Confessions…and I want to play hookie

I want to play hookie…with my new WIP that is. I have been stuck in an editing foxhole for months now on my current WIP and really I am getting fed up with myself. I have a problem. I am a perfectionist and I cannot stop myself editing and editing and editing… Is there a perfectionist anonymous group out there or an editing anonymous group? Maybe there should be! There could be a 13 step recovery process…OH and I detest synopsis writing! Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?

One of the first steps of curing a problem and recovering from it is in accepting the problem and admitting that you have a problem.

Confession: I am a Perfectionist and my problem is that once I start looking for errors and editing…I cannot stop.

I have no idea if there is a group called Perfectionist Anonymous but I have decided that writers like me desperately need a group like this for recovering editing addicts. We need an intervention and we need people we can call when the urge to continue editing ad infinitum hits us. It is a quagmire of sinking sand that sucks us in even as we try to clamber out. The more we struggle against it, the deeper we sink.

So every recovery program and intervention has a step by step list of dos and don’ts in the steps to becoming cured. So I have come up with a 13 step recovery program for all writers who suffer from Editorix Perfectionist.

13 Steps to Overcoming Editorix Perfectionism

  1. Say the Words: I am a Perfectionist and suffer from perfectionism – the neurotic need to find error and fault and correct and recorrect and still recorrect.
  2. Ask for an intervention to be held by more saner individuals than your neurotic self.
  3. Step away from the manuscript, now on it’s umpteenth draft.
  4. Close the folder entitled WIP – Nth edit.
  5. Repeat to yourself ” Perfectionism is a sly form of Procrastination” – stick this note on every available surface.
  6. Type “The End” on current Nth draft of WIP – and mean it.
  7. Hide all red pens, correction fluid and erasers.
  8. You are a writer not an editor. You have no sane moments nor objective moments when it comes to your WIP. Doctors are not allowed to treat their own family members so writers should not be allowed to edit their own works without assistance and intervention.
  9. The first edit is allowed, the second edit is treading on dangerous ground and the third edit is an edit gone too far.
  10. Surround yourself with notes telling you: You are not useless. You do not write rubbish. Your work is fit for more than a trash can – both on the computer desktop and near the desk. Perfectionism is an unattainable myth as it is as the opposite of humanity – since you are a human, you are imperfect anyway – pointless to fight it.
  11. Surround yourself with critique partners, writing buddies and other writers who know what you struggle against and who know that the writer’s fragile ego is our own worst enemy. Do not be afraid to say you need help before you destroy both your sanity and your manuscript.
  12. Step away from the edited WIP and take a walk with a notebook. Write down the plot for the next manuscript.
  13. Begin writing the new manuscript and find refreshment and creative fulfillment in throwing yourself head-first into a creative binge. (No editing allowed at least until You have typed “the End” on the first draft!)

So this week I am going to be closing the editing folder on Ring a Ring o’ Roses (Nth draft). I am submitting the synopsis and query and then I will leave the rest to the fates that be. I am opening my notebook and starting work on The Tattooist. Editor Kim is going away – she had no business being here for so long anyway. Writer Kim is returning. I am a writer. I am not an Editor. Saner individuals than me become editors, I will stick to what I do best and that is WRITING not EDITING. To be clear I am a recovering not a cured Editorix Perfectionist. This is a continuing struggle.

I am going to do more than play Hookie with The Tattooist. I am going to have a full-blown affair with The Tattooist. The urge to write must take control over the urge to edit. I cannot wait for that delicious feeling of playing hookie and that first blush of the first draft.

Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with the editing process or with a perfectionist gene?

Sign up here _______ if you would like to become a member of Editorix Perfectionism Anonymous.

