Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Now write it short-like

(X-posted from the Tri Mu blog.)

Okay, so lets say you have a 100k word story full of snappy dialogue, compelling characters, and action scenes that keep the reader on the edge of her seat (or maybe you just worked out the idea and need to write a proposal.) Now, distill it into a two page synopsis. Oh, but while you are pulling out your hair trying to turn 100,000 words into a mere 500, remember to make sure your voice still comes through. Oh, and show the full progression of the plot. And make sure the reader gets a feel for your character. And your motivations should be clear. And watch out for leaps of logic. And...


If you can't tell, I'm not a big fan of writing synopses. I bang my head on the keyboard, a lot, and once the delete key is permanently imprinted into my forehead, I still have more words/lines/ideas to tighten so that I can create a snapshot long version of my plot. Recently, I have been surrounded by synopses. I wrote one three weeks ago for my 'pet project', last week the Tri Mu worked with NLBerger to get her query packet (including a synopsis) ready, and this week I have to finish up my proposal for the second book in my Haven series. Over the course of these, I worked out a 'paint by number' type of approach to writing a synopsis. It's probably not the best method for writing one, but it preserves some sanity. If you are interested, below is the 'recipe': (**note, this is just one idea for how to write a synopsis, and probably will not work for everyone.**)

Pre-synopsis writing: (yes, all good recipes include prep work.)

-Write one to two sentences that encompass the main idea of the book.
This is basically a micro blurb. So, for Once Bitten, these sentences would be something like: "Kita Nekai, a runaway shapeshifter and the smallest of her kind, is accused of creating a murderous rogue. She has two nights to hunt this rogue and prove her innocence, or her life, and the lives of her friends, will be forfeit." Not great, and it leaves a lot out, but it captures the major plot. Let's keep moving.

-Write a sentence that connects the reader with the main character and tells the reader where your character is in the beginning of the book.
If you are writing a story with two main characters, like a romance, you will have two of these lines. You should be looking for what makes your character unique as well as what will push him/her into the story. "Kita Nekai, a shapeshifter with the unfortunate second form of a kitten while the rest of her clan shifts into lions and tigers, has fled her world to blend in among humans."

-Next summarize the conclusion of the main plot in one or two sentences
Okay, I'm obviously not going to give you the conclusion of any of my stories, but lets use, uh, Dracula: "Van Helsing's group tracks the count back to his castle and kills him. As Dracula turns to ash, the spell on Mina is broken and she and Johnathan go on to live happily every after." These sentences are not meant to be epic, just to wrap up the main plot.

-Next write five sentences. Each should mark a major point in the main plot.
You might think of these sentences as the inciting incident, the first turning point, the mid point, final turning point, and the black moment/climax. If you're not sure what those terms mean, or what those points are, you can also just pick out the five most important scenes. (They will probably end up being the same.)Try to limit these sentences to the main plot and keep them simple. The goal is to capture the plot progression. Going with my Dracula example above, some sample sentences might be "Johnathan Hawker realizes he is prisoner in Dracula's castle" or "Dracula creates a flesh and blood bond with Mina." Keep it simple. Also, as you go along, see if all of these sentences relate back to your micro blurb you created first.

Okay, so now you have all that pre-work written but you still don't have a synopsis. Time to put it all together.

Writing the synopsis
Character is who/what the reader latches onto, so copy that line you used to introduce her and make that the first line of the synopsis. Now, it might not be the snazziest line, but we can fix it later.
So, we have a character, next use a line or two to kick off the story. Don't get into a lot of detail, just a sentence or two. Once done, you probably just crossed the first plot point sentence. Look at the second plot you listed, and write two to three sentences to get to that point. Once there, expand that plot point sentence a little, but don't go overboard, you shouldn't use more than three sentences. Once you are done with that plot point, move to the next in the same way. Once you reach the black moment/climax, spend several sentences expanding on that and then move on to the conclusion. You should now have a very rough synopsis of about two pages.

Now go back through and look for leaps in logic. You will probably have a couple extra characters you need to explain and some small things here and there between the steps. Try to do each of these in only a sentence or two. So far you've only focused on the main plot, but at this point, if you have room, you can gently weave in subplots. Once the synopsis reads logically, begin your micro edit. Focus on using active verbs, varying your sentences, and all those other good writing tips you use in your novel writing.

That's it. You now have synopsis and hopefully at least most of your hair. ^_^ Good luck! I am now off to take my own advice and finish the HB2 synopsis.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In retrospect

If you watch my twitter feed or are a facebook/myspace friend, you probably noticed that yesterday was my birthday and that I have now marked the end (and new beginning) of another year.

