Writing Your Synopsis

I admit it, I’m a freak.

I kind of like writing synopses.

I hate writing blurbs, but synopses don’t bother me. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s the big picture storyteller in me. Writing the story itself is nothing but detail after detail. It’s storytelling on a microscopic scale. But a synopsis is big, broad strokes! I love those.

I run a monthly writer’s group at my local library for all kinds of writers – fiction and non-fiction, plus the occasional poet or screenwriter – and they’re mostly beginners. I may not know a lot, but I can at least say I’ve been around this game for a good, long time. And if I don’t know the answer, I know someone who does. Not to mention, my Google-fu is super strong. I can research like nobody’s business.

This month, the topic was Writing a Synopsis. I decided to start there because we’re doing Query Letters next month.

First, what is this creature?

It’s a selling tool. Approach it that way. This is you taking off your word-spattered creative artist smock and putting on your most tastefully sexy business suit. Because you’re done being all “Wheeee!” It’s down to getting paid now.

You’ve written your genius query letter to your dream agent/editor, and they’ve responded with, “Sure! Send the first three chapters, plus a synopsis!”

After you’ve sacrificed the appropriate snow white goat to thank the writing gods, you go to your computer and immediately freak out. Because how are you going to fully wow the agent/editor with your brilliantly crafted tome in just … how many pages? They tend to come in two lengths. Either cram it all onto one page (eek!) or deliver a three to five page synopsis.

How do you cram 90K of awesome into 500 words?

You tell the story.

How many times have you heard everyone else say, “Show, don’t tell!”

Forget it. When it comes to the synopsis, tell, tell, tell.

Marissa Meyer, the author of the Luna Chronicles YA series, wrote a blog post a couple of years ago about writing synopses at http://www.marissameyer.com/blogtype/6-steps-for-writing-a-book-synopsis/ . I think it covers pretty much all the bases.

This is just an overview of her post, and I HIGHLY recommend clicking over and reading the entire thing.

Step 1: Skim through the manuscript, noting the important events of each chapter.

 Step 2. Embellish the beginning.

Step 3: String your short chapter summaries together, using standard synopsis formatting.*

Step 4: Read through, with a focus on plot.

Step 5. Read through, with a focus on character arc.

Step 6. Trim and edit to the appropriate length.

She uses the synopsis she wrote for CINDER as an example. I think you should read the book because it’s made of awesome, but even if you haven’t, her synopsis examples do a great job illustrating a few of the big moments – not only about the plot, but about Cinder’s character arc. But read the book anyway.

If you need a differing viewpoint, try boiling down your story to these steps from Andy Rayne. He’s not talking synopses in this post, but a synopsis is honestly just distilling your story down to its basic structure.

5 Essential Parts

http://andyrane.blogspot.com/2013/05/lets-tell-story.html

And if we’re going to talk about story structure, there’s no one better at it than Michael Hauge. If you follow his 6 Stage Plot Structure, then you can slim down your story into those Outer and Inner Journey stages.

Michael Hauge's Six Stages of Plot Structure, Updated for 2014

It’s pretty simple from there. Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be. Just tell your story, with a beginning, middle and end.

Good grief, I nearly forgot. Whatever you do, tell them how it ends! Do not tease the agent/editor with “If you want to know how it ends, you’ll have to request the full.”

Auto-bin. Do not screw with these people. Don’t be cute, be professional. Remember, you’re wearing your business suit, not a babydoll negligee.

Here’s a bit that is occasionally debated. Do you write your synopsis in your voice, or are you giving just the facts, ma’am? I’m personally a proponent of the synopsis with voice. They’re more fun to write, and, presumably, to read. As long as you’re getting all the information in there, why not make it interesting? My personal tip for writing your synopsis in your voice – as soon as you write The End, write the synopsis. You’ve already got the story in your head, so go ahead and scribble it all down. Yes, it’ll suck. That’s why the good Lord invented editing. But if you already have it down in your voice, it’ll be easier to maintain that style as you edit.

Of course, if you’re writing a police procedural, a la Dragnet, maybe “Just the facts, ma’am” is just the style you’re looking for!

Definitely have someone look over your synopsis before you send it to make sure you haven’t left anything out. Plot holes = bad. And you know your story so well that it’s hard to tell if you’ve left out something important. Someone who hasn’t read your work will wonder how Frodo hooked up with Strider if you forget to include a sentence about the Prancing Pony, yeah? (And if you didn’t get that reference, go sacrifice twelve hours of your life to Lord of the Rings, then get back to me.)