Watch Brene` Brown on The Power of Vulnerability

Excerpts…”I am surrounded by people who kinda believe that life’s messy love it, and I am more the “life’s messy: clean it up, organize it and put in into a pinto box.” [ūüĎć ]

“…lean into the discomfort of the work and I am like, you know, Knock discomfort upside its head and move it over…”

“I want to separate bravery and courage for you for a moment. Courage: The original definition of courage when it first came into the English language; it’s from the latin word “cor” meaning “heart” and the original definition was: is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart…and so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect…”

Writing is that for me…the courage to be imperfect and to be comfortable in my own skin while being naked in my vulnerability. ūüĎĆ

April…It is all about the “A” in Attitude

March is over and we are already into the second quarter of 2012. Don’t look now, the year is flying by. So how are those goals, ambitions, resolutions and aims looking? You know, the ones you made in that fresh first blush of 2012. Some of you may be feeling pretty damn happy with how the year is going so far but then some of you will be wanting to throw up in your hands in frustration and just bury your head in hibernation… For me, this year has been a mixed bag so far … I have taken steps forward and I have wanted to step back and throw things. But this is not a moan or a groan… You don’t have the time for that and I don’t have the energy for that. Three months are done. Three months are gone. No point in complaining. If you stumbled off the path to success, it is not too late! You just have to keep walking and when you don’t have strength to walk, keep crawling as long as you are moving FORWARD! So say it with me now: Goodbye March, Hello April!

Make April all about the “A” in ATTITUDE. My April is about being a FIGHTER. No, fighting is not wrong at least not if it is done the right way. The FIGHTING I am talking about is the Fight to put your own stamp on this world. Personality can’t really change but ATTITUDE can. You can choose what Attitude you are going to begin April with. Don’t give up just because you are behind. Behind is a good place to start from, it motivates you to kick some ass and get ahead. Fight for your goals. Fight for your dreams. Fight for your wins.¬†

Think of 2 boxers in a boxing match. (I meant the human kind not the dog kind.) The fight is not always won by a knock out. It is won by the fighter with the most guts who gets the most “right” hits in. The point is to keep fighting until that whistle blows. So are you going to be the fighter who backs away or are you going to keep swinging and stay in the fight? It’s your choice. Nobody can make it for you.

Over the last few months I have been doing battle with one of manuscripts. It had got to the point that I wanted to give up fighting for it and wanted to just give it up. I was very close to hitting the delete button on the whole thing. But I have this stubborn streak in me that just won’t quit and won’t give in or give up. I think my ms has a little of that too. One of the people in my life, a writer, friend and mentor, got “real” with me and told me to quit “bitching” about how much I hate this manuscript and to send it to her for a second opinion. She told me I was not allowed to delete it, was not allowed to do anything to it until she had read the whole thing and offered me her thoughts and opinions. So reluctantly I sent it though in the back of my mind I was still going to delete it but this time I would have even more reason because she would tell me what I knew all along: this manuscript sux! She read it. She skyped me. She told me she loved the story and was super p…ed off that I had not sent her the ending as she was left wanting more. (I had deleted the whole ending because the ms was not feeling right to me.)

HOLD ON! What! She “loved” it. This turned my decision on its head. We skyped some more and she convinced me that there was something special in this ms. It took a long conversation (ok it was more of a pep-talk) to remind me why this story and these characters had called to me in the first place. So I agreed to her kind offer that she would walk the edits through with me chapter by chapter. This is what I have been doing the last couple of weeks.

You know what? The manuscript’s beautiful layers are being revealed bit by bit. I am back in love with the story. I can see the holes and I know what will fill them. I still have quite a bit of work to do but I am now excited because I am back on the path and walking up that hill. But the great thing is that when I get too caught up in doubts (or ego as she likes to say) I have another pair of eyes on it. Sometimes working on your own manuscript is a bit like looking in the mirror. You don’t always see the truth or the beautiful parts because you are examining the faults too closely. Sometimes you have to look at yourself through another’s eyes to appreciate the “real” you. I think it is the same way with a manuscript. And this is why it is important to have a writing BFF or two.¬†

What’s a writing BFF? Let me start by what they aren’t. Writing BFFs are not YES People. Writing BFFs are not jealous of your success. Writing BFFs are not your mothers or your puppies. Writing BFFs are honest. Writing BFFs will not pander to your particular brand of head-crap. They are the people who will tell you the truth about your writing. They are the people in your corner who will wipe your brow and then push you back into the ring even when you want to leave the stadium. They are the people in your corner that stop you from hitting delete just because you can/want to. They are the people who are there, whether you are flying high with success or at the end of your tether over the edge. They are the people who understand my particular brand of self-doubt/ battle against perfection because they are running the same marathon. I am lucky to have a few writing BFFs, each vital for my sanity. A thousand thank you’s to you!