This past year was a busy one. A lot of new and exciting things happened in my writing career and in my personal life. One of the biggest highlights is, of course, the release of Once Bitten, but many other events have occurred which will likely affect the coming year. Not everything from the past year has been great, there are lots of aspects of myself and my life I hope to change, but overall, it was a good year.

I took a vacation day yesterday, and spent most of the daylight hours contemplating the year, and relaxing and reading (I am notoriously grouchy on my birthday, so a maximum amount of alone time actually is best.) Then I celebrated with family, laughing and doing the singing/presents/cake thing. It was a good time. Somehow I managed to end up with three cakes in total. So, today I happily spread those calories around to my coworkers. (Birthday cheer for everyone!)

What do you do on your birthday?

Friday, February 20, 2009

In the paper!

You might remember me mentioning the fact I was interviewed by my local small town paper last week. Well, the article came out yesterday and I made the front page!

I know the images I'm posting are far too small to read, but I'm linking them to PDF files if you are interested in reading the full article. The paper's name got cut out of the scan (and yes, the first page is crooked--I fail at scanning) but the paper is The Country Chronicle which is part of Camden Media Co. LLC

In other news, if you've been following my twitter feed, you know that I've been reading over the first draft of the second book in my Haven series, which I wrote at least two years ago. The good news: it is obvious that I have grown a lot as a writer over the last few years. The bad news: there is very little salvageable material in the draft, so I have a lot of work to do. I need to re-outline the book (to tighten up some aspects of the main plot as well as cut a subplot that was axed from the first book and weave in trails of one that was added,) and write a synopsis. Then it will be time to pull out my word count meter and start pumping out pages, so watch for that in the next week or so.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Body Language

Today I went to a rather dull training session for a new program I'll be using on the job some day in the unknown future. Most of the other attendees appeared to be as enthused about the two hour session as I was, and after the third technical error, I realized this was a good time to do a little discreet people watching.

So what do people do when they're bored? Here is what I observed:
-twist jewelry
-rub nose, lips, facial hair
-twist in chair/roll shoulders
-spin pen, tapping the eraser on the table at every rotation
-chew/twist hair
-pick teeth (ewww!)
-tap fingers to thumb
-pick at clothing seams

Nothing too extraordinary or out of the ordinary in this bunch of bored mannerisms, but it is always a good idea to keep a running list of possible non-verbal communication cues. After all, characters are made of many small things.

What body language have you observed recently?

*updated to fix grammar.

Monday, February 16, 2009

On my bookshelf

I blogged on my shopping trip last Friday, but I wasn't very explicit on what I actually purchased. I picked up a couple books that were right up my alley on topics I love, such as The Secret Common Wealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies (which I already own a copy of, but this one had sketches and a couple other 'perks' my copy doesn't include.) What I'm really excited about though, are the history books I purchased.

Okay, first of all, I have to say that History was never my favorite subject in school. It's not that I abhorred history, it just didn't particularly interest me unless it was presented within the context of say, mythology, religion, or art. I'm not great at dates and names, so while I have a general understanding of the major events which occurred in the past, I'm rather clueless on the specifics. And, well, that has always been okay.

This apathy, I realized the other day, might present an issue in the coming months as the second novel in my Haven series centers heavily around the vampires in Kita's world. Most of these vampires have been around, some of them a very long time, so by default these vamps are not only familiar with history, but lived through a portion of it. I could probably swing one or two characters not knowing or caring about what occurred in the decades or centuries they lived through, but I'm thinking the reader might feel slightly cheated if every character walked through their lives without a clue what occurred in 'the real world.'

With that in mind, I picked up several 'time-line' type books. Hopefully by utilizing these books and establishing where my vampires were in the past, I can discover what was happening during that time period. Such a basic glimpse at history won't take me far, but if I find particularly interesting wars or rulers, I can do more focused research.

While I was browsing these books, a friend (who is also a bookseller) turned me on to another book called A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking true Stories of History's Wickedest. Weirdest. Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors. It is a fun, if not terribly educational, read. If nothing else, my vamps might have some good (really old) gossip. Who knows. Research is a funny thing which I believe should be all but invisible in a story. (As some of you might remember me saying before in this post)

Are you a fan of history? What was your favorite time period? Favorite rulers? Wars?

Happy Monday everyone. New week ahead of us (but only four more days until the weekend . . . )

Friday, February 13, 2009

Out and about, and the Dangers of the Bookstore

Happy Friday the 13th (as one of the grad students just pointed out to me.) It would probably be more traditional to write about superstition or gloom and doom today, but I'm not going to. For one thing, as mentioned previously, thirteen is my favorite number. For another, I've had a fabulous day thus far.

