Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

WIPMarathon Check-In #4

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount: 72,956 words and 28 chapters (first draft completed)

Current WC + CC: 73,226 words and 28 chapters (still editing)

I surpassed my overall goal (“get as much of the first draft done as possible by the end of the month”), so yay. 😀 The marathon has been motivating and a lot of fun to participate in. When I started writing this one in early July, I really didn’t feel like I could finish before the end of the year. Earlier this month I became more determined to finish, but I still thought it would take me another few months. So this was beyond awesome.

WIP Issues this week: Despite totally kicking my goal’s butt this month, I actually barely scratched the surface of the goals I set for myself for this week once I’d finished the draft: Edit it all–just a typo-check and minor continuity changes at this stage–AND write the outline for my next project, the shiny new idea that came to me last week. I didn’t get as far with editing as I’d like, mostly because I was busy, and I didn’t even start the outline.

A good thing, though, because the outline for the shiny new idea continues to evolve in my head. It’s important it evolves and becomes something a little different because it’s dangerously close to some been-there, read-that vibes from other books, I think. It’s how I execute it that I hope sets it apart and makes it worthwhile. (It’ll be my first attempt at a straight-up contemporary, no supernatural involved, so that’s why I was unsure I could make it unique enough. Also… I’m actually going for NA instead of YA this time, which I never thought I’d do.)

What I learned this week in writing: I can actually miss writing/editing on days I’m stuck doing work writing instead. ;-; (I’m usually so tired of staring at a computer screen on those days I don’t miss it.)

What distracted me this week while writing: Work. I also beta read 20 chapters of someone else’s work, which was a pleasant distraction. 😀

Plan after the marathon: Finish the first edits, do the beta process, hopefully get it off to my agent, and meanwhile also outline the next project and dive into it soon!

Last 200 words: I can’t share the last 200 written or edited due to spoilers, but I guess I’ve steeled myself and am ready to share the very first 200 words of the book if you guys want to see it.

I’d lived only five winters the first time I saw an infant drowned.

I felt Father’s hand on my shoulder as the horse jostled us slightly, shaking her head and whipping the tips of her silky black mane across my eyes. Father noticed the instinct that took over, the mere moment my eyelids closed despite the how hard I’d fought to keep them open. “Watch, Rohesia. Burn the moment into your mind.”

The shrieking woman held aloft by two soldiers kicked her legs, sending her skirt upward. I noticed the mud that collected among the hem, the strands of straw-colored hair that escaped her kerchief and swung wildly across her mouth. The hair blew with each shriek like curtains in the breeze, the skirt a gale that tore through a field of wheat, the woman the only source of movement beyond the scuffing hooves of the horses beside me.

“The child, Rohesia. Not the mother.”

The soldier by the river tossed the tattered cloth that had wrapped the baby on the ground and held the crying infant as far out in front of him as his stocky arms would allow. One gauntlet supported the baby’s head and neck, the other gripped the child’s body loosely, and I saw one impossibly small leg kick upward vainly.

–Oops, beta reader, I read this over again and changed a few words yet again if you noticed a difference, but yeah…

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

WIPMarathon Check-In #3

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount: 45,053 words and 15 1/2 chapters.

Current WC + CC: 72,956 words and 28 chapters and… COMPLETE! I finished the first draft!

Yeah, that goal to write “as much of the first draft as possible this month”? How about “finish the first draft a week before the month is up” instead? Yay. 😀 This was mostly due to a light work week and getting in the writing groove. And also, my story veered off in its own direction (disregarding the outline) twice, and the second time I had to throw out the rest of the outline (like 10 more chapters), it was so different. But I rewrote the end of the outline (shaving off five projected chapters and thus 10,000+ words) and it’s much better this way, I think.

My goal for this last week of the marathon is to make preliminary edits (usually just typo check and a few minors changes at this stage for me, before I get feedback) and start sending it to my beta, while also editing a manuscript I’m beta-ing for her, AND outline my next project, that shiny new idea that popped into my head this week.

WIP Issues this week: Getting off the outline not once, but twice, but both times it was for the better and I didn’t even get hit with writer’s block adjusting it.

What I learned this week in writing: I can finish another manuscript! (The three unfinished WIPs made me think it might never happen again.)

What distracted me this week while writing: Not much. I (obviously) had a good writing week! A shiny new idea did threaten to distract me, though, as I wrote the first paragraph for that and kept brainstorming ideas. But I pushed it aside and committed to finishing what I’d started.

