I came across this post, Seven Ways to Market a Novel, by Ali Luke, who runs the Aliventures. The post presents some good tips on marketing your novel. Click here to read it. Check out the rest of the blog while you’re at it. The whole thing is full of practical marketing tips. Enjoy!
I mean, who decided to curse the humble writer with the necessity of creating such a diabolic thing? I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys writing them, and most people I speak to don’t know how, or struggle to get something decent on the page.
There’s a lot of information out there on how to write one. My issue has always been not knowing how to organize my ideas. What do I include and what do I leave out? When an editor someone asks for a 1 page synopsis and my book is 75k words, how do I whittle it down without missing something important???? Isn’t everything important???
Well, yesterday I gave the thing another shot but only because I had to. Someone had posted that a publishing company publishing big names was accepting submissions and guess what? They require a synopsis.
So, I searched the Internet and found some great articles, which I will list later. The difference this time, I think, is that these articles broke down the process step by step, added essential bullet questions to focus the thought processes, and added a checklist to be used before the final draft. I pulled what I needed from them and then started to build the synopsis. Cutting the manuscript from 75k to 1.5K was actually much simpler than expected once I applied the tips/notes to a synopsis I’d written years ago. I ended up with something that is the closest I’ve ever had to a decent synopsis.
But that’s just the beginning. Some of you know that I don’t lay out my stories from beginning to end before I write them. My stories and books are exploratory for me, and I like setting out with nothing more than the barest of information to see where I end up. I rarely take notes, and if I do I almost never look at them again. They serve mostly to answer some problem or to clarify an immediate issue. Some people like a cluttered desk, I prefer a cluttered creative mind. To me, once something goes down on paper, the idea loses their luster. So I just take things one step at a time, teasing and developing threads and inspirations as they come. That said, retracing my steps and making sense of what essentially came from chaos is a major challenge, and that’s where the synopsis is a game changer.
It’s amazing how a story that was crystal clear when it was written can fade over time. As I wrote the synopsis for The Purple Morrow, the foundation of the trilogy became clear to me again. As I responded to the questions about the characters’ main conflicts, wrote summaries for the key players and their motivations, defined the stakes, and wrote about how the story concluded, it was like digging through mud and laying hands on a precious stone. In fact, I was relieved to know that despite being born of clutter, the overarching plot and subplots were clear throughout the three books. For example, I was able to see their birth and growth from book 1 to 2 (Wolf’s Bane). Also, the process revealed plot-lines that need development as well as outright plot holes that needed to be dealt with in book 3 (Berserker).
So, what do you think? What’s your take on synopsis writing? What resources have you found helpful? You can post links below to help others visiting the page.
It has been a while since I posted any writing. The reasons for that are many, but the main two are 1) I’ve been submitting some of the more recent pieces to magazines and whatnot, and 2) I’ve been working like a beast to finish the draft of the third book in my Papilion trilogy (IT IS DONE!). And…I amidt that the fact summer is finally here after a long and horrible winter has lulled me into a kind of comfortable laziness.
But just this morning I was thinking it was time to get back to writing something, anything. Someone was listening because about an hour ago I got tagged by Tanya Miranda to participate in the Freestyle Writing Challenge.
It’s scary to post something written so quickly and under duress (15 minutes with little prep time and not allowed to edit!!), especially while being so rusty. The last thing I wrote was a novel, so massaging the muscle to ease back to flash fiction was tough. But, whatev. When the challenge is laid, you gotta step up to the plate. So here’s my ditty.
Tanya’s prompt:Your pet of many years suddenly speaks human. What does it say?
My story: Communion
I’d always wondered what my dog would say if he could talk. We’d been inseparable for what felt like an eternity. A gift to me on my fifteenth birthday, Pongo warmed my feet every night and blissfully licked me awake every morning. He followed me to the kitchen, sat by my side while I ate, calmly awaiting the scraps of egg or toast or bacon I’d cunningly flip at him when I thought he wasn’t looking. He caught the scraps every time.
