Category Archives: commentary

Short and Flashy2 with Bonus Short Story

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Short Story Cartoon2

 

Short and Flashy may be the new in thing with writing and I’m so glad to hear it because I love writing short stories and flash fiction.  I found that out about myself when I was writing my first book, The Tower.  When I needed to have a brain change because I couldn’t find the words I needed to say for the book, I would write a piece of flash fiction or a short story so I could think about something else besides the book I was writing. It helped reset my brain.  It made it easier for me to come up with what I needed for my book.

Over the fast few years, people have read more of my short stories and flash fiction. I am assuming it is due to lack of perceived time to read.

Do you know what flash fiction is? In case you don’t, I will try to explain.  Flash Fiction is a complete story (has all the components of a story) in a limited number of words. They can be challenging to complete.

Think about how our reading world has changed since the computer came along.  The time was we had no choice but to go to the book store or the library to get our reading material.  Now we have small portable screens that let us have a book zipped to us over the airwaves.  We can get anything we want to read from Amazon including short stories which we might read while we’re sitting under the hairdryer or waiting in a doctor’s office.

According to Anne R. Allen, one of the authors of How to be a Writer in the E-age: A self-Help Guide, short stories make money and hold their value.  Kindle Singles often sell for the same as a novel-length book.  Ellery Queen and Woman’s World still pay top dollar for genre stories.

Short stories are great for practice.  Learning to write short stores can keep your writing from getting sloppy.  Having short stories in your portfolio might give you another book to publish or an opportunity to publish in a magazine.

I put the majority of my short stories in an eBook called Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes. The book was published on Amazon.  Publishing my work of short stories was something I didn’t want to pass up.  You may also have an opportunity to see what you can do.

Below you will find one of my short stories called Angie’s Secret.  Please comment with a critique and let me know the good and the bad.

Amazon link to Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes:  http://amzn.to/15HB87j


 

Angie’s Secret

 

“Are you going to tell him?” Mattie asked.

“Heavens no, this is my secret. I told you because you’re my best friend, and I know I can trust you.” Angie sat at the table with her cup of tea. She was pale around the eyes and mouth. “I am doing this on my own. I’m thirty-four years old, and I know this is the right thing for me.”

“It may be right for you, but girl you look like crap. Do you want another cup of tea?”

“Sure.”

Mattie went to the stove and brought the teapot back to the table. She asked Angie if she’s eating enough.

Mockingly Angie replied, “Yes, mother, I am. I can take care of myself. Stop worrying about me.”

“How do you think you’re going to pull this off when he barely lets you out of his sight?”

Angie thought of the days ahead as she sipped her tea. Her excitement showed.

Mattie looked at her, seeing the smile, said, “Ok, girlfriend, spill the beans. I want to know what’s making you smile.”

“I have to go home.”

“Angie, remember, no matter what, I’m your friend.” Mattie grabbed Angie, hugged her tightly.

“I’ll be in touch, and don’t worry,” Angie said as they broke apart. She walked back to her house. Her bedroom light was on. Crap, he must know I’m not in my room. I’ll walk through the front door as the grown woman I am.

After she entered the house, she almost made it to the stairs before she heard her father’s harsh voice.

“Angie, is that you?”

“Yes, father, it’s me.”

“Come here immediately,” her father, bellowed.

Angie walked into the library, ready for battle. Her father kicked back in the recliner, with a drink in his hand, asked, “Where have you been?”

“I went to Arlene’s for tea. I left your dinner on the table.”

“It was cold. You are one lousy cook.”

“Yes, father. I’m going upstairs to my room, goodnight, father.”

***

The clock advanced slowly, but 2 a.m. arrived. She pulled her suitcase from beneath her bed, took one last look at her room and left. Her father appeared to be asleep when she opened the front door. As she stepped out into the night air, she took her first deep breath of freedom.

She whispered, “John, are you here?”

“No, he’s not here,” her father said laughingly.

I’ve Finished, (sort of)

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One part of me is going hurray and celebrating but then another part is going, gosh, now I go publisher shopping and setting up more advertising. There is always something more to do with a book that is yet to be published.

Right now I am wanting Beta readers to read the book and give me an opinion on whether they would purchase the book or not. One part of my mind is going why wouldn’t anyone like a book that could teach them how to react and/or treat a bully at school.