Last 200 words: Can’t share due to spoilers! I thought about sharing the opening 200 words, but I’m not sure I want to just now. They’re pretty dark. ;-;

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

WIPMarathon Check-In #2

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount: 23,839 words and 7 chapters

Current WC + CC: 45,053 words and 15 1/2 chapters.

Yeah, I wrote more in one week than I did in the ENTIRE FIRST MONTH I worked on this WIP. It was a combination of this awesome WIP marathon, having the outline completed and having less work (boo) than usual.

WIP Issues this week: Continuing to balance the multiple POVs. It feels harder to keep them separate when I work on more than one chapter a day, but I’m not going to stop when I have the desire to keep writing! I just remind myself about how each character would view the situation.

Also, setting high expectations has a drawback. I’m starting to be disappointed with perfectly FINE accomplishments each day. Like this week, 1000-2000+ words per day was the norm, and that’s GREAT, but one day I did just under 800 and I felt sad. Um, but 800 was MORE than I was doing MOST days in all of July!

What I learned this week in writing: Getting over the initial “omg, I have tens of thousands of words ahead of me, I can’t do this~” hump has helped. I’m probably only halfway to the end even still, so I’ve got a lot to go. But it feels more like I can do it. I HAVE to do it. My characters want the story told. (I’m getting nervous as I approach the word count where I got irrevocably stuck in one of my previous WIPs.) Also, I’m still loving outlines now. I’ve even managed to keep thinking of new ideas as I write, but having that framework in place is immensely helpful.

What distracted me this week while writing: Car troubles and a busy schedule, but I still managed to find plenty of time to write.

Last 200 words: A little more, I cheated. Also, this is smack in the middle of a chapter, but I was done for the day:

Tierny grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me onward. “Avoid the ladies of the night.” We stopped moving, and I noticed a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth. “At least when there are rumors the soldiers are combing their chambers.” I wondered if he would tell me to avoid them under any other circumstances.

He dropped my arm and guided me onward, through one alley and the next, through more puddles and muck than I ever imagined could exist.

At last he turned a corner and stopped again. No one was in this alley, and there was no torch to light our path. Something pulsated in the dark beneath me, like the heartbeat of the city, buried in mud and feces. I lifted a foot and shook it, suddenly feeling like I was covered in rats and insects.

Knock. Knock knock knock. Knock knock. Tierny’s fist pounded on a door I hadn’t even realized stood partway down the stone wall. He pounded the pattern again. And then once more.

“All right, enough.” A woman’s throaty voice called back from the other side of the doorway. I waited patiently, bouncing my knees and reminding myself that even a city as filthy as this one couldn’t possibly have as many spiders and vermin as I pictured now crawling up my leg, and the door opened, a squat and stocky woman holding up a candle in my face.

I looked down and saw my foot squished into the pile of what I hoped was horse excrement and all the maggots and worms squirming in it

And my little announcement–I came up with a working title last night! 

Fall Far From the Tree

I’m pretty bad at coming up with titles. (My other completed manuscript didn’t get one until after I’d finished the first draft.) It actually only works on one level, but I like how it sounds. However, it might give off too much of a contemporary vibe (the WIP is fantasy), and there isn’t enough direct connection to the narrative, and yeah… But the idea is a play on “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Well, it’s a working title anyway. And it’s better than “TITLE,” which it was named until today…

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

WIPMarathon Check -In #1

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount: As of last Saturday, I’d just finished the fourth chapter and that took it to 17,480 words. (Long chapters, I know, but they were intro chapters and from now on, the chapters HAVE TO be shorter.)

Current WC + CC:
I outlined on Sunday and then got back to work. Now it’s at seven chapters, 23,839 words.

WIP Issues this week: Figuring out the rest of the plot (which I did with an outline, yay, I feel more confident now) and feeling bad about not writing much toward the end of the week because I was busy with work and then a bit ill.

What I learnt this week in writing: Writing outlines are not the enemy of creativity that pantser-me used to think. Yes, I love discovering the story as I write, but having that outline in place is so reassuring. I’ve tweaked a few things as I write, so it’s not like the outline is something rigid.

What distracted me this week while writing: Work and feeling sick. At least feeling sick let me read a lot, yay.