Writing is hard. This is not an easy thing we have chosen to do. We put ourselves and our work out there for people to judge and sometimes the judgements (though not personal) feel very personal and feel like a kick in the gut. I was asked the other day whether I regret quitting the day job and doing this writing thing full-time. The writer who asked me was thinking of doing the same thing. I was honest. I told them that it is hard work and it is an uphill run most of the time. But I also told them it was the best choice I have ever made. I don’t regret it not one bit. Writing is also not a race: not a race against other writers or a race to finish. It is a marathon. You are the only runner on this marathon. It is your path and only you can run it. Success might take time but that is ok. You have time. Don’t waste the time you have. I may never make millions from it (if wishes were gold) but this is not why I am on this path. Millions of dollars might make life easier but it doesn’t grant happiness. Chasing your dreams gives you a reason for happiness and obtaining those dreams makes you happy. I write because this is what I love to do. It is not the only thing I can do but it is the thing that makes me happiest.¬†

Maybe you have been in the same spot as I found myself a couple of weeks ago. Maybe you have been tempted to hit delete or worse to think you are not a writer and want to give up. STOP. Get honest with yourself. Lose the EGO. Get yourself a writing BFF you trust and let them get “real” with you. You may be surprised like I was. You may be talked down from the edge like I was. So make this your month to get real with your dreams and get back to the reason why you started in this fight in the first place. Don’t step out of the ring just because you got scared. There is nothing wrong with being scared. But there is something wrong with fear stopping you in your tracks and knocking you down. I am sure even if we speak to the best of the best in any industry, they all have moments of fear. But it is FIGHTING through that FEAR that is the important difference between failure and success. Try for success, you have nothing to lose!

Have you had doubts fill your head? Have you had an MS you wanted to/did delete? What got you through it? Tell me, I would love to know. After all we’re all just dreamers chasing a fantastic dream. How many people really get to say they chased their dream, win or lose, they did not give up? That is true success. The rest is just icing on the top.¬†

Who needs edits? I opt for Brain Surgery instead!

…No really I am not joking…after the round of migraine attacks I have had just this year I am ready for elective brain surgery, failing that a brain transplant from a non-perfectionist…

Archeological remains of patients of brain sur...
Archeological remains of patients of brain surgery performed by ancient doctors of the Inca Empire in the 15th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So March is National Chainsaw-Wielding Editing Month…However for me, I have been deep in editing mode for about 6 months. But for me March is the If I don’t step away now I will …. End-Game. So what have I hated learnt about the brain surgery editing process?

 

  1. … I am a Control-Freak Perfectionist and my own worst enemy not to mention my novel’s.¬†

  2. ¬†…Don’t over-edit…That is what an “Editor” is there for.

  3. Step away from the manuscript slowly when you have the itch to wield a chainsaw. (Or make sure there is a tree nearby that needs pruning if you cannot step away.)

  4. … In the words of a very wise CP : Say to your EGO “SHOVE OFF” or use more colorful ¬†4 letter terms, I am sure I don’t need to elaborate here.

  5. Step away from the manuscript when you want to kill all your characters from frustration.

  6. …Make sure you have someone in your life who will call you on the head-crap you put yourself through in editing mode…

  7. …Do not hit delete (as tempting as it is) instead Step away and send it to that person who does not accept head-crap from you. (Tip: Make sure you truly are scared this person will whack you if you don’t let them help. Fear is a great motivator to get rid of the EGO.)

  8. …Don’t be so struck with stage-fright or that dreaded EGO to not¬†ask ¬† demand help from any corner willing to give it.

  9. Step away from the manuscript when it starts turning your hair follicles white and your fingers are being chewed to the bone from tension and nerves.

  10. Step away from the edits and play with another WIP to rejuvenate your creative self-esteem…It helps if the next WIP is all about a serial killer…There is something soothing about killing off your secondary characters in a new story. Great stress-reliever.


When all else fails, buy yourself a bottle of red wine, a ginormous slab of chocolate and curl up on the couch with your favourite thriller (Then making sure all the windows are closed, you can scream out your frustrations with the excuse that you are scared of the killer lurking on the screen.)