I grew up, went to CEGEP. My body and face changed, and even my mother claimed she hardly recognized the well over six-feet tall grown man with a face full of hair, and a deep barrel-chest. But Pongo knew me. Mom said he’d sit by the window long before I returned each day from long hours of study, whimpering and whining before the car turned into the drive. Walking into the house to Pongo’s excited yips while he dumped a red ball in my hand in greeting were the best welcomes around.
Got married. Had a couple a kids. But now, I saw that Pongo was getting on in age. His habits didn’t change except he took longer and longer to get them done. His silky black and brown coat shone less in the sun during our walks, and I even noticed some tufts of grey coming in around his brows and muzzle, just like a ‘real’ old man.
Then one day, while sitting on the porch, my hand on his head, his muzzle in my lap, I noticed his breathing coming less and less even. In fact, he struggled to breathe. I knew it was close, yet didn’t know what to do.
The sun was going down then, dipping just behind the line of houses across the street. And just as the roofs eclipsed the last rays of sunlight, I heard, ‘I love you.’
Then he was gone.
I looked at my beloved dog, best of friends. He was at rest.
Don’t know how he did it, how he’d managed to speak those words. But on the other hand, I wasn’t surprised. I’d known the truth all along because Pongo had saying he loved me his entire life.
There you have it. 370 words in 15 minutes. Here are my chosen victims, er, nominees…
Set a stopwatch or your mobile phone timer to 5, 10, or 15 minutes, whichever challenge you think you can beat.
Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
Fill the word doc with as many words as you want. Once you start writing do not stop.
Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it’s only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write the right spelling and stick to grammar rules).
You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals. However, if you do, it would be best.
At the end of your post write down ‘No. of words = ____” so that we would have an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nomination (at least five (5) bloggers).
Thanks for reading! Leave your comments below, if you’d like to share your thoughts. 🙂
When it came to writing Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to The Purple Morrow, I was at a loss. Thrilled with the accomplishment of completing one book, I was eager to get cracking on the sequel. My enthusiasm dwindled, however, when I faced reality.
Just how do you go about writing a sequel?
It’s possible that nowadays there is a lot of information on the subject, but at the time, about 2 years ago, my searches came up nil. I asked around some of the writing groups I was a part of and scanned the internet, but ultimately I decided to do what I usually do, which is make it up as I went along. This post is for those of you who, like me at the time, are looking for somewhere to begin.
So, a billion rewrites later Wolf’s Bane is finished. It was a long and tough road to get it done. Here are some of the things I learned along the way:
Just because you wrote one book doesn’t mean the second will be a breeze. Writing is fun but it is hard. We do it because it’s something we enjoy and we look forward to the finished project. However, each book is its own entity, and just because you figured out how to wrangle that first beast to the ground doesn’t mean the next one will lie down and roll over for you.
My challenges were many, but the one that stands out right now is trying to figure out how to write a ‘bridge’ book, basically a story that connects the events of the first to the eventual third book. The dilemma was balance. The bridge book has the job of continuing the story readers fell in love with in book 1 yet it couldn’t give away too much information or wrap up too much plot or my final book wouldn’t have punch. That, or by telling too much story, I’d end up with two-books instead of three.
Also, it had to be satisfying. It’s one thing to ask people to read a book, it’s another to ask people to read an ‘in-between’ book. Really, by the end of book 1, readers are salivating for more but we’ve left them with what is essentially an unfinished story. Knowing that book 2 will be another unfinished story, I thought it was important to make sure that it was worth their time. I felt the story had to feel familiar yet present fresh ideas and twists, rewarding readers with a fulfilling experience, which would hopefully entice them to pick up the third installment when it comes out. That’s a tall order.