Last 200 words: Hmm…. Not my favorite passage or scene by any means (and a tiny bit more than 200), but:

“My advice, should you ever find yourself surrounded by an angry mob again.” The voice was alto, deep but melodious. I felt the soft brush of dark hair press against my cheek as he spoke, as the man—the man—ignored my blows and turned the horse backward, back toward the duchy. “Don’t rely on someone in the sky to get down in time to save you.” He flicked the reigns. “Hee-yah!” The horse went speeding forward, the few women and children remaining in that direction scrambling desperately to flee the pounding of hooves taking me away from Mother Flore and Mother Ermessenda, away from Mother Jehanne and the safety of the towers… And off into the burning ember sun, toward the duchy, a sun-kissed, unknown savior seated behind me.

“Why are there no men in the Stargazers, Mother Jehanne? Why must all the boys leave when they come of age?”

Mother Jehanne stroked my hair, lulling me to sleep with the rhythms of her rocking chair. “Ytoile would not permit their savagery. We take their gifts to the tower, it’s true. We might bless them even, if they are devout. But they will never be as dear to Ytoile as are women and children.” Mother Jehanne leaned in, whispering directly into my ear. “Men want women, Cateline. They want them in unspeakable ways. If one ever catches you, let Ytoile guide your hand. Don’t let him defile you.”

I shielded my eyes with my arm at my forehead, feeling the hot burn of the sun demon even through my closed eyelids, taunting me to do what needed doing.

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

WIPMarathon Intro

So I don’t usually talk about my WIPs in depth at my blog. Mostly because I have too many of them going at once—or started, anyway—and I feel ashamed that I have nothing to show for it other than sweat and tears and some rough, uncompleted drafts that no one on earth but me has ever seen. Life gets in the way, writer’s block hits, and even well-intentioned “I’m going to write every day and finish this!” goals end in getting stuck at what seemed like the climax of the manuscript. (I’m looking at you, contemporary suspense YA manuscript. I’ve shelved you for a while now, but I swear someday I’ll dust you off and figure out what went wrong.)

Well, I’m tired of having nothing to show for it. It’s been my dream practically all my life to be a published author, and—dare I hope—an author with more than one book to her name. But I’m never going to get there until I have more than one manuscript to shop around!

So luckily, shiny new idea hit in early July. Like I needed another new idea I wouldn’t finish… But how about one I WOULD finish? What if I told myself I’d write almost every single day (I’m sorry, me, but some days I’m just too busy or tired to write even a line, and that’s okay, as long as it’s not often.) and this time, I had an outline ready so I couldn’t possibly wind up stuck at the end?

So that became my goal: write this manuscript and finish it. Stop fretting about all the things people will find wrong with it, that everyone I know will hate it and I’ll have to start another project, and just write it, just have another project in the wings ready to go.

So last week I found out about a group of bloggers devoting the month of August to accomplishing their individual goals in their WIPs, and although I’m late to the game, I’ve also been writing a lot this month (more than last month even), so I decided to join in! Learn more here if you feel like doing the same (yes, you can join late, I asked!).

So here’s my intro, soon followed by my check-in:

Marathon Goal: As close to finishing the first draft of this project as possible. I originally gave myself until the end of the year, but I feel more pumped. I’m hoping I can finish long before that. I did also have a goal of writing my outline this month after finishing the first four (long) chapters in July (I wanted to get a feel for the characters before I decided the rest of the plot), and I did that last weekend, yay.

Stage of writing: Writing the first draft of my sixth novel project. (Of the previous five, one is completely retired, one is finished and got me an agent :D, and the other three are in various stages of being on hiatus.)

What inspired my current project: It’s YA fantasy. I want to say Game of Thrones meets Marvel Comics’ Runaways, but every YA fantasy these days has the “YA version of Game of Thrones” tag already, so… yeah. Also, it’s my first project with multiple POVs. Four to be precise. Because I’m crazy like that.

What might slow down my marathon goal: Getting distracted, getting busy, and having too much work to do. I write for a living, too, and if I spend all day staring at my computer, pulling the creative juices out of my brain writing for work, sometimes I’m simply too exhausted to keep doing that for my own stuff. (Seriously, I wish I had like a Kindle screen just for typing. I get so tired of staring at a glowing screen.)

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

Character Voice and First Person Point of View

I’m a fan of first person narrative. I love reading it, and I love writing it, and thankfully it’s pretty common in my favorite genre (YA). There’s something so immediate about first person narrative that lets you slip into a character’s head better than third person, to picture the action from his or her point of view. Through one character’s eyes, you go on an adventure you’d probably never get to experience, you get romanced (sometimes~) and, in YA at least, are free to regress to a younger age when you were just getting used to the unfairness of the world (and overreacting to it), and you viewed things through a not-yet-adult-no-longer-a-child point of view.