I hear rave things about the book from my writing group, but then the devil on my shoulder starts talking and tells me it’s not true. They just say that so they can earn credit or because you said something nice about their writing. For me it’s a constant Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde, depending on the time that you speak with me. I will persevere and this book will be published.

If you would like to read this book in word or PDF and give me an honest opinion, I would be happy to send it to you.  Just email me at shirley_mclain@yahoo.com and let me know.

Thomas Gomel FRONT

 

Here is a short story for you called “No Pain, Just Memories”

It’s rough being a girl, going through the teen years. Not a child but not an adult either. One minute you are silly with giggles. The next minute you are miserable with your heart feeling as if it’s broken in half. You’re not old enough to drink but you know that’s what a lot of people do when they have a broken heart.

My day started out so well due to the fact Mike called and wanted to see me. My heart was racing because I knew he was going to ask me to go steady. I could see the high school ring on my finger with tape wrapped around the shank to make it fit.

“Mom, can I go to town for a couple of hours? I want to go to Walmart to pick up some writing paper for school.”

“Have you got your ironing done? You can’t go anywhere until those clothes are taken care of,” Mom says in her I mean what I say voice.

“I’ve got two pieces left and they will be done before I go. Is it OK, can I go?”

“Alright, but you be home before you dad gets in from work.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I tried to keep the absolute joy out of my voice when I answered her. I get to see Mike today.

I hurried to finish the ironing so I could get ready for my anticipated visual idolization of Mike’s handsome face. He was such a dream. That blonde hair which fell into his eyes, oh those wonderful eyes with the longest lashes I’d seen in my life. They were so clear and such a bright color of blue. Even if I hadn’t loved all of him, I would love him for his eyes alone.

I managed to get dressed without changing clothes four times because I was in a hurry. I left the house in my old car that I drove back and forth to school that had a rotten floorboard. Even though the bus stopped at our front door, I was much too old to have to ride that bus with all those screaming, snotty-nosed kids.

I drove straight to the place where Mike was staying while he worked his summer job. I should’ve known something was wrong when he came outside instead of inviting me in as he’d always done before. I didn’t even get the hello kiss that was our custom. I had a fleeting thought something was going on, but I pushed it away.

“Hi, Mike. I got here as soon as I could. Mom made me finish my ironing before I could come to town.”

“Thanks for coming down. We need to talk,” Mike said. He walked me towards my car not saying anything.

When we got back to my car, I asked Mike, “What do we need to talk about?”

He looked down at me from those wonderful blue eyes and said. “I don’t think we should see each other anymore. My summer job is ending soon and I will be returning to school. Besides, there is someone else I want to date. I thought it was only fair that I tell you straight out.”

I kept my cool while he was talking but I could feel the tears begin to burn my eyes. I had the urge to scream, Who is the dirty, rotten, floozy that’s taken, my man? “OK, Mike, if that’s what you want. I understand. Thanks for being honest with me.” I got in my car as gracefully as I could and drove away. I didn’t get far before I was sobbing for my lost love.

As I looked back at that time, I wondered at how silly that young girl was. A girl’s first heartbreak is something she never forgets and an experience most of us have had to go through. I’m an old woman now and it’s as fresh today as it was then. No pain just memories.

I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing it.  Have a blessed week  Shirley

New Book and A Short Story

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Thomas Gomel FRONT

I’ve got a new book coming out soon on Bullying. It’s called Thomas Gomel Learns about Bullying’.
It’s for ages 10 and above. I made up my own genre called educational fiction. Follow a young man through bullying at school and how it is dealt with. If you would like to be a pre-published reader, let me know. I want several people to read and edit the story to make sure it makes sense. Let me know. Shirley

Here is a 500-word story I wrote the other day called Happy Anniversary,

Happy Anniversary

My husband brought me to Tony’s place for a nightcap. Our night was perfect. I couldn’t https___i.cdn.tbs.com_assets_images_2017_04_two-broke-girls-s05ep16-pity-party-bus-1600x900-1600x900_091420160442wait to get home to ravish his hunky body. When we walked through the door, we looked around just to give our eyes time to adjust to the light. Mack excused himself leaving me to go to the bar alone.
I sat down two seats away from a woman I envied, and I didn’t even know her. Gorgeous from the top of her head to her manicured toes. We made eye contact which made me feel as if I needed to speak.

” Hi, how are you tonight? I’m Amanda.”

“Hello Amanda, I’m Jazelle. It’s nice to meet you.  Are you alone also?”