… What doesn’t kill you, (or make you kill others) will make you stronger….Breathe…Count to 100…Stretch…

So nod yes if you have learned any of the same lessons above as I have. Nod yes if editing your own ms has given you grey hair and/or a license to wield a chainsaw. Nod yes if you wished a virus would eat up your ms so that you could just forget it and head onto the next story.

Now I am stepping away, putting down the chainsaw, staying away from the Destroy “Delete” key and off to play with my new WIP…Followed by red wine, chocolate and the scariest thriller I can find on the movie channel.

Rinse & Repeat: What doesn’t kill me (or make me kill others outside of fiction) will make me stronger!

Write from the Heart | Write your Story

Heart

Two things have really struck me over the last few weeks and I felt I needed to blog about them. Both lead into the same subject but from different angles. The subject that has been niggling at my conscience: (Warning: this will be a long post.)

Write from the Heart

For the past 6 weeks I have been working on the final edits of my current WIP. Let me tell you…when I say “working” I mean just that. Anyone who says that writing a novel is difficult has obviously never got to the editing stage. For me first drafts are simple. The words, plot and characters flow out onto the page like opening a tap. Why is writing a first draft simple for me? I am a pants-plotter. I am not 100% a pantser nor am I 100% a plotter. I like some form of an outline but I it is just strong enough to light the next 500 words of each scene. But I am a night owl. Which means that I don’t write by day….In a way you could say that I drive at night if my driving is my novel, my headlights are my plot and my time of day is ruled by the light of the moon. I write like a driver who takes a journey at night. I can see just far enough ahead to know I am not going to crash into anything but there is still enough darkness and mystery that I can still be surprised by what turns the journey can take me on.¬†

I would say that I plot 30% and free-form write about 70%. For me the story has to be written as it comes to me. If I plot too much I tend to lose that emotion that fuels my writing. I plot myself out of the story if I think too much. So, yes, viscerally it is vital that I write that first draft from the heart. I don’t subscribe to writer’s block. I think you write the story as it comes to you. But I do think you can out-think yourself out of the story and ultimately out of the writing which would in turn lead to a brick wall: the notorious writer’s block.

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

There are so many writer’s books, writer’s classes and workshops out there both online and in real-time. The information network through these channels as well as social networking can be wonderful but adversely can also be really overwhelming. Information is freedom. Or is it? Can too much information be overwhelming? Like the wise people say, too much of a good thing can be overkill. Yes, sign up for writer’s classes, attend conferences, read craft books and network with other writers and mentors…but when push comes to shove, you have to stop the information overload long enough to shut out the world, open the heart and start writing. To be a writer you have to write. To be a novelist or short story author, you need to finish a novel to a short story. Nobody said it would be easy. In fact, I guarantee you that most people love the dream but fear the reality of being a writer. But you knew this when you decided to write. You have to write because otherwise this story and these characters will not let you rest: they haunt your every hour, day and night. Yes, you must write. So the birth of a first draft starts.¬†

First draft is just that. Your work is not done when you have got to those magic words “The End” of your first draft. Pat yourself on the back for finishing that story or that novel. Unfortunately though, now the real labour pains of the birthing process start. Writing the first draft was just your pregnancy. It may not have been the smoothest pregnancy and you may have had morning sickness but overall you know your “baby” is growing, changing and getting ready for entry into the real world. Your first draft is just like pregnancy in that it is really something intimate and the writing is for you. It is your chance to get to know this story. It is something that nobody else can do for you. Your real work has not even started until the “9 months” is up and your water breaks. Writing “The End” on your first draft is that water breaking.¬†

But the real guts and glory are in the labour pains of birth. Writing is not easy but editing is painful. Editing a first draft should not be easy. It should be pain-staking, heart-wrenching and pure “work”.¬†

If writing is sitting down and opening a vein…Editing is sitting down and cutting the vein.

I always thought that if you write from your heart, you must edit from your brain. In theory this is accurate. But can you out-think your first emotions from your first draft? Can you over-analyze to the point of killing the heart in your story? 

