Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Curing Synopsiphobia

  Rather Predator-ish looking, eh?

I thought I was terribly clever when I thought up the title for this column, but it turns out someone beat me to it. Check out Raquel Byrnes' excellent rundown of what it takes to write a winning synopsis here.

Now to splatter my thoughts on the matter.

Last night, after editing through another chapter, I started thinking about the synopsis that I would have to eventually write. The inclination made me shudder. No kidding. I spend almost a whole day last week writing the query. How on earth would I tackle a synopsis? Then I started to think--what is the best way to overcome fear? Face it! I pulled up an old synopsis for an outline and tinkered with it. To my surprise, I drafted a one- page synopsis in half an hour. What the deuce?

It basically comes down to this--face your fear. Turn off your flight mode and fight back. After all. You wrote a novel (or in the process). What's a one or four page synopsis on top of that? Easy sauce on curly fries!

Dagnabbit! Now I'm hungry . . .

Remember my old post about Falling Action? Your synopsis should focus on the important parts, like the stops you make on a road trip. Leave the exposition and catchy songs in the car.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Synopsis writing, just like novel writing, takes practice. Have someone you trust read it, who knows the details of your story, and be open to feedback. This is one of the big steps in selling your story. Fear not and dive in. Some publishers or agents like a one-page synopsis. Others like three or four. Consider writing both.

Are synopses tough for you? What are some tricks you employ to make your summary an enticing read?

I'm David, and sleep is becoming a stranger.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Post: Do Parts Pose A Potential Problem?

No. I still have not seen that blasted Potter movie.

Looks like it won't happen until these edits are finished. However, I've noticed the phenomenal take that this final installment of Harry Potter has raked in the box office. Almost a billion so far. Wow! This is less of a rant than it is an open question to think about. Was it better to split the last book into two films? It made for a better adaption, but now I wonder. With the success of this Two Part ordeal, could this lead to the future of major book series ending the last adaptation with two parts? The tend has already started. The last of the Twilight books will be in two parts. Even The Hobbit is getting the duel treatment (which is odd, considering the book is shorter than any one of the three Lord of the Rings).

Can you imagine Mockingjay in two parts?

It's not a big deal. I'm just not a huge fan of waiting, but I will, if I absolutely must.

If this becomes the trend, it may change how books are marketed, meaning the final installment of your series may need that "Two Part" potential included. Thoughts?

Please take a moment to visit our new members!

The Old Geezer Blog

Danielle Zeissig

Update: Editing--all I'm doing is cutting and making the read smoother. No blocking revamps. No loose ends. Uniform and entertaining. There are nine chapters left to read through, having cut about 11K words so far. The goal of getting this thing under 100K words is secured. I also caught a glimpse of the concept cover (generously rendered by an awesome in-law). Love it. I love it!
A few small tweaks and it'll be ready to showcase!

Until next time, keep those oysters contented.

I'm David, and who saw Captain America?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Cutting Without The Pain

This weeks post is obviously inspired by the arduous editing that's gone on for the last couple weeks, on my end. You'd think I'd learn my lesson by now, but it's no surprise that the best lessons are the hardest to grasp. I'm on a bit of a tight schedule today, so let's go!

Congratulations! You just finished the initial draft of your novel (if you haven't reached that point, you'll get there). Now it's time to go back to the beginning and see what you wrote months/years ago. A universal truth in writing is that your beginning won't seem nearly as good to you as the final chapters you just wrote. What's with that? Putting it simply, your writing has grown and improved since you started. You know your story better, and your characters, when you were just learning about them at the start. What you may find most difficult to edit are overall sequences or elements that do not work in your story anymore. You spent all that time writing these descriptive passages. How do you cut them out with feeling like a literary emo?

It's not an easy question to answer, but I ask myself these questions while I go through the process:

Is this about me or the story?
Will the story benefit without this?
Does it need this or am I writing to impress?

The best coping mechanism I've adopted is to think of myself as a conduit (see quote at the bottom). This story I just wrote--it existed somewhere in the cosmos long before the idea came to me. For some reason, I tapped into it and wrote it down. Like any scribe, some things were lost or mixed up in translation. The story owns me, not the other way around. If a few sentences or a whole page doesn't work, I cut it and paste it in my notes. Those passages could be used for another story.

The most common cuts I make are excessive tags, overlong narratives, and monologues. It's okay to be a little wordy when you're figuring out how to present the story, so long as you plan to trim the fat later.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Chopping through your manuscript isn't easy, but it often leads to a smoother read. Don't take it personal. Over time, the more you let go, the easier it will be to understand what's best for the story. Besides--a short word count is an easier in for the unpublished author.

What do you look for when you edit. What do you find yourself cutting the most? It is easy or does it hurt?

I'm David, and we're halfway through this thing!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Post: Mini-Minion Member Milestone


Welcome to a new week, friends and minions! Today I'm pleased to announce that The Cosmic Laire has reached the mini-milestone of 150 members, and subsequently breached 10K hits. Now that's incredible! It makes me want to ransom the world for . . . one million dollars!

Who am I kidding? I'm not evil enough to pull a stunt like that. But seriously, thank you for making this possible.  

I really like the change that happened while I was away. There are no followers on Blogger anymore. We have members. Has a nice, personal touch--less creepy than follower. For the record, you guys are not a number. I visit your blogs often. I may not always comment, but I read. Speaking of visits, go visit these new members!

Julius Cicero

Peggy Eddleman

Jennifer Wells
Cynthia Chapman Willis

Welcome to The Cosmic Laire. Enjoy the voyage!

Update: Edits are awesome! I was stuck on making a few things clear with chapter 6, but it's incredible to have 1/5th of the novel solid with 5K words cut so far, considering my busy week. Cutting seems to be all I'm doing. Hardly anything has changed, blocking-wise.