“No, my husband is with me.”

Unhappily Jazelle said, “My husband is away on a business trip. It’s our anniversary.”

“What a coincidence, it’s mine also. We can celebrate together. Cheer up. I’m sure you’ll have your man back in no time. Speaking of having your man back I wonder where mine is. He should be out of the John by now.”

We ordered two more drinks for ourselves, and I got another one for Mack when he got out of the bathroom.

“Jazelle, do you have a picture of your husband? I’ve one of Mack so I’ll hand you mine and you hand me yours. We’ll do a husband swap.” Both of us laughed as if we were doing a man swap. I pulled out my wallet, and she pulled out hers.  We both got our pictures out.

“Are you ready,” I asked, and we swapped pictures. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I looked at Jazelle, and her face was white. We asked together. “How did you get a picture of Mack/Elliott?”

“What is this Amanda? You have a picture of my husband, Elliott?” Jazelle asked.

I couldn’t answer her, so I did the next best thing. I asked the bartender to please go into the men’s restroom to check on my husband. He gave me a “who do you think I am” look and left the bar.

“Jazelle, that is a picture of my husband and so is the one in my hand. I don’t know what is going on, but when Mack gets out of the restroom, I promise I’ll find out.”  We placed the matching pictures on the bar and picked up our drinks. They were put down empty.

“Excuse me, there ain’t no one in the men’s bathroom,” the barman said.

“What, that can’t be,” I shouted.

“Lady, I checked every stall. He ain’t there.”

“It looks like you’ve been abandoned just as I have,” Jazelle said. “Don’t you think it’s strange we’re at the same bar, with the same anniversary, with pictures of the same man? Something stinks here.”

“I think we should go to the police,” I told her.  “What do you think?”

We were out of Tony’s in a flash!

 


Recognized

Obtaining Writing Agent Attention

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agentGood morning, I thought today I would give just a few pointers on how to get a Writing Agents attention.  I know not everyone uses an agent but just in case you want on here on a few tips:

  1. Be authentic, show your true self, be energetic and sincere
  2. Build your platform now. Don’t wait until your book is published to start working to sell your book.
  3. Be knowledgeable and honest enough about yourself to showcase your best skills.
  4. Be Prepared with chapters to show, outline, your ideas for shaping your book.
  5. Be original, open minds, and “capture a fundamental sentiment that we hadn’t been able to articulate on our own” stated agent Rita Rosenkranz.

 

The following is an article posted by Rachelle Gardner in The Writer Magazine on why writers need agents. I hope you enjoy.

Many times I’ve answered the question of why you, a writer (singular), might need an agent (also singular). I addressed it in posts such as 10 Things to Expect from an Agent and Earning Our Keep. Agent Nathan Bransford gave a terrific rundown on what agents do, here and my client Jody Hedlund gave the perspective of a contracted, newly agented author here.

But today I want to answer a slightly different question. Why do authors, collectively, need agents (plural)? How does the existence of agents in this business help all authors?

You, as an individual author, may or may not require the services of an individual agent. But whether or not you realize it, whenever you deal with a publisher, you’re benefitting from the collective work of agents over the years.

For the last few decades, agents have been on the front lines when it comes to advocating for authors in their relationships with publishers. It’s interesting to speculate on the state of publishing contracts if agents had never been involved and authors had to fend for themselves or just take whatever the publisher was offering.

The economics of publishing are tough, and like in any business, publishers are always trying to figure ways to save money – or a least keep their money longer. Naturally, they come up with brilliant money-saving ideas that involve paying authors less. They try to lower royalty rates; they try to bump up the royalty breaks (i.e. raise the number of copies you must sell before bumping to a higher royalty rate); they may want to extend the length of time over which they pay out the author’s advance (a huge bone of contention right now between agents and a couple of the largest publishers); and of course, they sometimes try to pay lower advances.

Those are the simple things. The last couple of years have seen publishers and agents battling it out over e-book royalty rates and numerous other areas related to new digital technologies. And besides the money, there are other contract points that agents constantly work to keep fair for their clients—everything from option clauses to author copies to author buy-back rates and more. It’s complicated and tricky trying to negotiate all these points in such a rapidly changing publishing environment.