I love writing when first person voice is unreliable especially. As the writer, you know your character isn’t seeing things as they truly are, but it’s fine manipulating the reader into seeing things from the skewed point of view, only to turn it on its head later.

My only problem as a writer of first person perhaps? Learning to give each narrative voice its own flavor. So far I have one completed manuscript in first person and two works in progress in first person—the newest will actually have four different first persons at that. I know, I’m crazy, but that’s the story I want to tell. (My other two works in progress are in third person and I’ve yet to become as attached to them, perhaps because I don’t feel as immersed in them.) I’ve seen multiple points of view first person done well (among them, one I’ve beta read and hope you all see someday), and I think I can come up with some strategies for trying to make each voice different. (We’ll see if others agree I’ve done a decent job distinguishing them, since I’ve yet to share more than one first person narrative with a single human being… My cat, though, she’s seen them while getting fur all over my laptop screen.):

  • Try to figure out who the narrator is before you start writing. What makes him or her different from the other characters you’ve written before? What are their strengths, and what are their weaknesses?
  • How would you write dialogue for this character? Chances are, you “get inside the heads” of dozens of characters all the time anyway when they speak to your narrator. This time you just have to think of how the new character would describe everything unfolding in the room.
  • How are they unreliable? Everyone is, to a certain extent. Figure out the “truth” of the scene, and then figure out how the character would interpret that truth. How would they describe a scene in a different way than the last character from whose point of view you wrote?
  • Don’t go overboard with the voice differences. Having one character drop the “g” off of “ings” seems like a good idea to remind the reader that this is Character B speaking, not Character A, but it’s really just distracting. If Character A is serious and Character B takes everything as a joke, there are ways to express that better than speech differences, like smarmy commentary.

What other tips and strategies do you have for writing different first person points of views? Share them with me!

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

Happy Labor Day! (Are You Laboring?)

Happy Labor Day to the rest of you in the US! If you’re a writer, particularly a freelance one, holidays are hard to take off, though. If you shimmy your schedule around just right, you may be able to take a day off here and there, but usually they’re out of the question. Especially if you’re being good and writing creatively every day like you ought! In which case, even when you don’t have the business writing to do, you’re still keeping up the discipline by working on a WIP.

An advantage of being a freelance writer, though, is that you can make your own schedule for the most part, and there are a number of days where you work fewer than eight hours. (And some days when you work more, ack. I try to avoid those. I never once pulled an all-nighter in college, but I have for some clients!) Of course, there’s always so much else to fit into any given day: cleaning, cooking and running errands… I don’t think I’ve experienced boredom outside of things like waiting in lines in years.

This week I have a huge freelancing project from one of my favorite clients, one that may extend for a number of months. I’m also roughly 10,000 words from finishing the first draft of the YA WIP that I started earlier this year and that I’ve been determined to work on almost every day for over a month now. (And boy, is it taking a lot more out of me than the first completed book!) I have big, exciting edits for another project. I have two other WIPs not touched in a while… Oh, and I have to live outside of staring at my computer at some point, too.

So how have I managed it so far? And why am I here at the blog? Because I’ve finished my work quota for the day. (Admittedly, I haven’t picked up the WIP quite yet, but I will.) So far (after fighting off panic about how much I need and want to do over the next few weeks) I’ve decided to:

  • Get the work writing done right away in the morning. I need to work on the non-fiction stuff when my mind’s still focused and I have the drive. Whenever I feel my drive slipping, I keep telling myself I’ll be done after lunch, and then I’ll have the afternoon to devote to other projects.
  • Turn distractions into a reward. I can easily spend an hour just goofing off at my favorite websites first thing when I get online if I choose (it’s nice and brain-numbing). Not so this week. I check my email, shut off the Internet, write two articles, check one fun website, rinse and repeat…
  • Stick to the WIP. I’ve spent too many weeks working on this one nearly every single day to give up now when the end is so close. (And I’m at risk of never wanting to pick it up again after all it’s put me through!) I just need to be more lax when it comes to word count. My best days were 2000-3000 words, but now I need to be okay with 500 on any given day, and then I can focus on other projects.
  • Take breaks! When I waste time goofing off online, I feel guilty spending too much time away from the computer doing anything more substantive than a quick run to the washing machine to start a load of laundry. When I’m disciplined, I feel I deserve a 15-minute break to read or step out for fresh air. It recharges me, and I don’t feel guilty.