I took the morning off work because I had an interview with a small local paper about Once Bitten. I was really nervous, but the interview went great. I actually had a lot of fun talking about the book and about writing. The article will be out next Thursday, and I can hardly wait.

After the interview, I was giddy and feeling rather fearless, so I did what I'd been meaning to do for weeks. I went to the local Barnes and Noble to arrange a signing. I was told the manager wasn't in yet but should be shortly, so I could wait for her.

Now, waiting in a bookstore means I browse, and when browsing, I almost always find novels I 'need'. That said, I doubled my TBR pile during January. While I can read a book in a day, doing so leaves very little time for sleeping (not a good thing when I have to get up for work the next morning.) It also leaves less time in the day for writing. As I've become more serious in my writing efforts, my reading habits have slowed down. I think I read only five or six books during January. Unfortunately this hasn't altered my drive to acquire new books.

Thinking I would force myself to behave, (or at least if I found something, it would be inexpensive) I hit the bargain section. After all, most of the novels in the bargain section are older, and I either already own them, or they haven't yet made themselves tempting enough to need. I should be safe, right?


I forgot the bargain section was full of reference books. A random assortment of topics called to me as I innocently browsed the stacks. They had books on Myths (which along with folklore is my weakness and my favorite "non-fiction" to read.) There were books on weapons, wars, kings, and pirates. Books on ghosts, on cryptology, on conspiracies, and on ancient societies.

Thirty minutes later I found myself talking to the manager with an arm-full of books stacked on the table behind me. I gave her my information and we will hopefully get the details worked out for a signing in late March. Until then, I have my same massive novel TBR pile, but now I have a brand new reference TBR pile too. This should last me awhile (and even if it doesn't, I don't think the hubbie is going to let me enter a bookstore alone for some time to come.)

What's in your To Be Read pile?

Friday, February 06, 2009

25 Random Things

Okay, I know I'm the last person on the internet to do this list, but people keep tagging me so here it is: 25 Random things about me.

1. My favorite foods are all breakfast foods--yet I scarf down non-breakfast food on my way to work everyday (mostly because I'm always running late.)

2. I can never settle on a favorite book, but if you ask me I'll probably give you a somewhat random list. (Yes, this list will change every time I'm asked.)

3. Ninety-eight percent of the time I don't like TV and consider it a waste.

4. I prefer to read books cover to cover in one sitting.

5. At least twenty plants have accumulated in my office and I have miraculously managed not to kill them despite my very un-green thumb.

6. I always wanted to play the part of Christine Deea on Broadway. Unfortunately, I can't sing.

7. I believe Tazo Passion tea is the nectar of gods.

8. Dragons are the best animal ever.

9. I started writing my first novel at age 12. It was totally a Tolkien knock off.

10. I finished my first novel at age 23. After eleven years, it took me only three months to write the first draft.

11. My first novel (yes that one I wrote at 23) is now published.

12. I once changed the gender of a character in the middle of a book--I kept writing through this change and didn't go back and fix the first half until I was done with the draft.

13. My favorite number is 13.

14. I hate when the spine of a book gets bent.

15. I can't help but laugh at how bad laffy taffy jokes are.

16. My favorite color is blue.

17. My bookshelves at home are organized by genre then by author. The bookshelves are the only organized thing in my house.

18. The concept of making a bed strikes me as ridiculous. After all, the first thing you do when you crawl in a bed is kick out the corners. (Or, at least that's what I do)

19. My extremities are always cold.

20. I have too many hobbies.

21. My critique partners suggested I name my laptop. It is now "The Write Machine" (for some reason, this did not please them. ^_^)

22. I still consider myself a total geek despite the fact I no longer participate in the majority of the geek hobbies I once loved.

23. I read Dr. Seuss books aloud to my dog.

24. My brother recently got me into hoop dancing (see number #20.)

25. I've never learned to take a compliment (or accept gifts.) Friends have finally forced me out of the habit of arguing against a compliment, so now I tend to blink stupidly at the person telling me they like my writing/my paintings/my shirt...whatever... and change the subject. I'm working on it. Really.

That's twenty-five. Now you all know some really random stuff.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Once Bitten #8 on Dark Fantasy List!

I found out extremely exciting news today. Over at FictionWise, the ebook version of Once Bitten has hit a best seller list! OB is currently listed as #8 on the Dark Fantasy List and #3 on the entire sites top rated list. (Can you see the smile on my face from where you are?)

To celebrate, my publisher released a new version of the Once Bitten book trailer detailing this information as well as including some quotes from reviews. Enjoy!

Also, the second print run is now complete, and Once Bitten is listed as back in stock at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Thanks everyone, and have a good night!