But over all the years and all the changes in publishing, agents collectively have had the knowledge and the clout to duke it out with publishers on a contract-by-contract basis, holding as much ground for authors as possible. For example, if you sign a contract on your own with a small independent publisher, and they offer you a 25% royalty on e-book sales, you have agents to thank for that, because at first, many publishers were trying to fold e-book sales into their regular royalty schedule, meaning you’d only be making 10% to 15% royalty. But agents have, for the most part, changed that.

An interesting nod to the importance of agents in the publishing process happened last month when Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a detailed letter explaining the company’s new policy involving e-rights (which quickly became known as RH’s “retroactive rights grab”). To whom did Mr. Dohle send the letter? Literary agents.

As we continue into the confusing new world of digital publishing, authors are going to need advocates more than ever. You are going to have your hands full, trying to work your full-time job plus write your books plus market them. You won’t have time to become an expert on publishing contracts, too.

Just remember, if you choose to sign with a royalty publisher and stay agent-less, you may be missing out on the latest knowledge and expertise that will protect the value of your intellectual property; but you’ll probably also benefit from the work agents have already done in the last few decades.

Your agent doesn’t just work for you. Each agent is, in their own small way, protecting the rights of all authors. So love ’em or hate ’em, it doesn’t matter because if you’re an author, agents are your friends.

P.S. I imagine some of you will argue that it’s really the other way around—that agents need authors. Well, of course, that’s true. We need authors if we want this job. But if authors didn’t need agents, none of us would have this agenting job in the first place, so it’s kind of a moot point. When authors stop needing agents, agents will cease to play a part in the publishing industry.

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Eight Steps to Become Noticed

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Hello everyone, I have been away from my blog for what seems like forever and I have missed it and my online friends.  Today I want to share with you an article I read by Pete Croatto, on how to get noticed by the editors. If you want an editor it will take some work to get noticed.

  1.  Take Initiative:  In an ideal world, our talent would be a siren song for editors far and wide.  In a world of tight budgets and staff meetings, editors need story ideas and good ones.  That means writing a pitch letter that shows you know the publication and what it wants. “What gets me to notice someone is I can notice immediately if they have a familiarity with the magazine,” says Mark Rotella, senior editor at Publishers Weekly.  “They might have mentioned an article they had read or a review that they read.  Usually, people are pretty specific about what section of the magazine they want to write for.  Basically, if they’re pitching me about the magazine, I want to see that they’ve read it.”
  2. Make the job Easier:  Sara Benincasa, author of Real Artists Have Day Jobs ( And Other Awesome Things They Don’t Teach You in School), says it’s key to do as much work for the editor as possible without overstepping.  “Don’t expect that your editor has a comprehensive knowledge of the television show or trend or book or political issue that you would like to discuss in your writing,” she says.  “Provide links, easy explanations.  Provide assistance without the legwork to show your editor that your pitch is for a story that will bring in views, and readers attention in a positive way.”
  3.  Follow Up:  This isn’t tennis.  The ball keeps moving only if you keep hitting it.  If you haven’t heard back after a week or two, politely inquire so you can either start writing or send your idea elsewhere.  Rotella, who has written for the New York Times and American Heritage, says the delay worked or the pitch came at the wrong time.
  4. Try, Try Again: An editor’s disinterest or silence should not be taken as an affront.  That even applies to repeat clients. “I follow up and pitch more stuff without being annoying and contacting the editor too much,” Benincasa says.  “If they liked my work the first time, they will respond.  If they did not like my work they will not respond.  I do a pitch, I follow up once and if I don’t hear anything, I move on.”  In other words, our confidence in your idea should drive you.
  5. Look Beyond Big Names:  Chances are you’re not going to make it into The New Yorker and not every profile will land in GQ. (But don’t be afraid to try.) Get published, get paid and use the clips as a down payment for more desirable venues.  Write Always.  That’s the only way you get better and pay your bills.
  6. Proofread A Lot:  Once you get an assignment, it’s easy to get noticed for the wrong reasons.  Rotella has an aversion to writers who can’t meet deadlines or follow directions, but says, “Nothing is worse, for me than if I have to spend too much time editing because of sloppiness.  That is a real discouragement.” Be professional. Proofread, fact-check and make yourself available to address any concerns your editor has.
  7. Play Nice with Others:  Veteran freelance journalist Jen A. Miller got a big assignment from a new publication when a fact-checker there remembered Miller’s work at another publication.  “Sometimes that can be an incredibly tedious process,” she says. “You’re already done with a story, you don’t want to deal with it anymore, you don’t want to deal with the fact-checker, but you don’t know where that fact-checker is going to end up.”
  8. Finally, Be Easy to Find:  That comes courtesy Miller, author of Running: A Love Story and a regular contributor to The New York times and Runner’s World.  She believes every writer must have a website. “It sets you up as a professional,” she says.

