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Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Synopsisizing

I know that’s not a word. But, I have to share an accomplishment and a new dread. Creativity - copyright 123rf profile Veeranat Suwangulrut

First, the accomplishment: The never ending novel is edited! I decided to take some time and just work my little buttocks off and finish it up and I did! It actually wasn’t quite as much work as I was anticipating. So… bully for me! Yay!

Second, the dread: I have to write a synopsis. Everywhere I turn says this is a tough prospect. It actually wouldn’t be all that hard – heck, I’d be done already – if there were more clear-cut rules on writing a synopsis. Apparently, there are two schools of thought on this subject:

A. Write a synopsis that is cliff-hangery and exciting and shows off your mad writing skillz (with a z.)

B. Write a synopsis that is a dry list of all the major plot points and character arcs.

Honestly, I can do “B” because I already have that. It’s what I’ve been working off of as I write. I’m not a big drafter, so that’s pretty much all I lay out before I write a book. But, come on. Boooooring to read. Like super boring. Mega boring. don’t even want to read that again.

So, here I am, trying to take a super dry list of what happens in my book and shove it into two pages, while keeping it interesting and indicative of my writing style. Wait, did you hear screaming in despair? No… that didn’t come from me… did it?

Just kidding folks. It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s just a new skill that I have yet to master. Like my exercise instructor says, it’s a new challenge. So far, I have found these links the most useful:

The Editors Blog

MarissaMeyer.com

I’m still trying to find some good examples of completed synopses. There are a lot out there or movies and TV shows, but it appears that they are a bit harder to find when it comes to books. Does anyone have advice here? I’m sure I just haven’t searched deeply enough, but I’m being lazy. Any advice or ideas are welcome.

Okay, back to the salt mines with me! Cheerio, friends and writers!

02/02/15 Update: I asked for some advice from the good folks at Ditch Diggers and the hosts, Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace gave great advice and the guests Kameron Hurley and Chuck Wendig also gave some fantastic advice. This is NOT a clean podcast, but I really appreciated the tips and info they shared. Here’s the link.  (They synopsis tips start at around 1 hr 10 mins – right around when Chuck Wendig says “The synopsis is always a cruel lie.”)

Thinking about YA

The novel I’ve been working on for the past year is a young adult novel. The main character is a teenager and she goes to school, lives with her parents, etc, etc.

I have always shied away from writing for young adults. Not because I am so ancient I don’t remember what it was like to be a teenager (although I will be 30 this year. Oh the humanity!!) I have shied away from this topic because I had a pretty unique upbringing so I don’t really know a lot of stuff I should know. For example, my school didn’t have grades, so I have no clue how old someone in 9th grade is. I always have to ask my husband about the differences between a sophomore, senior, and a junior. My high school also consisted of about 30-40 other kids… total. We had no bells or homeroom. The biggest thing I remember about high school was that I was constantly worried that someone would discover how deeply uncool I am. Fortunately, I think that’s a feeling shared by most teenagers.

Anyway, I realized at some point that I didn’t have to have the same personal school experiences as the rest of the world. In fact, I don’t really want to talk about school in my books – so I mostly don’t. My confidence in this has grown as I’ve been reading more and more YA. Here are a few of the books I’ve read over the past year to get myself in the YA groove:

YA-In the Shadow of Blackbirds

 In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters is what I read most recently. It’s about a girl finding her place in a dark and dismal world during the Spanish flu and World War I. I definitely recommend this one to YA readers and writers. The main character is resourceful, lovable, and realistic. The setting is incredibly grim and the book is set in a time we don’t often read about. The book was so well-written that I learned quite a bit from reading it. I think the main takeaway was that I need to keep focused on how my book is constructed – not only on the story.

YA-in-a-handful-of-dust

Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis are both great novels about a post-apocalyptic lack of water. Both books were great and I felt like they looked at a unique and even possible apocalypse that very few authors approach. Again, the setting was very grim – which I clearly like – and the characters were well written and realistic. The biggest thing I learned from these books was to keep my setting and supporting characters realistic. Even though that’s pretty obvious, it’s actually a lot harder than it sounds.