Dreams are a great motivator. Guess who graced my mind's stage last night? The leads of my completed WiP! They kept telling each other, "we have to hurry, we have to hurry" (which happens at one point). And then, they turned to me. "YOU have to hurry!" That woke me up! They seemed rather insistent, so I better get to it.

Check back Thursday for more Aspiring Advice.

I'm David, and no, I did not see Potter yet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Series vs. Standalones

Matt Hayes commented a question after my last post that really got me thinking. Is this 7th book of yours going to be a series, or just a standalone novel?

Short answer? Both.

Both? What do you mean both? You can't have your pastrami on rye and ride a roller coaster at the same time! Well, you can (if the passengers behind you don't mind), but that's not the point. It's fair to say each writer has their own approach when it comes to how they write and what they want to write (duh). There are currently six series in my "want to write" list--three trilogies and three series of five (or more) books each. There's a few standalones I'd like to belt out, too.

Thing is, I'm not published yet. If I write a series of five books and no one picks up the first, all that time I spent writing the other four--well, I'll never get it back. I could spend that time on another story instead, exploring my voice with other settings/characters. My first trilogy is an unreadable 500K paperweight (paperweight made of paper--how about that!). It was a good exercise, but do I want to invest time into a potentially heavy dead end?

Here's my idea. Write the first book as well as you can. Let it stand on its own. Create several interesting side developments that will pique your readers. Give them room to wonder about what could happen with so-and -so without fully (or needing) to resolve it, yet still end the first book satisfactorily. Then outline the rest--every book that follows. Leave room for notes, too. Once that's done, start the first book of another series.

The time it takes to write five books for one series will likely equal the time it takes to write five 1st books for five different series! Not a bad way to sell yourself in this competitive business. If they like it, chances are they'll contract you to write the rest, making the next few years of your life spoken for. If you get rejected? No worries. You can hand them the start of a new series right away! And if it doesn't sell? Again, you'll have conserved a huge chunk of your valuable time.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Look back at some of your favorite series. Does the first stand well on its own? Did it really need a sequel? I'm all about good sequels and a well thought-out series. There's also writers like Shannon Hale who wrote a series that takes place in one world, but each book is about a different character. I'm a big fan of those.

Thanks for reading! By all means, if you'd like some advice, or just want to know my take on an aspect of writing, ask away in the comments. I would love to make these articles more personal.

What's your favorite 1st book in a series? Favorite standalone? Favorite combination of the two?

I'm David, and someone's craving wedding cake!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Post: Book #7 and the Lessons Learned

It's no secret. The drafting process of my seventh book is finally over--the shortest and most time consuming novel I have yet to write (two and a half years). Then again, J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book took five years, and it's even shorter. There's still hope, right?

Two and a half years is a fair chunk of time. I'd be an idiot if I hadn't learned something from it. I think I did, and maybe these lessons learned will be helpful to you.

Length - it matters, depending on the market you write for. I started with epics. I was long-winded. Now that I've found my niche and finished my second YA book, word count really matters. Even now I understand that my almost 105k novel is a little too long for a YA entry. Not to worry. The editing stage has just begun and I've already cut 2000 words from the first three chapters. They read better now, and still retain its potency. The difference between writing to impress and telling a story really is tens of thousands of words. I've cut back!

Feedback - this book is also a collaboration, a story created by two with artistic/literary license granted to me. Writing to fit my vision with another's has been the most challenging and rewarding experience in my thirteen years of writing. It helped me find my voice, having my creative expression scrutinized by my fellow creator, Michael, and my select horde of alpha readers.

Integration - life happens. It's not always pleasant. Several accidents slowed me down and required some real effort to think straight again (head injury). Even so, those unpleasantries make for great story fodder. I fell off a horse and hit my head. Apply to my main alternate -medieval character, add a fear of horses, and you have a unique aspect that allowed an outlet for my frustration and a flaw that makes the character more likable.

There's a library shelf full of other lessons learned, but these are the most career-changing. I couldn't do this without my friends, supportive wife, amazing alphas, and this awesome blogging community. Your readership means a lot. Thought you deserved to know that.

Click here on Thursday--Aspiring Advice is coming back!

I'm David, and it's manuscript slice-and-dice time!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

End Hiatus: The Return of the ... King?

All right, everyone. The overlong hiatus is at an end, and I have to tell you--I feel a lot like Viggo in that picture. Why? The WiP is DONE! It's battle-cry time, people!

The drafting--finito. My brain--kaputs. As it should be.

This is my 7th book, finished at 2:30 AM--on the 7th!

I'll be honest. I missed the blogosphere, and it's going to be a long time before I update myself on everything you guys have done. In fact, be a pal and comment a brief update on what you've done in the last six weeks, if you're so willing. That would help me immensely!

So what's next, Mr. Deserter?

The fun part! There's several things in motion right now that I'm really excited about. Had a few headshots taken for the blog and facebook, and my genius of a sister-in-law is helping to design a concept cover for the WiP. There's a query letter and a synopsis to draft and a list of Beta readers to consider. After a short break, I'll read through the whole thing and trim it to a five- number figure. YA over 100K words is not an easy sell.

Since this is a collaboration, it will be a while before I can announce the title (when the copyright becomes official), but I can provide some fun statistics!

WiP - Unannounced YA Fantasy Novel
Approx 104,910 words
Passive sentences = 0%
Reading ease = 86%
Reading level = 4th Grade and up.

(Want to know about readability statistics? Click here.)

So, yeah! Meesa back, everybody! Everything I mentioned is tentative and subject to change. Look for the rundown of this writing journey/lesson on Monday.

I'm David, and someone launched fireworks at 4 AM!