If I remember, I’ll write up my Query Letter presentation next month. But, umm, don’t hold your breath. 😉

 

*Notes on formatting your synopsis:

Single spaced, if 1 page. Double space anything longer.

1” margins all around.

Indent paragraphs, or add space between paragraphs, but not both.

3rd person, present tense. No matter what person or tense you wrote the story in, write the synopsis in 3rd present.

Capitalize the name of each major character the first time they’re introduced. (Only include major characters and important secondaries – don’t clutter up your synopsis with everyone who happens along the way.)

How I Use Pinterest In My Writing

Pinterest logo

One of my goals for this year was to study marketing very seriously, and I’ve been doing that. Along the way, I’ve found a lot of advice, some wacky, some great, so I’m picking and choosing. One of the bits I’ve found that has puzzled me was using Pinterest as a marketing tool for your writing.

Nah. I don’t see it.

I mean, I do use Pinterest. And I use it for writing, as well as personal stuff, but as marketing? Nope.

I was pretty embarrassed a while back when my Pinterest somehow got linked to my FB and everything I pinned was getting posted. And since I pin things in big batches, I must have been slamming people with post after post. I got it sorted immediately, but it did turn me off the link between pinning things and selling things. It was just…too much.

But back to how I DO use Pinterest. First, y’all know what Pinterest is, right? The way I use it, it’s sort of a scrapbook of images other people have uploaded to the site that catch my eye, or inform me, or help me visualize something. You can sort all those images into different boards, like cutting pictures out of a magazine and sticking them into different folders. And if you find someone who posts a lot of things you like, you can follow one board in particular, or you can follow all that person’s boards.

As a writer, I have the expected sorts of boards about book nerdiness and books I like.

But I also have a board for Nerd Love – all my fandom geekouts, lots of pictures of Avengers and Sherlock, and people generally talking about nerds and science stuff.

I have boards for each of the stories and series I’ve written, or am in the process of writing.

But I also have a board about Vintage Style because I have a minor obsession with 1940s glamour and fashion. That’s separate from my Façonnable board, which features pretty much any type of clothing or shoe that I find beautiful. And that’s different from my Bijoux board, which is all about jewelry.

I have a board called Writers Write, and another about the Business of Writing. I have another one that’s just Characters – people, expressions, and moments that catch my eye. I may never use any of them, but they’re interesting.

And then there’s the board about Chickens. Because…chickens.

My favorite board are the ones about Fairytales and Russian Folklore!

The point is, I use Pinterest in a variety of ways. Yes, some of them are directly related to writing. The boards for my stories are full of pictures of the people I use as models for my characters.

I’m not a very observant person. I don’t think I notice things that others do, particularly in appearance. I once wrote an entire novella and never once mentioned what the heroine looked like except, I think, she was built like a brick ****house. Yes, I had The Commodores in my head for most of that story. And yes, I had to go back and layer in description because it was needed. Ever since then, I find pictures of people who more or less resemble the character in my head, and use them for description.

My current wip that features an older H/h in my Wolves of Fenrir series. While I haven’t found quite the right picture of the heroine, it turns out that this picture of Liam Neeson was a great model for my hero. Of all the pictures I looked through of all kinds of men, this one had just the right look and feel for the character.

That picture turned into this description:

His face was nothing but broad, flat planes, except for his nose, long and hawkish. It was a nose with great character, she thought. It had been broken once or twice, and not set properly because there was a distinct bump in the middle, and it canted a bit to the left.

The nano-armor he wore left little to the imagination, and she let her gaze wander down a chin that looked like it had had a few fingers broken on it, over the strong column of his neck, to a set of broad shoulders. He wasn’t bulky, but there wasn’t a soldier on this ship who wasn’t in fighting trim. And despite his age, this man looked as though he could still take out a squad of warriors half his age.

I also find places or pictures that speak to me about a moment. This quote, for instance, is perfect for that same story.

Isn’t that perfect for an older heroine?

Now, there are issues with using Pinterest. For instance, I don’t have any kind of permission to share the above image, but meme’d Tumblr posts in that format are typically designed for sharing, not to mention that it’s got at least some attribution. A lot of pins don’t even have that much, and it can be impossible to ever find out the original source.

I would have shared a photo of Liam Neeson, but it’s not mine to share. The link takes you to my pin, which comes from IMDB.

