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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.”)

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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.

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.”

One Sentence Book Reviews

I’ve been doing a lot of editing, which isn’t conducive to my usual posts about writing… except to say that I really dislike editing.  It makes me question myself, my intention with my story, and whether or not I’m beating all the life out of it. Capn-with-Hunted-5

That said, I really love reading/listening to other books to help my own writing and just for the joy of it.  I have an Audible subscription and a Kindle, so I end up reading a lot. On top of that I’ve been working on query letters for my book Hunting Annabelle. Part of that process is trying to squish my book down into a really short description – which is something I’m not great at.  I thought I’d do some quick, one-line reviews of the best books I’ve read/listened to in the last few months to give me a little perspective.  Here’s the result (note that these aren’t a summary of the book or anything, just what I have to say to recommend them):

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson: A haunting horror story that has a slow build and a spookily unsatisfactory ending.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote: Masterfully written story about the love/hate reality of friendship – will make you cry.

Closure, Limited and other Zombie Tales by Max Brooks: If you loved World War Z (the book – not the movie), you will love this book.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King: Ever wondered what happened to the kid from The Shining?  Ever wondered what would happen if Joe Hill’s worlds and Stephen King’s mad skillz came together? This is that book.

(Sorry – that was longer than one sentence.)

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest: A Rebel girl travels through the Civil War to Seattle – with steampunk and zombies.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs: The true (and SUPER messed-up) story of one man’s attempt to get/stay sober in New York City.

I am not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells: John Cleaver is a young sociopath trying to get along in the world, but as murders follow his every step he begins to wonder if he’s really a psychopathic serial killer.

Ironskin by Tina Connolly: Basically Jayne Eyre with magic, faeries, and plastic surgery that corrodes one’s very soul.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: A kid finds himself in a strange world with no memory, trying to get along with other kids and a noticeable lack of adults.

Rip Off! by a variety of authors: A bunch of short stories which start with the first line of different of classic tales. My fave was the noir version of Moby Dick.

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty: A New Yorker looking for a job in the tooth and claw publishing industry finds herself in the underworld of zombies, vampires, demons, sprites, and other so-called “coterie” living in NYC.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber: (SPOILERS) An alien modified to look like a human picks off hitchhikers for a menacing corporation which sells human meat to upper class aliens as a delicacy.  CREEPY AS HELL.

Wool by Hugh Howey: A well-written FREE series about a group of people living in a silo. As time passes the confined world becomes more and more mysterious – to the reader and to the characters.

The End is Nigh edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey: An amazing collection of stories which all run on the same theme: what is the world like right before an apocalypse?

So… how did I do?  If you’ve read any of the above, give me your take.  Just try to keep it between one and three sentences.

 

Summertime Editing

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been busy.  So, I finished the edits on my book – Hunting Annabelle.  I can’t remember if I’ve said the name of my book before.  Anyway, I have the book to beta readers and am making a list of agents/editors I think would be a good match.  Now I just have to figure out how to write a good query letter that will do my book justice.

Have you noticed how hard it is to reduce the work of over a year into a paragraph or two?  It’s pretty tough.  I want to give the feel of the book without saying too many words.  Kinda hard.  But I understand the need.  If I was an agent or editor, I would hate receiving a million submissions of full manuscripts or just the first couple of chapters with no info on where the story goes from there.

Anywho, I also moved.  So, now the husb, the pup and I all live in a house that we love.  It has amazing door chimes which the pup can set off just by barking.  Pretty impressive.

He only looks innocent

He only looks innocent

During my move I found my old journals from age 8 or 9 to around 15.  There’s some of my old poetry and Fear Street fan fic in there.  Yes.  That happened.  Good ol’ R.L. Stine.

Should be renamed crack cocaine for kids.  I LOVED the Fear Street saga.  And wrote sooooooo much fan fic.  So much.  God help me.

Should be renamed crack cocaine for kids. I LOVED the Fear Street saga. And wrote sooooooo much bad fan fic. So much.

I recently got involved with a critique group, which I’m really enjoying.  It’s three other ladies who write in a variety of genres.  I get such great diversity from them, which translates to excellent suggestions and help with my manuscript.

One thing I have learned through this process is that I don’t love criticism.  But, if I swallow whatever retort I have on the tip of my tongue and give it a couple of days, usually there’s something in the comments that is super helpful.  I know the criticism is given from a good place – there’s no nastiness or anything.  It’s just me, wanting to be perfect the first time around.

That’s all of my rambling for now.  Look forward to more soon!

Random comment:

Okay, when I was looking for pics of the Fear Street Saga, I remembered a story from my childhood that involves R.L. Stine’s other series: Goosebumps.  Here’s the deal: My family went on vacation out by Yosemite National Park. There’s a ton of waterfalls and little wading pools out there that have huge signs that say something like: “Last year a 143 people drowned here. DON’T GO INTO THE WATERFALL IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE!!!!”

Long story short, I touched the water, decided it was too cold, and laid out in the sun, reading a book called A Night in Terror Tower.  I was engrossed when suddenly I heard shouting.  I looked up to find that my big brother had fallen into the deadly waterfall.  All I could think was that my brother was going to die and I was already completely terrified because of the book.  I couldn’t dredge up more adrenaline and fear for my dear not-yet departed bro.

Luckily, my brother was fished out of the pool above the waterfall in time.  He got hugged and scolded and fawned over.  I went back to my book.  That’s the kind of callous b***h I was.  I think he was kind of relieved that I didn’t freak out over his safe return to the world above water.  He was irritated by the attention at the time anyway.

