4

The Not So Dreaded Synopsis.

When you’re querying, you will find that most agents request a synopsis along with a query. The synopsis, for those of you who don’t know, is a short summary of your book. In other words, you need to take your 74,000 word novel and summarize it in 500 words! Fun, right?

Impossible, I declared. I complained and cried, pouted and moaned, and finally sat my butt down and wrote. First attempt, 1400 words. Okay, that’s a bit too long. I cried some more, and then my lovely friend shared a great link in which the author summarized Star Wars in a few short, compact paragraphs. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen that movie enough times to know it backwards and forwards, but after reading the synopsis, something just clicked. My second attempt was in the 500 word range, and became the synopsis I used when querying agents. And I actually had fun while writing it! Who expected that? Certainly not me!

So what did I do? I focused on the facts by following the main storyline that starts at the beginning and takes us all the way through to the end. Anything that I considered a side story, or not important to the main storyline, I omitted. Sure, it’s still important, but when you’re trying to tell an agent your entire story in about 500 words, you really don’t need to write about a fight your main character had with her parents when it’s quickly resolved a few chapters later, no harm done. If the fight she had with her parents triggered something major to happen, then yes, you would include it. But all the little things that happen to your characters that you may have spent weeks writing? Don’t even mention them in your synopsis.

You also need to keep your sentences precise and to the point. Use as little words as possible, and don’t feel weird if you’re summarizing an entire chapter in one sentence. That’s actually really good! Each word is important, so make sure they all count!

The main reason I had fun while writing the synopsis was because I stuck as close to my narrator’s voice as possible. Yes, my book was written in the first person and yes, the synopsis must be written in the third person, but as I wrote it, I imagined that my narrator was telling the story. For example, how did she feel when this scene happened? Writing with your character in mind gives the synopsis a unique flair, making it much more interesting than the basic “and then this happened” ones.

Coming up with a working synopsis will take time, so don’t give up if your first few attempts are too long or too wordy. Keep trying (you might want to start from scratch each time, but that’s up to you), and eventually you will succeed! Good luck! For more tips, please see this great post!

9

What’s In A Name?

I don’t follow a strict set of rules when I name my characters, except that I absolutely must have their name decided before I write them. And once it’s decided, it can’t be changed. It’s weird, but after I’ve picked out the perfect name, something clicks in my brain, and there’s no going back. It’s their name, I can’t change it! (Although there was one time where I was forced to change a character’s name because it was too similar to another character’s name and I still to this day refer to her by her original name… what a disaster!)

Usually, I create the character first, deciding on their physical traits (hair and eye color, etc) before settling on a name. If I’m writing a fantasy story, it’s a little easier to pick a name as I can usually make it up. For contemporary novels, like THE SIGHT SEER, I searched baby name webpages for both common and uncommon names. There was one character in THE SIGHT SEER that gave me trouble, though. I scoured webpages, asked my family for suggestions, but his name just wasn’t coming to me! Each day of writing took me closer and closer to his first appearance, and I began to panic when finally, I figured out what I wanted to call him. I find the whole thing ironic because this character is a total pain in the butt; it figures he would make me crazy over something like this! A few months later, I was stuck yet again on a character that would appear in the proposed sequel. I had two names in mind, but couldn’t make a choice. One night, I had a dream about him and another character; the second character (whose name I already knew) called the first character by one of the names I had picked out. I woke up and thought, “Ah, so that’s his name!” I owe that second character a big thank you for making that difficult decision for me!

Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll stumble across an amazing name and develop a character around it. It usually doesn’t work like this, but it’s great when it does. I also like to keep a notebook handy and write down a name that catches my eye so that in the future, when I’m stuck on a name, I can consult my list.  This is helpful for naming secondary characters–I’ll admit it, I spend a lot more time naming main characters than I do on the ones who only get a few lines here or there. That’s why my main characters will have amazing (well, I think they’re amazing!) names while the secondary characters end up with common names. I’m not going to waste a great name on just anyone!

For all the writers out there, how do you go about naming your characters?

1

The Dreaded Query.

My friend Amy recently wrote a fantastic post about querying, which you can read here. For anyone who plans on querying, this is a must-read!