So far, so good, I don’t feel like a burn out is imminent. What do you do when you’re incredibly busy, but there’s so much you need and want to do? How do you fit it all in?

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

Writing Through Writer’s Block

Today I had… Perhaps not what I’d call “writer’s block,” but some sort of extra struggle with the blank screen. I think a little bit of burnout was to blame, or building my expectations for myself too high after a really good week of work on my WIP. Last week, I finally hit the “hump” in my YA WIP and was pumping out 1000-2000 words a day. (Nothing quite like the 5000-10,000 words per day I’ve managed when super inspired in the past, but much better than how I’d been doing before.) I didn’t have the whole thing plotted out–I usually get inspired as I write–but I felt like I was going somewhere. Meanwhile, I got hit with another idea for a new creative project and I “cheated” on my YA WIP to work on that a bit. I was on a creative roll, all while still juggling a fair amount of other things that required my attention!

Today, I had about six hours I could devote just to creative writing. A dream come true, right? I figured I could get so much done! But… I kept staring at the blank screen. I’d write a bit, and then just… Doubt that anything I’d written was worthwhile. Doubt I could pull off what I was trying to write. Doubt I could even come up with a full story. No ideas were coming to me! Even my favorite technique of skipping ahead a bit to write one scene I could vividly picture and then going back to fill in the gaps wasn’t really working. In the end, I got 1300 words done. Not shabby at all, except when you consider I spent six hours staring at the computer to produce it. (On a good day, I can average 1000 words in an hour.) I really don’t want to face another day like this one!

So here are a few things I want to remind myself and other writers who face a day that’s less than productive:

  • Just keep going. You need to finish things! (Despite hundreds of thousands of manuscript words under my belt, I’ve only actually finished one project.) I actually have three WIPs at the moment (one much smaller in scope than the others, at least), and I stopped focusing on my middle grade one a couple of months ago because I had a few days where I felt this way. I don’t want my YA one to fall by the wayside, too.
  • You can fix it later. Whatever you don’t like right now, you can fix later. Plus, when you’re in a negative mood, you’re not really viewing it objectively anyway. Maybe it’s not that bad.
  • Remember what you love about it! I love my protagonist’s voice, and I’m quite drawn to the overall conflict I’m trying to portray. It would be a shame to give up because I’m not loving the details.
  • Acknowledge how far you’ve come. Last week, I had about half of what I had this week!

What are your techniques for getting through a bad writing day?

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

Ending at the Beginning

It’s no secret that the beginning of a manuscript has to entice people to keep reading or the rest of your manuscript may never see the light of day, no matter how wonderful and exciting it becomes later on. Actually crafting that compelling opening is easier said than done, though–at least for me.

When I sat down to write the manuscript that got me an agent, I wrote the scenes that my brain told me came first. Meanwhile, I was also incorporating a little bit of an old manuscript I’d been working on for years. (See this entry.) The result was an odd mishmash of chronology for the first four chapters or so. One of my beta readers thought the jumps odd and wanted more clarification, particularly when it came to worldbuilding. (The manuscript is fantasy.) I thought about it and added a few more passages I thought clarified things and I was ready to go.

Of course, most (but not all) agents ask for a sample of the manuscript along with the query. I only had 5 or 10 (sometimes a bit more) pages to grab their attention. Partial and full requests came in… And the vast majority were only from agents who had requested queries only (no sample pages) for the first e-mail. I started wondering if that meant my concept was enticing enough but not my first few pages…

And then I got an R&R on a full request. The problem? The beginning, of course! The agent agreed with my beta reader (maybe they’re really in tune–that agent was my beta reader’s agent by then!): I needed to fix up the beginning and work on clearly worldbuilding. So that was two people who thought my beginning needed work–and maybe more, and the others who rejected it didn’t have time to tell me.

I took a time out from sending queries and spent a slow three weeks reshaping the beginning. I cut long scenes, rearranged ones I wanted to keep and cut, cut, cut passages. Then I drafted a new first chapter–twice. I didn’t much like my first attempt at a new beginning. Then I was struck with a different idea, and I wound up writing two completely new chapters. This version started with action, and I used that action to worldbuild. At first I was wary about re-doing the beginning, but I loved the final result!