In the end, I delved into world building, developing new and familiar people groups, their cultures and histories in order to emphasize how the past and the present affect the characters and their choices, which influences the overall stakes. I also worked on deeper character development and the addition of plot twists and big revelations to keep it interesting. Bane is a book that solidifies the story begun in book one, reveals more of what is really going on and sets up the events leading up to the final conflict and resolution in book three. Sounds easier than it is, which is why it took about 2 years to get it done.
It’s not so easy to know how much of the other book(s) to include. I wasn’t able to get a clear answer on this point either. People I spoke to had different answers. Some write sequels without any summaries of the past book at all and others devote sections of to resume what went on before. I tried both tactics on different occasions to expected results. In the summary-less version, readers claimed they could not understand what was going on, in the summary-rife version readers complained about info dumping bogging down the story. So I compromised. Whenever I came to a place I thought explanation was needed, I wrote a line or two referencing an event in book 1 and then moved on. My hope is that for those who had read book 1 but forgot a detail, it would refresh their memory, and for new readers that they might be curious enough about book 1 to pick up a copy of Morrow to read. For the enjoyment of having a ‘full story’ experience, of course. 🙂
So, I’m curious to know how you have handled writing a sequel. How did you go about it? What tips and suggestions do you have to share?
“I would like readers to perceive things in a different way. I would like them to see the world through the eyes of the underdog or outsider. I would like to think about how cruel people can be to one another. In my stories the oppressed often rise up in the end and enact some kind of revenge. There are many messages woven into my stories. They often attack the establishment.”–Francis H. Powell
Over the years, I’ve had the chance to host some really interesting interviews, but I have to admit that Mr. Powell’s is one of the most moving. His interview closed with the paragraph above, but I thought it was so important that this post should open with it. I hope you will join us today and meet Mr. Powell . I’m sure you won’t regret it and will be intrigued by his message and his work as well.
Thank you so much for being with us today, Mr. Powell. Please tell us about yourself and of how you came to write.
My family background and some history…
I come from a family of five. I am the youngest, perhaps the free spirit of the family. I was educated at various schools, before going on to Art Schools, to do a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking. I loved most of my time at Art school, having experienced a painful time at school, where I was an outsider. Moved to Austria in 1995, lived there for two years and began teaching English as a foreign language. Alongside this I have always followed a lot of other creative activities, including music. During the nineties, did many concerts/raves and some short tours, playing electronic music. While in Austria, began to write stories. Moved back to England, where upon pursued teaching career, including teaching English (literature/language) and Art. Decided to move to France at the end of 1999 have lived there ever since and have taught among other things British and American culture and Architecture.
This my life in depth…
What better way to put all my angst into short stories. Born in a commuter belt city called Reading and like many a middle or upper class child of such times I was shunted off to an all-male boarding school aged eight, away from my parents for periods of up to twelve weeks at a time. In such an institutions, where I was to rest until my seventeenth year, there was no getting away from the cruel jibes hurled at me from taunting tormentors. My refuge was the arts room, where I started to find some kind of redemption from the stark Dickensian surroundings, whose aim was nurture the army officers, businessmen, and gentry that dominate the class ridden world I was born into. The seeds were sown, I was an outsider. Happier times were to follow, I went to art school, where I attempted to exorcise my time spent at school. At eighteen I turned my back on a parentally enforced weekly visit to church and my head was filled with a range of nonconformist ideas. While at my first Art college through a friend I met a writer called Rupert Thomson, who was at the time in the process of writing his first book “Dreams of leaving”. He was a bit older than myself, me being fresh out of school, but his personality and wit resonated and despite losing contact with him, I always read his latest published books with not only great expectation and unabashed admiration, but also a fascination for a person I had really looked up to, his sentences always tight, shooting arrows that always hit the mark. My yearning to be creative stayed strong and diversified, from my twenties through to my thirties and forties I made electronic music, doing concerts, in front ecstasy infused crowds, at a point I was making videos and short films. When the age of the internet arrived I was really able translate my creative endeavors into something really tangible. To earn a living I have worked as a teacher. I moved to Austria where upon I thought I would try writing. It is sure that my writing at that time was rough and rugged and without direction. I dived into a story about immortality, the story remains vegetating on some dusty floppy disk. Then tried short stories for children with illustrations to go with them. