I interrupt your day with some news. Although I have been quiet online I have been very busy doing that thing writers are supposed to do…writing.
I have a double dose of news to share with you all.
There are two words that strike fear and tension into a writer’s mind:
But if you want to be published, these are two steps that you will need to take to walk through the gateway of publishing.
Why do these seemingly simple processes strike such fear into most writers?
It is time to take the arrow from Achilles’ Heel and use it to point you in the direction of Success.
After all haven’t you already achieved something incredible by creating a plot, writing a story and finishing a manuscript. Why then should these words stop so many writers in their tracks? Why are these two steps sometimes the ultimate Achilles’ Heel in a writer’s path to publishing success?
There are so many different “standardized” versions of a synopsis and a query. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that these two words can turn a confident creative into an unsure person filled with doubts. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a definitive list of rules of writing a good synopsis and thereby insuring an effective query.
Most writers will try to put the SYNOPSIS off as long as possible until eventually we get that magic call/email that our manuscript has been found interesting enough to submit it. The excitement is soon paled by the looming terror of having to sit down and write a synopsis.
Perhaps as writers we are looking at this process back to front. Perhaps instead of leaving the synopsis to the end of the manuscript completion, we need to start compiling the synopsis during the writing process or even before we even start writing the story.
This is what I do. I start writing the synopsis while I am writing the first half of my first draft. For me a synopsis is not just a summarized version of the story that I am creating but it is a map that I am using to help plot my journey to my final destination: the climax and resolution of the story.
There are no fail-proof methods to attack a synopsis, but here are some points that help me create a synopsis.
- Think: Protagonist | Antagonist
Every story I write or read starts with a character. Whether this be the Antagonist or the Protagonist, a story cannot happen without the main characters. You cannot stage a play without the principal actors. Once the main character is introduced, the story can begin. Everything else is just back-story that helps set a scene for the character to step into. Every protagonist needs an antagonist. This creates the CONFLICT which leads to the CLIMAX. The antagonist is usually the spark that sets the whole story alight. He/She is the reason that the Protagonist needs to ACT.
- Think: Climax | Resolution | Beginning
This is the ultimate breakdown of your story. These are the most important points in your story, no matter what genre you write. Funnily enough, when I first get a story idea, what comes to me first is the crisis point then the what ifs start happening. That’s when I dig some more to get the beginning of the incident/story. Everything else in the plot arc of a story is just padding of these three plot points.
- Voice & POV (Point of View)
Who is telling this story? Are you, the writer, narrating it? Is your Protagonist telling the story? Is your Antagonist telling the story? Or is there a secondary character telling the story? These are the questions you need to think of to hear the VOICE of the story. The POV and the Voice gives the story and the characters life. Depending on which POV (who is telling the story?) you choose, the Voice will change. Like chinese whispers, each different person never tells the same story. The core elements may remain similar but the story is guided by who tells it.
- The Story Arc | Conflict
This is your check list to make sure your story makes sense. Fiction must make sense. Truth can bend the rules of sense vs nonsense but fiction needs to be believable. Your story needs to have a timeline that works smoothly and each step in the journey needs to lead both the writer and the reader into the next step.
Once I have these four points worked out, I can write my story’s synopsis. Sometimes if I find that I am not sure of my character’s pathway to this story or their motivation, I will also use these four points to write a character synopsis. The synopsis does not need to be difficult nor does it need to be put off until the last unavoidable minute before you have to scratch one together in a wild panic. I also find that when I write a synopsis at the beginning of my first draft, it keeps me from hitting a block or stumbling point. Like a map, it gives me a clear path to my final destination. There may still end up being unexpected roadblocks but with just a few minutes looking back at my road map (SYNOPSIS) I am back on track.
If your story’s synopsis has become your Achilles’ Heel, try simplifying it for yourself. Even if you find you struggle with road blocks in your story, this way may just help you past them. By targeting these four points you may just find that writing a synopsis can in fact be a key to the difference between a good story and a great story. Don’t complicate things for yourself by over-analyzing the synopsis. You already have enough to do with writing and finishing the story as well as submitting it for acceptance or rejection.
Part 2 – Query will be posted on Friday so look out for that.
Coming up on Thursday, there is a guest post on a very common writing road block: Middle Book Blues.
- To Pitch or not to Pitch? (kimkoningink.com)
- Who is Achilles and what was the importance of his heel (wiki.answers.com)
- The World of Querying (tracikenworth.wordpress.com)
- The Synopsis: The Power Is In Your Hands (deberelene.wordpress.com)
- Reader Question: How to write a logline of my story? (gointothestory.com)
- A Writer’s Notebook: query plot synopsis (snoekbrown.wordpress.com)
It has been a week since my annual writing conference. It has taken me this long to have all the conference workshops marinate in my mind. This year I was in 2 minds whether I would even be attending this year’s conference. It all came down to the cost. Could I afford to splurge on the writing conference? Would the workshops be valuable to my writing? But in the end, I decided to attend because two favourite authors were going to be key-note speakers. There were also a few agents and editors that I was looking forward to meeting. On top of that, I knew that the weekend would be worth it because I would be sharing the weekend with my writing partner and close friend. I was also influenced by other online writer friends who had just recently attended writing conferences and been completely inspired by them. After a hard two months of work to finish up both my current WIP and editing my writing partners’ WIPs, I was looking forward to some fresh inspiration. There are great advantages to being a full-time writer but I found that I had disappeared into my writing cave and needed some vitamin A in the form some writing workshops.
