed with sentences that add details, imagery, impact and emotion.

Each paragraph builds a scene block by block to its crescendo.

One Method of Writing a Scene:

1. Imagine the scene and let it play out. Do this several times increasing the tension between the players. Do not write a word until satisfied with the outcome. Make quick notes to capture the important points.

Look for the emotion driving the scene.

2. Using your emotion: Even if you’ve never experienced what is happening in the scene you’re building, there must be something somewhere that prompted a similar emotional reaction. Use it. Fill the pages not with your personal experience, but with the equivalent emotion that filled to you to bursting. This is not a time to hold back.

An example: Everyone has lost someone in some way. In your scene there is a sense of loss. Pull from the moment you discovered your loved one rejected you/died/moved away. Imagine the moment building. Feel the feelings. Let those feelings drizzle out in the scene in front of you.

3. Beginnings: As we do with sentences, changing length and style changes the pacing’s rhythm, some start organically. Many start at medias res, however, it is recommended to occasionally change-up the starting point.

Late starting points create urgency. Early starting point can create a slow burn. And jumping to a beat before the end can shock, surprise or incorporate the rule of cool.

4. Balance of action, narrative and dialogue. The balance of these elements engages the reader. However, balance is used loosely here. It may not be an exact split.

For example: A shouting match between two characters will lose its sense of urgency if its broken up with equal parts of description and narration.

*Inner thoughts—my Achilles heel—falls under this section. A personal reminder to me that unlike many authors that naturally include this, I must pepper my scenes with inner dialogue.

5. Pacing: short sentences for faster pace and urgency; longer ones for a more relaxed and slow burn. Whichever you choose keep it tight—no confusion, meandering, or overdoing it.

There is a perfect pace for each scene.

6. Endings: They can include disaster, a terrible/astonishing discovery, an unexpected chain reaction, unanswered questions or a straightforward solution. However, one player’s logical solution can easily become another’s horrific problem. Often endings take one step forward and two steps back.

This may leave an obscure future–with or without clear repercussions. The anticipated fallout encourages the reader to predict what may happen next. To find out if they are right, they  must turn the page.

All Scenes Should Have:

  • A clear goal (for each player)
  • Obstacles
  • Threat of disaster
  • Outcome that urges the reader forward

Some scenes are weak. I suggest taking a hard look at whether any scene should be deleted, or chopped up and interspersed elsewhere.

It must be revised/removed if it doesn’t:

  • Have conflict
  • Built tension
  • Have direction
  • Move the story forward
  • Contain an emotional impact
  • Show believable motivations
  • Change the overall situation

how to strengthen a Weak scene

Answering these questions may help:

  • What is the overall purpose of the scene?
  • How can the scene impact the narrative (subtle or not)?
  • What players need to be included or excluded to create tension?
  • Can changing setting (for example: marriage proposal moved from restaurant to seaside cliff) increase tension?
  • What twists can the scene produce?

Anything you’d like to add? All comments are welcome.

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