I sent out the revision and continued to query other agents with my brand new beginning. Material requests rolled in, and this time they were from agents who saw sample pages at the start! I got a few passes, but of those who took the time to detail their reasons, all were complimentary–particularly about my worldbuilding! And, of course, it was this beginning (10 pages with the query) that netted the full request and then my first offer of representation.

I’m learning. Both of the beginnings of my two WIPs start with action. I like them–but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to go back and tweak the beginning at the very end!

How do you write beginnings? Do you fix the beginning later or think of a compelling image to start the book before you start?

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

The Soul-Sucking Synopsis (I Exaggerate, but Barely)

Ask virtually any writer, published or unpublished, who’s gotten as far as the querying stage at least, and they’re bound to agree: when it comes to writing the one- or two-page book synopsis or writing the entire tens-of-thousands-of-words manuscript, the latter is probably easier. I’m not kidding.

Luckily for me, my agent was one of the types who never asked for the synopsis (and he agreed with me on how awful they are)—not even after I signed with him! (It may be needed in the future, of course, so I can’t hold a digital fire and delete the wretched things off my hard drive…) But I wrote several versions before I started querying anyway because a fair number of agents do ask for one, either upfront or after they request further materials from you.

My first attempt was a joke. I tried writing about two sentences per chapter, but I couldn’t stick to it. In the end, I had about five single-spaced pages, which wasn’t going to fly. (I hear tell that sometimes agents will request 5-10-page+ synopses from you, but probably not until they sign you, and perhaps not even then, so don’t worry about writing a long one while still querying.)

When an agent requests a “one-page synopsis,” from what I understand, you can write it “Internet style,” which is single-spaced, chunk-like paragraphs and two spaces between paragraphs (see this blog entry as an example). The “two-page synopsis” is double-spaced and manuscript style, with indented paragraphs and no extra spaces between paragraphs. I found that the two are actually almost the same, when you take into account the spacing. The two-page one did allow for a few more sentences, though. (And every sentence you can wring out of the space counts. Really!) Expect both versions to be between 500-1000 words, and the closer to 500 words, the better. Yes, you have to distill your entire book into fewer than 1000 words. (I wound up with about 600 for the one-page and 760 for the two-page.)

I’m probably not the best source of advice on the subject, as I’m still not that proud of my synopses. Still, I’d be glad to share the tips that helped me rip the final results from my brain over a long period of three weeks and several drafts:

  • Aim for the limited space from the start. Originally, I thought I’d write up a summary of the book as I pleased and cut out any extra words later. Yeah… That wasn’t going to cut it when during my first try, I came up with a 3500-word version I needed to cut down to as close to 500 words as possible. I started over from scratch without even looking at the first version.
  • Follow the greater plot and cut out the subplots. If you ever write a longer version, you can put the subplots in there, but when every word is crucial, you’ll have to skip entire storylines. I actually skipped almost all of my beginning in which I set up the world, except for a couple of sentences that explained the world clearly. (When I changed the beginning of the manuscript drastically, I didn’t even have to change the synopsis since I never was able to fit in information about the start!) It helps that you have to…
  • Name only three (or four?) characters. The main character is a given, but most of the characters s/he interacts with will have to be known by their roles such as “Tanya’s sister” or “the old neighbor.” Other characters you might choose to name are any love interest(s) or antagonist(s). Everything I read said to name no more than three characters, but I could not do mine without four. Maybe some agents/editors are flexible… Oh, and by the way, put the names in all-caps the first time you write them in the synopsis: Sixteen-year-old TANYA RICHARDS ….
  • Try to add your voice. I had a lot of trouble with this one. You don’t want your synopsis to be boring—you’re probably using it as one part of your package to sell your book to an agent or editor—so it’s got to have some of that query-like, back-of-the-book-type flair. Try to project the same tone you use to narrate your book. (By which I don’t mean write in first person if your manuscript is in first person. Write in third person always with synopses.) I don’t think I quite did that (it was hard enough for me to get the story out in such limited space), but I know my fellow writer and beta reader did with her sassy book synopsis.
  • Delete unnecessary words. After the horrible first attempt at a synopsis, I wrote one that was about 1100 words. That’s the one I was able to get down to two pages and then one page. To do so, I deleted as many adverbs and adjectives as I could and made sure every sentence added something important to the summary. If not, it had to go, no matter how much it hurt to cut it.

Have you written a synopsis? What tips worked for you?