I have realised that unfortunately you can over-analyze a story. I talk from very fresh experience. Funnily enough, I am usually my own worst enemy when it comes to critiquing my own work. However it is also true that like all writers, I can also miss certain elements that need to be corrected in my own work. This is when writing partners and beta readers come into play. If you have good writing partners, they are honest and forthright with you at all times. They are your headlights in the editing journey. But say now you get through that first and second edits (your second draft) with your mental health intact and your manuscript looking better for the cosmetic surgery…What now?¬†

After both you and your writing partners are satisfied you have done all you can to edit your story, you start submitting and pitching it. If you are lucky enough to get an agent or editor to love your first pitch and they request a partial or a full manuscript, you have to put your hard hat on again and enter the final edits. Of course I am not even mentioning the edits that take place after a manuscript has been accepted by a publisher. No, I am just talking about the edits that may be required of you by the agent or editor in the initial request. 

How far do you take those comments on your manuscript? Do you do a complete edit and rewrite again? Do you tweak only a little using both your intuition for the story and the advice you have been given by agent/editor? When does too much change become overkill for your story and your characters? 

From very fresh personal experience, I can tell you that you can over-analyze your story into overkill. You can also change and rewrite your story so many times that after a while you wake up one morning, look down at the screen or the page and wonder who wrote this story? Too much editing and following too many pieces of advice, no matter how well intentioned, can cause you to fall out of love with your own story. You become an amnesiac and the story that you first wrote has disappeared into the ether of too much editing. If you get to this point, you must stop! If you try to push through determined to follow advice and to get that manuscript just perfect, you will start to feel like you are taking dictation and not creating. You become a secretary and stop being a creative writer.

If the advice you are getting is making you change your story to the degree that you are hating your own story and wanting to put off working on it, you must stop! You need to stop and recognise that your cosmetic surgery is becoming ugly and morphing your story into something unrecognisable. If you have fallen out of love with your story because of over-editing, that lack of emotion will come through and stain the story for any readers. 

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ~ Robert Frost

There comes a point where you have to follow the initial stirrings of your heart. At the end of the day you are the writer and this is YOUR story. These characters came to YOU. The story’s idea may not be original in that isn’t every romance like any other or a thriller just a thriller. What is unique and what is special to your story is YOU and YOUR heart/ YOUR emotion. Great emotion that is tenderly written into the spaces between the words is what makes a story a great story.¬†

Ultimately advice is just that: advice. You choose what information to use and what to throw away. Ultimately YOUR story has to be YOUR story. You have to write from YOUR heart and you have to write YOUR story that you feel. Let that emotion come through and your story will be the better story for it. So yes: write the first draft with your heart, edit the second draft with your brain but the final checks need to be with your heart and your emotion. Be true to that initial emotion and that initial excitement when you first met your characters and heard their story. If you are true to your story and your characters, the story will be true for your readers. Essays come from the brain but stories come from the heart.

Write from the Heart .

Write Your Story.

Edit with your brain but let your heart be the final check.

Editors and agents are not writers. They are salesmen who help you polish up your story, promote it and market it to sell it. Don’t ever forget YOU are the Writer. It is YOUR story. If you feel strongly enough about keeping something in your story, then you MUST be true to that. It is called instinct. It is called creative license. It is: You writing Your story. Be true to it! Be true to you!

“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.” ~ Arnold Bennett

Have you ever over-edited the heart out of your story? Or have you ever been told to remove something / change something vital from your story? What did you do in the end? 

To submit or not to submit

Banned Books #4
Image by ellen.w via Flickr

‚ÄúThis manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.‚ÄĚ – Barbara Kingsolver

‚ÄúWriting is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.‚ÄĚ – Margaret Atwood in The Times

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
Ray Bradbury
The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home.
– John Campbell
There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing — to find honest men to publish it — and to get sensible men to read it.
– Charles Caleb Cotton
An artist’s sensitivity to criticism is, at least in part, an effort to keep unimpaired the zest, or confidence, or arrogance, which he needs to make creation possible; or an instinct to climb through his problems in his own way as he should, and must.
Christopher Fry
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.
– Erica Jong
You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer…
Stephen Leigh

To submit or not to submit…that is the question of the week?