YA-selection cvr

The Selection by Kiera Cass is totally what I would have read when I was a young teenager. There’s some post-apocalyptic stuff, but it’s mostly bubble-gum romance and chick lit. Sometimes a girl needs a break, and I felt this book was a fun break from my usually more dour picks. I think what I learned most from this book is that I need to remember to try and bring a little bit of romance into my story. Even if it’s not at all the main purpose of the story.

ya-Perks

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is more of an American classic. I’m actually ashamed that I’d never read it before. It was one of my husband’s favorite books in high school and now I’ve read it twice and seen the movie and it’s one of my faves too. I think what I learned from reading this is that complicated characters are the best characters.

YA-Hollowland

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking is a zombie book. Yes, it is. And I love zombie stories. Deal with it. I think what I learned from this story is that there are leaps of faith a reader will be willing to take – and there are leaps that they simply won’t be willing to take. Like I was totally chill with accepting the zombies and the Mad Max-esque, end of the world people. But I really wasn’t able to believe in a couple of the coincidences that happened.

YA-Confessions of

Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson is about a girl who’s highly logical mind gets her in trouble after her parents are murdered. I liked this because it gets you deeper and deeper into a crazy world, but I kind of messed up and started on book 2 before book 1, so I knew too much about what was going to happen. That mistake did teach me something though: if I end up with a series, I need to make sure I don’t give so much away in the second book that the first book becomes an academic read.

YA-Asylum

Asylum by Madeleine Roux wasn’t really what I expected. However, it was a fun read. I liked that there was a mystery that kept getting bigger the more the main character dug. That helped me think about suspense in a new and interesting way.

I read a few other books that I honestly found pretty flawed, so I’m not going to get into them here. I know how much work goes into writing a book and I don’t want to make any author feel they did an imperfect job telling their story. The fact is that no matter how many tools we learn and how much we learn from reading the work of others, your story is your story and nothing will change that.

A Little Interlude

I discovered this today on The Drabblecast and I feel it needs to be shared with the world.

Enjoy

Also, the episode I found it on was pretty awesome. I love James Patrick Kelly and I discovered him on Audible, so I was pleased as punch to hear two of his marvelous stories on one of my favorite podcasts. If you haven’t read his book “Think Like a Dinosaur: and Other Stories,” you need to change that about yourself.

G’night!

Return to Writing

Happy New Year and all that jazz! Last year was pretty great, this year will hopefully be even better.Dahli Clock

I’m back to working on my novel. I thought I was done editing it, I really did. I read the whole thing aloud and changed words around, added sentences, deleted and rewrote paragraphs. But the ending was unsatisfying to me. It felt like a short story ending. I also felt like it was the end of that particular story, so I let it go.

Since then I have sent the story out to a few agents. I got a couple of form rejections and one really great letter that humbled and instructed me. The agent said that my novel didn’t “grab” her. Since I was able to send her actual pages of the book instead of just a letter with a short blurb about the book, this hit home for me. I re-looked at the beginning, which I had done some last minute editing on before I sent it to her. I had also submitted this beginning to an agent contest earlier last year-which I did not win. So, even though only a couple of people rejected the story, those people are two professionals that I would really like to work with.

So here I am, back to pounding away at the story with a hammer and chisel. I feel like I have the beginning set up better. I think it’s one that will grab and entice readers. While doing this complete re-write of the beginning of my novel, I realized I needed to edit the whole book.

Again.

I’m going to have to up the story tension and… this is what really freaks me out… I’m going to have to change the ending.

This all means I’ll need to do another read-through when I’m done with the story edits. This is what I hate, hate, hate about editing. I wish I could just barf my story onto a page and have it be all bright, shiny and perfect. I wish someone would just swoop it up and publish it. I wish I was a child prodigy with billionaire parents too… so… yeah.

One great thing that has come out of all of this is that I’ve never had the patience to go through and keep editing in spite of set backs. I have two other novels that went nowhere in the editing process. So, maybe I’m learning some great lessons here. Maybe it’s only taken me ten years or so to learn how to finish a writing project.

Speaking of endings, I’m not sure how to end this post. So, here’s Jack Kerouac:

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

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