Pinterest and copyright law can make for a total quagmire of legal problems, and those can come back to bite you hard on the ass you if you choose to share copyrighted images on your website or FB of what-have-you. I know authors who eschew* Pinterest entirely because it’s not worth the potential legal hassle. I keep my Pinterest pictures on Pinterest, and almost never share pins anywhere else. (Obviously, I just used one here, so “almost never.”)

Overall, I find Pinterest extremely useful for me as a writer for finding inspiration and information. Plus, AWESOME procrastination tool because…chickens!

*I never get to use the word ‘eschew.’ Yay for obscure word opportunities!

Where did January go?!?

 :

I don’t understand. How can it be the last week of January, and I’m ALREADY behind?!?

That might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I’m taking a workshop from the wondrous Zoe York about building a series, and one of her most recent assignments was to plan out release dates for the each book. And I looked around at what I already had planned for the year, added in some padding for how really, terribly slow I am, and figured that I could have two, maybe three of five books completely written and edited by March 2017, and then release one every 3 months after that. But to do that, I have to be very, very far ahead of the game.

So I’m not behind yet, but I just took a week off to do nothing but read. It was awesome. I read some amazing books, and some that I couldn’t finish at all, but that’s how it goes. Here are some of the best of the crop:

Edge of Obsession | Megan Crane:

Edge of Obsession by Megan Crane: Post-apocalyptic, quasi-Viking society with an edge of motorcycle club roughness that hit all the right notes. I’ll be first in line when the next one comes out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl From Above by Pippa Dacosta: This is more sci-fi urban fantasy than sci-fi romance, although there’s a definite romance thread to it. I love the grittiness of the characters, and the conflicts that run through the plot. Just waiting on the 4th book to finish out the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shifter Planet by D.B. Reynolds: This was an action-adventure romance that held a lot of appeal for me. The hero and heroine work well together, which I’ve discovered is a big thing for me. I like books where the main characters can demonstrate that they’re a good team, instead of a constant pushing away and refusal to cooperate. (Ok, I like those, too, sometimes.) But if these two characters *didn’t* cooperate, they’d die, so there’s a lot riding on them working with each other’s strengths.

Welcome Home, Ziggy Stardust

I could begin this post one of two ways.

I can hang my head in shame at what a terrible, inconsistent blogger I am, and promise to mend my ways (again).

Or I can say, “I blogged! That’s a thing I accomplished today! And if I’m very organized and thoughtful, and put it in my planner (which I have), I’ll blog again in a couple of weeks!”

I like the second one. Let’s go with that. 🙂

First, yesterday we found out that David Bowie has passed. There are a lot of wonderful tributes out there, but I find I like these two the best:

If you're ever sadDavid Bowie FreakSo…Goodbye to my Starman, my Goblin King, my Hero.

Now, one of the things I particularly appreciated about the clipping of Bowie being a freak is that I, personally, have a hard time being photographed. It’s just not something I enjoy because I am hyper-critical of my appearance. I know. Shocker, right?

But I’m working on it. Elizabeth Donald told me I HAD to have an author photo to go with my interview on the LITERARY UNDERWORLD site, which you should totally go read because it’s fun and I hint at what projects I have on deck for this year.

So last week, I went out with Jessica Barnard to a local university library, where they have a beautiful collection of Louis H Sullivan’s architectural doo-dads, and got my pitcher took.

This is me. Untouched. No fixing up, no tweaking. Now, I’ll probably have some of that done to just polish up the rough edges. You know, make it all official looking. But this is just … me.

Gate_1

Happy 2016!

I’m in audio!

I had some excitement today. 🙂

Some time ago, I decided to put my super-short story, THE SLEEPER DREAMED, in audio – just as an experiment. I found a terrific narrator, Ellie Davis, and we worked on the story until it was right where we wanted it.

Today, it finally showed up on Amazon!

I’m totally geeked that I have an audiobook now! Go check it out!

Amazon

SleeperCDCover

A MOST WANTED WOLF is finally out!

A spy and a werewolf walk into a firefight… Whose ass do they kick?

MostWantedWolfebook

Andrew Wyatt thinks all he has to do is bring a scientist back into the fold. He doesn’t count on a sizzling hot alien wolf shifter getting in his way, and getting under his skin.

The last thing Ule tärEinar needs is a tall blond spy interfering with her life. She may not trust Andrew, but that doesn’t stop the sparks from flying around them.

The trust is hard won, and they’ll need each other to survive an invasion that could draw their two allied cultures into a war neither can afford.