I do hope this article was helpful and it gave you some incite on what you need to do to snag that elusive editor.  Have a blessed week.

USA Only: My opinion on what could Happen with Our Country.

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It has been a long time since I have written a word on my blog but I feel this issue is important enough that I wanted to give my opinion. This will be my one and only online opinion about the upcoming election.

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Good Morning everyone. Those of you that have known me a long time know that I’m not very political but as everyone else in this country, I do have my opinion. I was listening to the television yesterday, and there was a young college age) talking that got my attention. She was talking about how even knowing his issues she was going to vote for Trump just because there hadn’t been any change in Washington and she was going to encourage all she could to do the same.

It got me to thinking about what could happen to this country if he is elected and it scares me. On one side we have Hillary who has made poor choices in some areas but has worked who entire life for the public. Her husband was the President and not a bad one in my opinion. She already knows all of the foreign leaders, and they know both she and her husband. In my mind, we are getting Bill’s experience also if she is elected.

The email debacle with Hillary is not too different than President Bush’s teams problem with their lost emails. You can watch this short clip and find out what happened. http://www.pbs.org/…/w…/web-video/missing-white-house-emails
It happens on both sides of the isle.

It seems that the so-called Millenials and others in this country could be cutting off their nose to spite their face just for the sake of change right now. Donald Trump is a disaster waiting to happen for this country. He is unstable and the thought that because of his inability to keep his temper in check can through this country in necular war. There are some things he can do as president that congress or the senate can’t stop. Is the change in the white house for the next four years worth all the instability and potential hazards that can happen if Donald Trump is elected? I think not.

I am old enough to have followed Trump throughout his life and witnessed the choices that a spoiled rich man made. He didn’t let anything get in his way. If he wanted it to happen, whether good or bad it happened. I don’t want this man held up as an example of someone to follow to my great-grandchildren or anyone’s child as far as that goes.
I will be glad to discuss my opinion with anyone that can keep it civil and clean. Twice I have written what I thought, and I won’t be doing it again, but I thought maybe this might give someone reason to stop and think about what can potentially happen to our country. Thanks for reading.

The Workaholic (Short Story)

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Hello, everyone, I wrote this a couple of days ago and thought I would share it. It is a story about a man who let work rule his life. I hope you enjoy it.   Shirley

 

The Workaholic

 

James stood by the large picture windows, gazing over the open fields, to the purple-tinged mountains beyond. Darkness would be coming soon and with it a storm. He flinched as a crack of lightning split the murky sky. He turned and threw another log on the open fire, sending a flurry of ash into the air. He refilled his whiskey glass and took a deep sip. He savored the taste as it warmed his throat. He was trying to build up the courage to make that phone call he had been putting off all day. He reached for the phone just as it started to ring.

His heart began to pound as he grabbed for the receiver. The tentative nature of his voice was heard clearly as he murmured, “Hello.”

“Hello, James, this is Edmond from Buying Direct and do I have a deal for you.”

“What, oh hell, don’t call again,” he shouted as he slammed the receiver down. I’m not calling her. She is the one who left. His mind immediately went back to a week ago when he came home after being gone for two weeks and found her and the kids were gone. He was expecting his two-year-old daughter to start screaming “daddy” as soon as she realized he was home, and his five-year-old son starts asking to go out back and play catch. So much for expectations. What he got was an empty house with a note left on the dining room table. He’d memorized every word since he’d read it so many times.

James, I’ve taken the kids and moved out. I’ve tried to talk to you many times, but you kept putting me off or not listening at all. You can’t stay away from home for weeks and expect me to handle the house, the kids, the bills and that dog of yours. Don’t bother calling Mom’s because I’m not going there. If I want to talk to you, which I doubt. I will call you. April

After reading the note, James made his bar area his most favorite spot in the house. The drinking began the day he got home and has only stopped when he passes out on the couch. Normally he is fastidious about his appearance but not this week. He looks like a drunk on skid row. His facial hair now has six days’ growth, not to mention the hair on his head is greasy. He’s not removed his clothes since he walked through the door. They smell like body odor and wet dog scent and are very wrinkled.