It also saves me from writing my own post about querying. In all honestly, I was rather awful at it! I wrote about six or seven drafts, and ended up sending two different versions out. After the first version received zero requests, I wrote a more personal version and got my first (and only!) request for a full read. Luckily for me, that one request turned in to an offer, and I no longer had to worry about querying. I should probably mention that I only sent out twenty-six queries, so I’m not sure if the newer, better version would have received more requests for partial/full reads. Maybe, maybe not. All I know is, I did not enjoy writing queries!

But I did have fun with the synopsis, a topic I hope to address in an upcoming post!

2

Write at your own pace.

My first four completed novels were written during National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who have never heard of Nano, the goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. It was fun and taught me how to write something from start to end, but by the fourth year, I was completely burned out and declared, “Never again!”

The next two novels’ (the epic, overly long fantasy and its sequel) first drafts took me about a half a year for each. I wrote when I could, sometimes stopping for a long period of time, but eventually I finished them. Of course, when I realized they were way too long, I had some serious editing to do, which I was in the middle of when I got the idea for The Sight Seer.

I was at work, daydreaming as usual, when the idea came to me. By the time my shift was over, I knew my three main characters, knew the major plot points. I got home and wrote, stopped for dinner, and wrote some more. The story consumed me, and I wrote every chance I could, only stopping for pesky things like headaches or, you know, Hurricane Irene threatening to wash my house away (it’s really hard to concentrate when you’re wondering if you have to evacuate or not!). I jotted down the day I started my new project, just to give myself an idea of how long it would take me to write this, and imagine my surprise when I wrote “The End” on Day Forty-Two.

I was so against forcing myself to write 50,000 words in 30 days, saying it killed my creativity and took away the fun of writing, and meanwhile, I had written 73,000 words in forty-two days. With Nano, you have to write 1666 words a day to reach 50,000 by the last day. With The Sight Seer, I was averaging 1738 words a day! Of course, some days I wrote 500 words and other days I wrote 4000 words, but do you see what I’m saying? I was adamant I would never do Nano again, and meanwhile, I did it anyway, without even realizing it!

Out of all the novels I’ve written, The Sight Seer was the one that possessed me. So, in a way, I guess I can understand why I wrote that much in such a short amount of time. The story was begging to be written, and as fast as possible. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write this quickly again (my current work in progress, written while querying, took me seventy-five days and it’s 20,000 words SHORTER than The Sight Seer!), so it’s definitely an experience to remember!

With each attempt so vastly different from the other, I’ve learned that I can’t compare my writing experiences. Some novels may take half a year, some may take a few short weeks. As long as it’s quality writing that I’m confident enough to share with others, then what does it matter? Find a pace that works for you, and run with it!

1

Write Everyday!

So you want to write a novel. That’s great! But guess what? You actually have to sit down and write it! Gasp, I know! The thing doesn’t write itself; how unfair is that? If only we could plug our brains up to the computer–no wait, maybe that’s not such a great idea. Who knows what’s going on in that head of yours.

Writing is hard, I get it. Finding time to sit down and compose a novel takes both effort and sacrifice. Writing a page today and another one three months from now will not help the creative juices flow. The greatest bit of advice I ever read was you must write everyday. No excuses. Listen, I know, I work forty hours a week, and there are days when I come home and all I want to do is veg out in front of the computer looking at pointless junk. But you have to be strict with yourself. For me, I’ll get the day’s writing out of the way, and then reward myself with looking at pointless junk. However, I’m lucky enough that once I get into a story, I’d rather be writing than anything else. But sure, even when I’m absolutely obsessed with my current project and want to spend every waking moment writing, there will still be days where I can’t get into the flow. But that’s okay! Even if I only write five hundred words, it’s still something! The story and characters are still fresh in my mind, which is exactly what I want. And who knows; maybe the next day I’ll write two thousand words.

So that’s my advice to you today. When writing a novel, write every single day, even if it’s only a few words. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, and you might throw it out during the edits, but that doesn’t matter. Keeping the story alive, day after day, will help you reach your goal of writing (and completing!) a novel.