I had attended conference last year so was a little more prepared this year. Things are always better the second time around. Recently I had been asked whether I thought writing conferences were necessary for writers to attend. My answer was: Yes. But it got me thinking that sometimes you need a helping hand before going to a conference. So I have put together my list of Writing Conference Necessities/Requirements 101. Some of these I adhered to, some I wish I had, some I wish others had. Ah, the value of hindsight.
Writing Conferences 101
- Be Prepared.
- Choose your list of workshops you want to attend before arriving at the conference.
- If you have the opportunity to pitch your WIP – take the chance. Even if nothing comes of it, it will be great experience to have a face-to-face pitch session.
- Make sure you catch up on all your sleep before the conference.
- Check with the hotel if you can have an early check-in before the conference starts, that way you can settle in to your room without having to carry a whole lot of bags around.
- In the same vein, check with the hotel if you can have a late check-out on the last day of the conference: You will need it. By the last day, you are pretty heavy on your feet from all the stimulation and it is a good idea to be able to still have a bed to go lie down in or your own bathroom to freshen up in.
- If you have been given books by the keynote speakers and want them autographed, carry them around with you right in the beginning of the conference and ask the authors to sign them as soon as you get a chance. Not all conferences have signing times scheduled in. On top of that, some authors/keynote speakers do not remain for the whole conference and it would be a shame to miss out.
- Mingle, Mingle, Mingle. It is so easy to get all clicky at conferences and hang out only with the people you know. But there may be a quite a few newbies there who don’t want to intrude on your little cliques so help make them feel welcome.
- Ask questions. This is your time to have a 101 with your favourite author or mentor. Take the opportunity to ask them questions. You may not get the chance again.
- Buy bottled water and take it with you to the hotel. Saves on using the hotel mini-bar and will save you from dehydration from hotel air-conditioning.
- Check your room temperature before going to sleep. Hotels notoriously crank up the heat in the evenings in hotel room. This may just save you from a very uncomfortable night.
- Take your own pens and paper. I keep a conference notebook that I started for last year’s conference and continued you with this year. Also, the hotel pens are not always the best.
- Talk to other writers and ask them what they do,besides writing. You will find out the most fascinating things. I met a writer there who is qualified as an embalmer. Believe me the ideas started by that were endless.
- Print up some business cards. Easy to hand out to people and keep in touch. (Failed to do this, even though this is one thing I wanted to do. Next time.)
- If you get the chance, talk to the keynote speakers outside of just the workshops. These are some conversations that can really motivate you and can also be easier for the keynote speaker as they are more relaxed and have no time/subject restrictions hindering them.
- If there are workshops you want to attend but they clash with another you are already attending, get yourself a conference buddy and ask if they would be interested in switching notes for workshops you both did not get to attend.
- If there is a cocktail event, make sure you wear comfortable shoes. These are usually standing events and you might be standing there for hours. Take it from me, you will want comfortable shoes ladies.
- Make sure you know what times your pitches are and in what rooms they are. If you are not sure, ask one of the conference organizers. Pitch appointments are times when you want to be your most prepared and professional.
- Keep an eye on the pitch appointments. You may find that someone cancels and you can slot in their appointment even if you had not got a pitch with the agent or editor in question. (My writing partner did this and she got full requests from that pitch. So take the chance if you get the chance.)
- Make sure you get to the dining areas quickly. Most conferences are buffet and if you get there late, you may be waiting a very long time in line for some food.
I will be posting a few more posts over the next few days about the workshops I attended so keep your eye on this space.
What are you favourite conference 101 tips?
- Tuesday at RWA National – 2011 (debmaher.com)
- “An Out-of-Life-Experience” (thepatientdreamer.wordpress.com)
- Meeting People at Conferences & Giving TV Interviews (susanwingate.wordpress.com)
- All-Write Conference (twowritingteachers.wordpress.com)
- First Writers’ Conference (kaycburns.wordpress.com)
- Surviving Your First ALA National Conference (jacquelynpwhite.wordpress.com)
- 7 Tips for Surviving PubCon (seomoz.org)
- Writing Convention 101 (Research): Tips for Attending a Writing Convention (valeriesuydam.wordpress.com)
- Guest Posting 101: Pitching Your Post (blogworld.com)
- Writer Wednesday: The Writer’s Bucket List (katjevanloon.com)
- Manuscripts and Writing Conferences (jhunsickerwrites.wordpress.com)
- Keep Your Message Fresh (terrywhalin.blogspot.com)
- Reactions from the Australian & New Zealand RWA Writers Conferences: The Future Is Now (writeitforward.wordpress.com)
- Writers Conferences and the Learning Curve #writing #amwriting (laradunning.wordpress.com)