The storm rumbling outside enhanced James’s angry mood. He couldn’t believe, after all, the years they’d been together, and as hard as he worked, she left. She can stay gone. I don’t need her, and I will fight for custody of the kids. She’s not going to get away with doing this to our family. James picked up his glass from the coffee table poured himself another glass of Crown Royal over rocks. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d filled his glass.

“Come here, Brutus. You will be my family. Won’t you boy? You love me don’t you? We don’t need her.” The Mastiff shook his head slinging saliva on the coffee table before he jumped up to lay beside James on the couch. James began to rub Brutus’s head and ears. “You’re such a good boy. You won’t leave me, will you?”

 

“You know, Old Boy, I have to go back to work on Monday. I don’t think I can go back to Raleigh and leave you here. I’ll give my boss a call tomorrow and tell him I can’t abandon you. I’m sure he’ll understand. There’s no way I’m leaving you here. She’ll be sorry she left us. You wait and see.”

The phone rang again but this time, James was too inebriated to care who was on the phone. He picked up the phone and slurred “Hello.”

“James, it’s April.”

“Yeah, what do you want?”

“The kids want to talk to you, but I can hear in your voice this is not a good time.”

“Why in the hell would you care what kind of time it is. You’re not here. You took them and ran away.”

“Sober up James if you want to talk to the kids. Goodbye”

The phone clicked, and she was gone. He didn’t even bother to hang it up before he laid down on the couch and passed out.

Who Is That Character?

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Ninja_Vector_Character_Preview

I’ve been told you must know your characters.  Your main characters desires should be known.  If you want your character to gather the sympathy from your readers, then give the character a strong desire.  What is being strived for, a new job, romance, riches, and knowledge?  If your character doesn’t have a need, do you think your readers will find excitement in your book? How do you say “boring?”You have to make your character multidimensional, and not leave him flat.  What creates the most vivid picture, 3D or regular television?   It is a matter of contrast in your characters.  As humans, we are very complicated, and you have to show that complication in your characters also. That way your reader can get interested in your character.

Your contrasts should be worked into your story, so they do not become roadblocks for the reader.  You want your story to keep moving forward.  You can have your character step out from the usual character portrayed as long as the tendency has been shown before.  That way it is not a stopping point.

Gotham’s “Writing Fiction” states,” your characters should have the ability to change, and the reader should know it.  Change is particularly important for a story’s main character.  Just as the desire of the main character drives the story, the character’s change is often the story’s culmination.”

This doesn’t mean your main character has to change, but the reader should always know change is possible.  Predictability is created if you do not give the character the potential to change.

I have covered a few ways to help you create a character that your reader can get to know.  The video today on creating characters.

PS this video gives lots of good information, but there is cafe noise in the background.

6 Steps for Writing a book Synopsis

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snopsisSince Princess Adele’s Dragon has now been published I have to write a synopsis of the story.  I decided to look for some help and found this blog by Marissa Meyer. It broke the synopsis down into easy to handle pieces. I hope you find it helpful.  Shirley    http://amzn.to/25lUOYM
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Confession: I enjoy writing query letters. I know that most writers loathe them, but I always thought the query letter was a fun challenge. The challenge of trying to distil your novel down to its essence, giving just enough information to draw the agent or editor into the story, but without giving away so much that the manuscript loses all sense of mystery.

However, I feel quite differently about the second-most dreaded item of many submission packages: the Synopsis.

The book synopsis is that three- or four-page snapshot of the book, that essentially tells your story from beginning to end while seemingly stripping it of any intrigue, humor, or emotional resonance. To me, writing a synopsis that could leave a reader still wanting to read the actual manuscript always seemed like a much bigger challenge than the query letter.

Unfortunately, it turns out that getting published does not necessarily mean we don’t ever have to write a synopsis again.

Last January, when it came time to my agent and me to start talking with my publisher about My Next Book (which was the Super Secret Project I wrote during NaNoWriMo last November), the submission package we pulled together was remarkably similar to the package we’d used to sell the Lunar Chronicles:

– A pitch letter (similar to a query), illustrating the concept and major conflict of the book.

– The first 50 pages, edited and polished to a glowy sheen.

– The synopsis of the book (although some plot points are subject to change).