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that my writing took shape. I was at this point living in Paris, France. I spotted an advert for short stories. The magazine happened to be called Rat Mort (dead rat) I sent off a short story, in the hope it would match the seemingly dark world the magazine seemed to embroiled in. I got no answer. Not put off I sent two more stories. Finally I got an answer. It seemed the magazine editor was a busy man, a man prone to travelling. It seemed my first story really hit the right note with him. His name was Alan Clark. He had a flat in the Montmartre area of Paris, where he seemed known to all, especially those who frequented his favorite drinking haunts. He offered me many words of encouragement. I was writing stories that were coming into my head at regular intervals, as if a monster had suddenly awakened. I was writing them on scraps of paper, lest I would forget them, while I traveled on the Paris metro, going about my teaching work with staid business types. I had found a format for writing that worked, as well as a hunger to write about the demons of my past that still haunted me. Moving closer to present times, the desire to put together an anthology seemed to resonate in my mind. The Flight of Destiny evolved slowly. Many trans-Atlantic exchanges between myself and two editors seemingly far away. This evolution took my writing to a new level and the stories more depth and resonance.
As a writer…
I have had poems and short stories published, in books, magazines, and on websites. I have had short stories published in an arts magazine called “Freakwave”.
About my stories in Flight of Destiny…
Flight of Destiny is a collection of short stories about misfortune. They are characterized by unexpected final twists, that come at the end of each tale. They are dark and surreal tales, set around the world, at different time periods. They show a world in which anything can happen. It is hard to determine reality and what is going on a disturbed mind. People’s conceptions about morality are turned upside down. A good person can be transformed by an unexpected event into a bad person and then back again to their former state. The high and mighty often deliver flawed arguments, those considered wicked make good representations of themselves. Revenge is often a subject explored.
Some of my favourite characters in the book:
We live in a world of body image stereo types, are perpetuated by the media. Those unfortunate beings, born with abnormalities, could face a lifetime of cruel jokes, and in this story’s case rejection.
Bug-eyes was destined to a life of toil. As his mother, Lady Harriet Lombard, remarked gruffly when holding her swaddled first-born, “He has disproportionate eyes,” adding tersely, “the child’s abnormal.” As she handed the squalling reject back to the doctor, she decreed, “Drop it down the well for all I care.”
“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy” Not all follow this proverb. A rich person thinks that his money will buy the beauty of a young girl, while her father thinks her sale will solve his money problems, both are in for a surprise, even the most beautiful of apples can go bad
Maggot was enraged and banged his fist on the table! Knives, forks, spoons and plates flew into the air, tossing food everywhere. Up to this point, the banquet had been cordial, even good-humored. Necessary pleasantries and toasts had been exchanged. But as soon as serious negotiations had begun, as soon as money was brought into the equation, everything quickly went wrong.
This is a story for those people whose little sister or younger sibling have managed to do some irredeemable damage to their personal life, for those who have tried a trick that has gone horribly wrong.
The task of placing a name, can be niggling, but what if this task becomes an obsessionand the person behind the name a dark specter ?
“Mr. Weisler is coming! Mr. Weisler is coming! Mr. Weisler is coming!” The words swirled around in his head like a rampant tornado, scooping up all his thoughts, amplifying them until the mixture seemed ready to devour him. Yet, what was vexing him was that he could neither connect to nor put a face to the name.”
Thank you so much for visiting us today, Mr. Powell, and for opening a window into your writing world. Readers, I hope you enjoyed the interview as well and will visit Mr. Powell at the links provided, or leave a message below.