Life happens. It gets busy. It gets stressful. And then I realise it's been days, sometimes weeks, since I've written anything and I get more stressed. After a while I begin to lose motivation and confidence. I get cranky, short-tempered, and my family begins to point up the stairs and say, "Go to your room!". They know I need to write.
Last week I talked about writing groups and how they help me stay focused and achieving. A couple of the groups I'm in also organise retreats--weekends away that are focused solely on writing. Having time away from all the distractions and responsibilities life entails, where there's a number of us thinking of nothing more than putting words on paper, or improving those we've already written, is incredible.
I always come away from those weekends with new enthusiasm--and a lot more accomplished. The picture is where I'll be working this weekend.
I have a long list of goals for this weekend. Typically, I won't do them all, but I know I'll have more done on the retreat than I would if I stayed at home.
Job number one is to write a synopsis and blurb for No Evil Star, the sequel to The Planet Whisperer. I have three paragraphs written so far, but only the first one is worth keeping in any way. I'm expecting there'll be at least six versions before I get something approaching a reasonable synopsis. (Have I mentioned how much I hate writing synopses?)
One thing I really have never enjoyed with my writing is writing a synopsis. That could be because I always get it wrong.
The concept of a synopsis is quite easy. Leave out the detail. Hit the emotional highs and lows. Something that sounds so easy shouldn't be so hard to get right, but it is for me.
I recently submitted Warrior Pledge and of course had to write a synopsis for it. I started the way I usually do:
*Make note of all the emotional high points and low points in the story. Those are the things that get mentioned in the synopsis.
*Choose which character to write from. A synopsis is from one character's point of view only, and it's generally in third person, present tense.
*Describe how the character feels about and reacts to the emotional highs and lows.
Sounds easy. I generally start out okay. The first paragraph is filled with tension and pretty phrases and is 'synopsisey'.
Then it all falls apart, and I end up with four pages of chapter summaries.
With Warrior Pledge, I tried something new. I wrote my usual chapter-summary-I-call-a-synopsis. It at least shows me all the emotional highs and lows. Then I took two pieces of paper, folded them in half lengthwise and put headings at the top. I wrote adjectives that described the personalities of the two major characters. Not what they thought or felt or did at any time, just their personalities. I ended up with something like the table below.
Then I used those words and qualities to describe why Checa and Heath were doing what they were doing at the emotional highs and lows.
The result? Every word a synopsis. So easy.
Oh shit! What if I can't do it again with the next book?
I love writers' retreats. It was such a productive time.
In two days (Friday night to Sunday lunch) I edited an entire novel (Just the Way You Are), jotted down notes for three new stories, plotted another new novel and thought about--never underestimate the importance of thinking--what I was going to do to fix a half-finished novel.
Since then, I've done another read-through of Just the Way You Are and picked up 128 things to change. They're minor, though, so won't take long. The novel is actually hanging together well. I was surprised there weren't more things for me to change in this round because the last edits were major. I took out one character's point of view completely, combined two other characters into one character, and removed one plot line completely. I didn't think I'd rewritten the bits around those things cohesively enough to withstand another major edit, but I did. *feeling good*
I worked on the synopsis for that story tonight. I've changed it a lot--it needed it because the plot had changed--and I think I've ruined it, but I'm not sure. I'll leave it sit tonight and have another look at it tomorrow night after I finish making the rest of the small changes to the story. I'm up to 68/128.
I love working on a project when it's so close to being ready to send out. It's the same kind of feeling I get when I begin a new story and everything is the exploration of the unknown.
I have two weeks' holiday coming up and plan to spend most of it editing a SF story I've been editing for a while. It's been sitting for a few months so I'll need to read it again to see exactly where I'm up to with it. There was a lot of passive writing in it that's taken a number of passes to remove. It's another story that suffered major plot changes after I'd written the whole thing. Primarily, that was because a couple of plot elements clashed with the way the protagonist's character developed. It was clunky and unbelievable. It works better now; I just need to strengthen the main character's motivation at the beginning so the conflict in the middle is clear. I can't wait to get back to it.
Okay, I've spent enough time talking about writing. Time to go back and DO the writing. *love my job*
Synopsis writing is really difficult. I don't enjoy it--not until I start writing at least.
While I'm writing I have a ball. My head is full of 'this is fun', 'oh good phrase', 'yes, this is going to work'.
Then, when I'm finished, I read through it and come crashing down. I've written an outline--again.
I know the rules:
I've been working on the synopsis for Just the Way You Are, the book I finished last week (#4 in the Just Life series). The synopsis sounds like it's a farce but, although it has some comedic elements, the story is serious. I've decided to edit a few chapters of the book to see if it's going to stay serious or lighten up a little. Then I'll look at the synopsis again.
Meanwhile, here's the beginning of the first draft of the synopsis:
It took ten years of abuse and a near fatal stab wound for Jonathan Watson to leave Anthony. Now that he’s out, he plans to stay out. Unfortunately, Anthony doesn’t agree. Even injured and in hospital, Anthony harasses Jonathan, demanding that he come back.
Jonathan has moved out with the help of rugged removalist, Ben Urquhart, and into a small third floor apartment that Anthony, in his wheelchair, won’t have access to. His life doesn’t become the quiet recovery he wanted.
First, his family has to help him unpack. His cousin Liam and his boyfriend, Mark, unpack Jonathan’s bedroom. His aunt and uncle organise the living room and bathroom. His neighbours, chain-smoking multi-divorcee, Neridah, and Sally-homemaker-super-cook Thelma constantly rearrange his kitchen.
If he didn’t escape with Ben, Jonathan would go mad. Not that he wants to start anything with another man already. He’s only just got out of a toxic relationship and it’s been so long since he’s made a decision of his own, he doesn’t know how to do it anymore. Doing anything with Ben would be a really bad idea. That might be why he ends up in bed with Ben before the week is done.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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