It is one thing to decide to write a story, it is another thing to finish this story and still a completely other thing to submit the story to a professional. It takes courage to do all three but I believe the greatest accomplishment and most courageous of these three is: to finish this story. Of course there is nothing stopping you from then putting your completed manuscript in a hidden drawer with the secret knowledge that you have completed a book.

Is this why you wrote your story? To hide it, unacknowledged by any but you. Perhaps this is your reason. For that I, nor anyone, can judge you. But what happens if there is a fire and your manuscript burns before you can free it? Then you would have put all that work and courage, all those tears of frustration and smiles of joy, into something that has become nothing. Soon, you will forget your story and then it will disappear like a thread on the end of a zephyr’s tail.

What is your other option? You are then faced with the quandary at the beginning of this post:

To Submit or Not to Submit

  • You have written it and rewritten it countless times. ¬†You are at that point in the relationship where you commit or leave.
  • You commit.
  • You write a synopsis.
  • You write a query letter.
  • You find agents who accept your genre.
  • You submit your manuscript.

Now you wait. From some agents you wait for weeks, some days, some moments. But eventually answers will start trickling in. Some of them will be non-committal. Some of them will be bland refusals. Some will be harsh. Some will be filled with constructive criticism. But all these first ones, if you are like most authors both known and unknown, will be rejections.

But are they rejections?

Yes, they have refused to take your book under their wing. At first, your initial reaction will be like that of a parent being told their kid was the only kid not picked for the sports team. You will feel personal anger, even irritation. Then you will feel doubt at your own ability.

Again I ask the question, are they all rejections?

Perhaps the question should be why am I being rejected? You may get the answer to that with the rejection slip or you may never know. But you must remember one very important fact: Agents / Editors / Publishers are all human beings. This means they are fallible. They are subjective. They are emotional beings. They can make mistakes. They have personal likes and dislikes. Second important fact: As a first time submission, they do not know you personally. This is not a rejection of YOU.

Here are some important rejections you can take heart from:

Emily Dickinson: Recluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works.

Theodor Seuss Giesel: Today nearly every child has read¬†The Cat in the Hat or¬†Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss‘s first book¬†To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.

J. K. Rowling: Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination.

Jack London: This well-known American author wasn’t always such a success. While he would go on to publish popular novels like¬†White Fang and¬†The Call of the Wild, his first story received six hundred rejection slips before finally being accepted.

So the question is: After submitting and after rejection do you give up?

Do you give up after 5 rejections?

Do you give up after 25 rejections?

Jack London did not give up after 600 rejections. You may say: I am not Jack London. No. Quite correct. You are not Jack London. You are YOU. As such you have a unique story all of your own. Do you hide that ability, do you deny that story to the rest of the world just because some people do not want it? There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of agents and editors in this industry. The right one will come along. It may take you years. But if writing is your passion, your focus, your purpose: Do you dare give up?

Now I leave the question with you:

To submit or Not to submit?

To give up or To PERSIST?

Only you can be your guide.

– Kim


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync?

Unique Selling Proposition / Unique Selling Po...

Recently I completed an online workshop run by Savvy Authors. The course was called Pass the Shovel. In this course each lesson was about breaking down your story, your plot, your voice, your dialogue and your characters. I found the whole course very worthwhile but the lesson that I found the most enlightening was lesson 1. Lesson 1 was about breaking down your book into a summary or what the writing industry calls a synopsis.

synopsis¬†|s…ôňąn√§psis|noun¬†(¬†pl.¬†-sesňĆsńďz|)a¬†brief¬†summary¬†or¬†general¬†survey¬†of¬†something¬†:¬†a synopsis of the accident.

‚Äʬ†an outline of¬†the¬†plot¬†of a¬†book,¬†play,¬†movie, or episode of a television show.

DERIVATIVES synopsize¬†|-ňĆsńęz|¬†|s…ôňąn…Ďpňąsa…™z|¬†verb

ORIGIN¬†early 17th¬†cent.:¬†via¬†late Latin¬†from¬†Greek, from¬†sun-¬†‚Äėtogether‚Äô¬†+¬†opsis¬†‚Äėseeing.‚Äô

synopsis –¬†noun

the synopsis was so intriguing that I just had to buy the book summary, summarization, précis, abstract, outline,

digest, rundown, roundup, abridgment.

