Saturday, January 08, 2022

The Dreaded Synopsis

When writing my erotic romances, I don't start with a synopsis, I just write. Mostly I start at the beginning, work through the middle, and find the Happily Ever After. Why? Because if I write the synopsis, I'm no longer interested in writing the story. I know what happens and the sense of discovery is gone.

With The Companion my approach was slightly different. I'd started it several times and couldn't find it's opening scene. Out of desperation, I wrote a single-spaced, two-page synopsis to give the story some shape. I then knew where to begin and to be honest, after writing that synopsis? I never looked at it again. While I knew my ending, the events that take place to get there came out of that wonderful sense of creative discovery as I wrote. The novel also ended up being much longer than expected, as I realized taking the short way I'd written in the synopsis didn't allow for any character development.

But The Companion is finished and now looking for a publisher. When I received an email from an editor stating what he's looking for in his next book to acquire, I realized I have his perfect novel. I just have to convince him of it. He wants a 2-3 page synopsis and I'm thinking, "Hey! I have that!"

So I pull out that long-ago written treatment--and discover what I wrote then and what I ended up with are very different. I need a new synopsis.

Three days later, I'm still trying to write it.

I'm coming close, but wow. I gave up my first attempt after I got to six pages and still was only on Kiera's story. Checked the editor's email again and realize he's included a link to an article he'd written on what a good synopsis should contain. For an epic fantasy, he said in the article, one should expect a longer synopsis -- up to 20 pages! Yay!

I open a new document and start breaking the story down the way it's actually written. Each book of the larger work contains three to five chapters, so I can't stick with the usual formula of summarizing each chapter into a paragraph and still remain in my page limit. So I summarize each book and get it to fifteen pages. I'm good.

Then I re-read the email and he really does seem to be expecting two to three pages. A MUCH shorter synopsis.


By this time, I've been writing a full eight hours and my fingers are tired. I put it away for the night and start again the next morning on a new, shorter, synopsis.

And I manage to tell the entire story in three and a half pages. There's no emotional content, it's just a "she did this and then he did that and then they did this other darn thing" sort of telling and it's dry as a bone and totally lifeless. Augh!

By now I have drafted my husband into reading through these pieces and comparing them to the request in the email and getting his feedback. He teaches Public Speaking at the college level and approaches the query letter (which I've also been trying to write) with the same approach he takes to the opening of a speech. He tells me I haven't grabbed my audience yet and I start rewriting that as well.

If you're keeping count, by the end of Day Two, I now have several discarded drafts of a short synopsis, one long one that still needs work, and a query letter that *almost* works.

Day Three dawns and it's time to take down Christmas decorations. I do laundry, take ornaments off the tree, take my brother to a doctor's appointment -- pretty much anything other than face the work I still need to do. But its in the back of my head the entire time, nagging away at me. I finally go up to my study, open the crappy, "this is what they do" synopsis and add in the emotional arc. I move from three pages to six and realize, this is just the way it has to be.

Why? Because I'm really telling not one, but TWO stories here. Martin and Kiera's stories are intertwined and told in parallel throughout the epic. I have it to three pages of synopsis for EACH story. With any luck, the editor will understand that. I hope he will!

So the query letter is written, the short synopsis ("short" being a relative term) is complete, the longer synopsis will be finalized today. I'm sending both versions and he can decide if he wants more information or not. Seems prudent to attach both files--and yes, I've explained my reasoning in the query letter -- which is also too long, but he wants specific information and I've provided it. Remember, the point of the query letter is to get him to open a synopsis and the point of the synopsis is to get him to open the first chapter and the point of the first chapter is to get him to want more -- and to buy my book!

And, of course, this is only Volume One. Trying to sleep in this morning, my brain kicked into gear with what happens next and started writing the synopsis for the NEXT book. I'll actually type that out later today, but expect that, when I finish writing Volume Two, I'll be back here again, rewriting it and fussing once more.

All right. Enough procrastinating. I'm off to make a final read-through of what's going out to the editor before I actually push "Send." Wish me luck!

Play safe,


Sunday, January 02, 2022

Catching up in the New Year -- Come on, 2022!


Missing some photos for my montage,
but here's our tradition!

   New year, new beginnings, new resolutions.

   Putting the old year to bed, settling accounts, and  looking back, however, needs to happen first. To that end...

   I did a great job keeping track of the books I read this year -- right through September, as per usual. In October, however, my reading came to an abrupt halt. Why? I had lines to learn! I went back on stage for the first time in thirty-one years.

   Understand, my undergraduate degree is in Theatre Arts. My husband and I owned a theatre company for eight years. I did my share of directing both community and high school theatre. I played many parts on stage, from chorus girl to lead.

And then I had kids.

Don't mistake me. I know many women who have kids and stay active in the theatre. It wasn't for me. Working a full-time teaching job (which I defy anyone to say is a 40-hour a week job!) left me with precious little time to spend with my babies. Something had to give - and it was the theatre. I became the audience (a much-needed part of the whole!) and left treading the boards to others.

My kids are grown now (my daughter is 30! When did I blink?) and the opportunity arose for me to take on a major role in a world premiere of Just Like Sisters, a play by Jay Hannigan. I played the role of Jolie, the more comedic of the three female parts -- and loved it. I had more fun (and anxiety -- not having used my memory muscle in thirty years meant some scary "what's my next line?" moments!) than I thought I would and am thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with a love of my youth.

But learning lines (I had a third of all the lines in the play) takes work (see "anxiety" above) and that left little time for reading. We started rehearsals at the beginning of October and the show went up the weekend before Thanksgiving. I managed to read the newspaper and some online news stories and that was about it.

December, however, brought a different story. The show was done, I had arthroscopic knee surgery on November 30th for a torn meniscus, which meant a lot of time sitting on my rump and healing. To that end, I read three books before Christmas!

My hubby came to me at one point in November and said, "I know you'd be happy with no other Christmas presents than books. Which ones are on your want list?" Can you see why I love him so much? I gave him a list of authors and books and figured he'd get me two or three. He got me twelve! Twelve!!!!

I've read two of them so far -- and am trying to take my time and not read so fast. I devour books, and am thinking maybe taking a little more time with each might be better for me.

Yeah, who am I kidding? I'll continue to devour, re-reading the ones I like the most, passing on the ones not worthy of my shelf space.

So what did I read?

Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone (Diana Gabaldon) - this is a definite keeper and will be re-read many times.

Dear Santa and Christmas in Alaska (Debbie Macomber) - how could I resist that second title when I spent a month there this year? Both have been passed on already.

The Awakening and The Becoming (Nora Roberts) - the first two in her new fantasy series. Brand new - first edition hard covers my hubby got me for Christmas. I'm liking the series and will keep these. Yes, that meant I had to remove two books from my shelves to be passed on (sorry, The Color Purple (Alice Walker) and The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier) -- time to find new homes!).

All told, I recorded reading 56 books in 2021. That's fewer than usual - mostly because 1) I finished writing my own big book (The Companion, Part I is done!) and 2) I was in a play. :)

So that's my look back. Looking forward, I'll keep a record of what I read this year (my resolution) and write more books (my new beginnings).

Happy New Year!