Kindle http://amzn.to/1GJIt7J

Kindle UK http://amzn.to/1MttyB8

Nook http://bit.ly/1P5nFJ9

Kobo http://bit.ly/1Xz9fnJ

iBooks http://apple.co/1kSlC00

As always, I’m very grateful for any reviews you’d like to post on Amazon, or on Goodreads!

Cover for A MOST WANTED WOLF!

The story that was in the VIKINGS UNTAMED box set is going out into the world on its own as of next Tue, Oct 27.

Here’s a sneak preview of the cover!

MostWantedWolfebook

A spy and a werewolf walk into a firefight…

Andrew Wyatt thinks all he has to do is bring a scientist back into the fold. He doesn’t count on a sizzling hot alien wolf shifter getting in his way, and getting under his skin.

The last thing Ule tärEinar needs is a tall blond spy interfering with her life. She may not trust Andrew, but that doesn’t stop the sparks from flying around them.

The trust is hard won, and they’ll need each other to survive an invasion that could draw their two allied cultures into a war neither can afford.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS! Oct 27, 2015!!

My first Con!

I’m fortunate to live near the location for ARCHON, a small yearly fan-con not too far from St Louis. Last year, I popped in for the first time, just to look around. A couple of friends from a local writer’s group are part of an author co-op that does a table there. They travel to lots of different cons and sell books. And now that I have actual books in print, I thought it was time for me to start participating.

2015-10-01 18.03.26

 

If you’re going to be part of an author co-op, you need to show up to things, right? So for the first time, I went to a fan-con. And I wore a costume. Kind of. I call it “Steampunk Lite.”

Archon Day 1The trouble with wearing black boots, leggings and skirt is that…it’s all black so you can’t tell what’s what. But trust me, it was cute. 🙂 That’s my first corset, too. Very fun to wear.

Anyway, I had an absolute blast, saw lots of great costumes, met lots of neat people and loads of other authors, and generally had fun. I’m totally going back next year, too.

 

Catching up: VIKINGS UNTAMED!

So I’m really far behind in posting what’s been going on.

If y’all remember A WOLF TO WATCH OVER ME (and honestly, how could you forget?), that was supposed to be a stand-alone short. I originally wrote it for the LOVE IS… anthology, then released it on its own.

Well, in July – actually, on the day it released – I got a message from Zoe York, asking if I wanted to be in a Vikings box set with her, Kate Pearce, Anne Marsh, Crystal Jordan, Dayna Hart and Holley Trent.

Umm, yes! Because the answer when someone asks you to write something is ALWAYS yes! But they wanted the story to be in a world that already had a story. WOLF already had some Viking overtones – they’re the Fenrir, there’s a definite Norse thread throughout the character development, and they’re a warrior culture. So I wrote a second Fenrir story.

A MOST WANTED VIKING is set in the same world, and the characters from the first story play a strong secondary role. A MOST WANTED VIKING is a much sexier novella, where the first story is short and sweet.

Not that you need a reason to read more of these terrific authors, but here’s a quick blurb for A MOST WANTED VIKING.

A spy and a werewolf walk into a firefight…

Andrew Wyatt thinks all he has to do is bring a scientist back into the fold. He doesn’t count on a sizzling hot alien wolf shifter getting in his way, and getting under his skin.

The last thing Ule tärEinar needs is a tall blond spy interfering with her life. She may not trust Andrew, but that doesn’t stop the sparks from flying around them.

Once they learn to trust, they’ll need each other to survive an invasion that could draw their two allied cultures into a war neither can afford.

AnneMarsh_VikingsUntamed_Bundle1400REVISED

 

Available at Amazon | BN | iBooks | Kobo

And I’ve just started writing the 3rd Fenrir story that will tentatively come out next spring!

I’m #1!!

This is so cool!!! I’ve never had a story top a list before, so I’m happy dancing in my chair right now!

Wanna see?

Screen Shot 08-24-15 at 07.24 PM

 

See? Right up top! It’s my super short little magical realism fairy tale, THE SLEEPER DREAMED!

Raven made me another fabulous cover for it, so I’m giving her major kudos for helping it get noticed. Isn’t it pretty?

Better yet? It’s FREE!!! (I know, I’m leaning on my exclamation mark button. Sue me. I’m excited.) Let me scribble down all the links for y’all.

Amazon: http://ow.ly/RhLjq
BN: http://ow.ly/RhKZN
Kobo: http://ow.ly/RhLEH
iBooks: http://ow.ly/RhLYp

Yay!!!

I think I’ll go dance down the hall chanting “I’m #1! I’m #1!”