So, here’s the book that grabbed me so completely I had trouble feeling empathy for my brother’s plight.

It looks so cheesy I'm afraid to reread it. I think it'd make me feel even more guilty...

It looks so cheesy I’m afraid to reread it. I think it’d make me feel even more guilty…

Writing Quotes I Love

One of my clients likes me to find great quotes all over the web and send them to them for use.  I found a ton of great ones for NaNoWriMo, and I found a ton that I can’t send her.  So, here are some of my favorites.  They range from inspirational to crude to silly:

“Talking is a hydrant in the yard and writing is a faucet upstairs in the house. Opening the first takes the pressure off the second.” – Robert Frost

“I’d have stopped writing years ago if it were for the money.” – Paulo Coelho

“I’m writing an unauthorized autobiography.” – Steven Wright

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” ― Stephen King

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”   – Douglas Adams

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ― Mark Twain

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

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” ― E.L. Doctorow

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” ― Neil Gaiman

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” — Philip Roth

“All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction.” — Steve Almond

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.” — Peter Handke

If you want to check out more quotes, I found these ones here, here, here.

I hope you’re all having a great November!  I’m going to be off a little while, working on a project with my mom and then back to editing my book.  Random posts will resume… randomly.

 

 

Done

I did it!  I’m at 50,410 words – and at the end of my book.  I have a feeling that as I edit I will be adding more description to parts of the story, so that count might go down, but at this moment we can stick a fork in it, this book is done.

I’m pretty pooped, but very pleased that I have come to the end of my story.  It’s meant to be a series, so I did leave a couple of things open.  Also, there’s a few parts that need fixing.  But, I’m excited to have my first draft done!

So, I’m on to other, more work-related things.   I leave you with this quote:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  – Maya Angelou

Bleeding on the Page

I really like this quote from Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  Typewriter

I feel like this is appropriate today to two reasons.  One is my character is going through some tough times physically – in fact that’s the one thing you can count on in this novel, she gets more and more damaged as the book goes on, and as an anorexic cokehead, she wasn’t in great shape to begin with.

The other reason is that I’m having a really hard time writing.  This always happens toward the end of a book.  In fact, I’ve written three novels before this one, and only one of those novels has an ending.  I’m serious.  This fourth has an ending in the outline, but now that I’m there, I feel like I will never reach the end – and I feel that the end will be too soon and I’ll have to extend the story.  Way to be contrary, Julia.

Anyway, word count wise I’m doing better than yesterday, though not quite on target. I wrote 1,550 words today (admittedly about 200 of that was from yesterday), so I’m at 46,030.  This means I have 4,621 words to go this week if I want to make my weekly minimum.  With the words harder and harder to get out, this is a little tough.  But, I’ll make it.  I’m really enjoying this story, in spite of my doubts, my need to bleed all over the damn page to get some words out, and my weird writing schedule.

I leave you with a genuinely funny quote:

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.” – Robert A. Heinlein

 

Word Countage

I was going to get straight to work this morning, but my day is a little up in the air, so I thought I’d try to write first since I got up a half an hour early.  I got 629 words written in that time, so I went up to 44,480 words.  I will be doing more writing later on today, but I’m glad I got a little head start.

This means I’m at 1.665 words so far for the week.  By the end of the week I need to be at least up to 6,800, which means I have 5,135 to go.

Wish me luck!  I shall leave you with another writing quote:

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” – Steven Wright

Happy Belated NaNoWriMo

It’s National Novel Writing Month and I, predictably, have been notably absent from my fiction writing corner.  I swear, this happens every year.  Either I’m a very contradictory person or someone really screwed up making NaNoWriMo in November.  Either way, I’m here now, writing, and that’s all that counts.

Since I basically didn’t post AT ALL last week (shame on me!), I will tell you that I did not do all that well, but I did do some writing.  I ended the week at 42,815 words.  This means that, yes, all I wrote last week was 2,749 words.  Not horrendous, but not great.

The idea now, in order to get this book into some semblance of a correct word count, I need to do about 1,400 words a day (just on the week days).  I am trying to do more at the beginning of the month, though, because my husband’s bday and Thanksgiving are at the end of the month, plus my bday is at the beginning of December, and I don’t want this book dragging on till then.  If it does, you’ll find me in a corner somewhere in Portland, OR, sobbing.  Hopefully I’ll be at home or in Powell’s.

So, my word count for today is 43,851.  That’s 1,036 words done today.  It’s not a great start, but I haven’t been writing on the book since the beginning of last week, so it took me a little bit to immerse myself back into the story.

As an aside, last week one of my very dear friends came up to visit.  She is actually the reason I moved up to Portland – after which she moved back to my hometown, Los Angeles.  We had a great time catching up and I got a chance to

This is part of the Shanghai Tunnel system.

This is part of the Shanghai Tunnel system.

see some of Portland that I normally don’t take the time to see.  One such place with the Shanghai Tunnels.  We went on a haunted night tour – even though Halloween is over.  It was pretty impressive.  There used to be an entire underground substructure to Portland, with opium dens, prostitution, and – most notably – kidnapping and human trafficking.  Portland has a tragic history on this subject, and there is still human trafficking today, but back in the day there were men who would find vagrants, lumberjacks, cowboys, sailors, and others “just passing through” and kidnap them.  Then they would sell these men to a sea captain and the man would wake up on a ship – out at sea.  Women were also kidnapped and sold to other cities as prostitutes.  It was an extremely spooky and horrific tour which made no joke out of the intense human suffering that occurred down in those tunnels.  I really found it fascinating.

That’s all from me today!  I will be more consistent now that my friend has flown away.

I leave you with a writing quote:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain

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