So rather than whine and complain about how much I hate writing synopses, I decided to take the opportunity to embrace the synopsis writing challenge, and figure out a process for writing the synopsis that didn’t seem quite so painful and intimidating and, in the end, left me with something I was pleased to show my editor.

I’m not allowed to really talk about my new project,* so I’m going to use examples from the synopsis I wrote for CINDER way back when.

Step 0: Write the book!

If the book isn’t written yet, I feel like you’re writing an outline, not a synopsis, and I’ve talked about outline writing at length in previous blog posts. For the purpose of this synopsis-specific guide, let’s assume you have the book drafted out, or even completed.

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

Try to boil every chapter down to just one or two sentences. What is the point of this chapter? What is the most important thing that happens?

Some chapters will be significantly longer than a sentence or two, particularly the opening chapters (as they tend to introduce a lot of information about the world and the main characters) and the climax (which could revolve around lots of complicated reveals and twists).

And yes, include the ending! From who wins the final battle to whether or not the protagonist hooks up with the love interest in the end. One of the main purposes of a synopsis is to show the full arcs of your plot and subplots, so don’t leave out those all-important resolutions.

Step 2. Embellish the beginning.

Just because you can’t use pages and pages to set up the world and protagonist’s character in the synopsis doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the reader a little bit of foundation to stand on. The first paragraph of the synopsis should give the same basic information you convey through the book’s first chapter: where and when does this story take place, who is the protagonist, and what problem are they facing right off the bat?

xample: LINH CINDER is a cyborg, considered little more than a technological mistake by most of the society and a burden by her stepmother, ADRI. But her brain-machine interface has given her a unique skill with mechanics, making her, at sixteen, the best mechanic in New Beijing.

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

Here, it will begin to look like a story, but an incredibly sparse and drab one. Don’t worry about that. Just focus on getting all the technical formatting stuff figured out, so you don’t have to re-write it all at the end.

Standard Synopsis Formatting

– Written in third person, present tense, regardless of what POV or tense the book is written in.

– The first mention of each character’s name is put in all-caps (so that they can be easily spotted).

Example: When she arrives home, she discovers her two stepsisters—arrogant PEARL and vivacious PEONY—being fitted in ball gowns.

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

Distilling each chapter down into just a sentence or two can lead to lots of apparent plot holes and lost information. Read through what you’ve written and check that every event in the story naturally leads into the next. Imagine beginning each sentence with a Because / Then structure, and insert further explanation or character motivations as necessary.

Example: Cinder is worried that if she doesn’t fix the hover, Adri will sell off IKO to pay for the repairs herself. That night, Cinder goes to the junkyard to find replacement parts…

(Could be read as: Because Cinder is worried . . . then she goes to the junkyard…)

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

Now that the plot makes sense from beginning to end check that you’re adequately showing how your protagonist evolves as a result of the events in the story. Do readers get a sense of who they are at the beginning and how they’ve changed by the end? Look for those Big Moments in the story that change your protagonist’s attitudes and goals. Indicate how those moments effect the protagonist emotionally, and show how their goals and motivations change as a result.

 

Example: Without Iko and Peony keeping her tied to Adri, Cinder vows to fix up the abandoned car she saw in the junkyard and run away.

 

Step 6. Trim and edit.

Now that you have all the necessary information read through a few more times and trim it up as much as you can. Be ruthless when it comes to removing excess words and phrases that don’t help you tell the story. Choose your descriptive words carefully, ensuring that you’re using words that carry a lot of weight. My book synopses for CINDER and New Secret Project both came in around the 1,500-2,000 word range, and that’s not a lot of room to work with! So edit, edit, edit.

I’m Having a Celebration

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Princess Adeles Dragon3It’s done and finally gone live on Amazon.  My new ebook Princess Adele’s Dragon. It has taken me a little over a year to get it completed. If you like fantasy and Gothic times you will like this book.

Princess Adele sets out to save her and her brothers Kingdom from a beast that threatens their way of life. What she encounters is totally unexpected and sets her on a new path. If you like gothic times with Kings, Princess’s, Castles and bad guys then you will like this young adult fantasy. You will fall in love, hate the bad guy and fight a war.

There is a read inside option on Amazon. Click on this link and it will take you right to it.

http://amzn.to/25lUOYM    If your Kindle Unlimited you may read it for free. Be sure and leave a review even if you didn’t like it, but I know you will 🙂

Have a totally blessed day and let me know what you think.

Shirley