Then on my writing groups that I belong to, there have been various discussions about the horrors and necessities of the Synopsis. So I thought today’s post should be about the topic of the month: Synopsis ~ Are you in or out of sync with your synopsis?

So why is a synopsis necessary?

  • A synopsis is needed when you write your query letter and you pitch your book.
  • An agent does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that lands on their desk. They need a “taster” to see if your book is going to be featured on their menu. Cue in your synopsis.
  • An editor does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that an agent lands them. They also need a “taster” to see if your book is up their alley. Cue in your synopsis.
  • Your synopsis is your billboard advertisement that gets the passing agent’s/editor’s attention on the highway to a sold and published book.
  • Your synopsis is the clincher in getting your book from your bottom desk drawer to the hands of an agent then an editor and finally your reader.
  • Your synopsis is a SELLING TOOL. It is a way to convert your manuscript from a story to a published and saleable book.
  • To write a successful synopsis you need to think with a sales mind and not a writer’s mind.
  • The synopsis is your SPIN-DOCTOR for your book.

So we have just a few reasons here to tell you that a synopsis is vital to the success of you finding an agent, an editor and a publisher. So now we come to the crux of the matter:

How do you write a synopsis?

How do you get “in sync” with your synopsis?

One of the tips that I have learnt about over the last few months has been the value of being able to write a maximum 50 word synopsis. This will encapsulate the Hook of your story. Then from there build that up to a paragraph long synopsis. Next try building that up to a page long synopsis. Finally try building that up to a 2 page synopsis. Now you may still be reading this and scratching your head in consternation. You are still stuck with the idea that you have to hone down a 70 000 – 100 000 word novel into 50 words then finally into 2 pages. Well here are some questions that may help you break down your novel into synopsis form.

  • What’s my idea?
  • Where does my story take place?
  • When does my story take place?
  • What is my timeline?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What is my POV – Point Of View?
  • Who are my characters?
  • How will I begin my story?
  • What is my plot?
  • What is my complication?
  • What is my climax?
  • What is my resolution and anti-climax?

The main points that should be in your synopsis are:

  1. The HOOK – This is your USP or UNIQUE SELLING POINT. This is the part that you want to put front and centre and at the top of your synopsis. This is going to be the GRABBER.
  2. The CHARACTERS – Stories are about people. Tell us about your Main Characters. Tug at our heart-strings. The main points here should be: Motivation / Conflict / Goals. What makes this character’s story interesting? Why would a reader want to invest time and emotion in this story/this character?
  3. The BODY of the STORY – Here is where you want to focus on the PLOT of the story. Keep your writing tight and concise. Only put the necessary plot points here. Tie together your plot with your main characters.
  4. The CLIMAX / ANTI-CLIMAX / RESOLUTION – This will pull the whole story together. This is the part where you tie all your different colours of strings into one seamless ribbon. This is where all the questions of your story will be answered. This is where your character will change and grow. These will be the A-HA moments in your story.
  5. Use present tense at all times. Irregardless of whether your book is set in the past or the future, the present tense of a synopsis will put the agent / editor directly into the heart of your story and allow them to walk in your character’s shoes. This will create an emotional pull for them.
  6. Use strong adjectives and emotive language when writing your synopsis. This is your one chance to get the agent/ the editor’s attention. Use your best written skills for this synopsis. Do not waste space or words.

How are you feeling now? Are you feeling more confident with tackling The SYNOPSIS? Are you feeling more “in sync” with your synopsis?

Now lastly, when do you write a synopsis? There is no hard and fast rule that you can only write the synopsis at the end of the novel. In fact, if you leave it til then the nerves and doubt will kick in. Try your hand at writing a loose synopsis at the beginning stages of your novel. You will have the bare bones of your final synopsis. You may even find that your synopsis may be a guiding point for your story. I have written a synopsis both at the end of a WIP and now I have written one at the beginning of my current WIP. In this latter synopsis, I reached a moment of EPIPHANY in the conflict and the anti-climax of my story. Now I can tackle my WIP with renewed vigour and when it comes to the final synopsis, I have already completed half the task by writing my synopsis first.

Now it is time to get IN SYNC with your SYNOPSIS!

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.