>The Horror of It All
I’ve been terrorized by the next book in my paranormal series. I know my world pretty well, and I’ve been looking forward to telling the story of the two secondary characters (Lysander and Phaedra) from Book 1. Just one problem, they’ve not been very cooperative when it comes to sharing their story. Pulling a bone from the jaws of a pit bull would be easier than getting these two to talk.
The whole process has been so bad that I’ve been losing sleep over it. Over the past week, I’ve woken up at 2am, 3am, 4am sporadically with questions that I don’t have answers too. Sometimes I get up to try and answer the questions and other times I lie there wanting to cry because all I can see is that deadline barreling down at me like a train. And trust me; waking up at these hours in the morning doesn’t bode well for an 8-hour work day. All I can say is, I didn’t sign up for this kind of mental anguish.
I’m Losing It
So last night I went to bed at 8pm, frightened, utterly exhausted and debating whether I need to ask for a proposal deadline extension—NOT a good thing in my book. But there I was looking down the barrel of a gun with about two pages of a 12-13 page synopsis written, and I’m looking at a proposal deadline middle of June. I mean, what do I do, call and say, “Hey, sorry my characters aren’t talking to me, and I’m not sure I can get this to you in time.” Yeah, and what bridge did you last buy?
I set my alarm for 4:30am. I figure that will give me eight solid hours of sleep, which will hopefully give me some stamina to write. It took less than five minutes for me to drop off into the la petite mort, although a really small, irrational part of me was wishing for la grand mort (no not really, I’m depressed about all this but definitely not suicidal).
A Sleepy Epiphany
But here I am, sleeping peacefully and something wakes me up. I look at the clock and it’s ONLY 10:15pm. WTF, I took all of my drugs, including my sleeping pill and all I can get out are two hours of nods? So I lay there for a minute trying to go back to sleep. Then it hits me. I mean it hits me right between the eyes, I know how to make this process easier. I’ve been here before, I just didn’t remember it. Immediately I scramble out of bed and race toward the computer (ok, so I fell out of bed and stumbled sleepy-eyed toward the computer).
It took me several minutes to find what I was looking for, but when I did, I was overjoyed. I had all but a small portion of the synopsis laid out in about two hours. Here’s what I did. I remembered I’d blogged about how a synopsis is like calculus, but I just couldn’t remember WHERE, but I eventually found it. I posted the following blog on RWA Online HEA Café blog August 31, 2007. And thanks to that blog post, I got that damn synopsis pretty much written, now on to writing four or five chapters to go with the synopsis. A writer’s work is never done. Oh, and I’m reposting it here so I can remember to look here in another moment of panic in the wee hours of the morning!!!!
Synopses and “Calculus Just Is” Moments”
Synopsis From Hell
I despise synopsis writing. I’m a pantser, and I’d never written a synopsis BEFORE finishing the book. But a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of needing to write a synopsis for a book where I’d only written 50 pages.
Writing this synopsis was ten times worse than writer’s block. All I could do was sit at the screen and wonder what to put on the page. I know how to write a synopsis, when the book is already written. That’s easy for me, but how was I supposed to write one BEFORE I’d written the ending. Now I had written about 50 pages of the book, but it still didn’t help me much figuring out what to include in the synopsis. Sure I had an “idea” of what the black moment might be like, but what else did I need?
Outlines – Fault Lines
I don’t follow a formula, outline, etc. when I write. Words just flow out of me, and then I go back and edit. But you can’t do that with a synopsis. Think of it as being a map. A map for what direction the book is headed in. I’d never drawn a book map before, so I went surfing on the net. I figured, hey someone out there has an idea for how to write a synopsis.
Now you’d think Google or Dogpile would yield tons of results on how to write a synopsis. Umm, no. Either I wasn’t spelling synopsis correctly or there the knowledgebase was running a little dry. But then I found her!
She had this wonderful article on the three acts found in a book. http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/artthreeacts.htm
So here I was reading the article, and suddenly it was like being in calculus class. If you’ve ever taken calculus, you know that understanding it requires you to accept the fact that “it just is.” A concept I found difficult to grasp until two weeks before the end of the semester. The lightbulb came on! It was wonderful. I could finally accept that calculus just is.
I share that with you because when I was reading Alicia’s article, I had one of those “calculus just is” moments. Here it was in black and white. Everything I needed to go into my synopsis. Alicia had laid it all out for me. The result was magic for me. I took the headings from Alicia’s article, and opened a document in Word, where I listed the primary points from the article.
External Conflict Emerges
Antagonist Shows Up
The Point of No Return
The Dark Moment
Under each header, I wrote a brief blurb, scene, explanation for the action that occurs under the header. I did this for each one all the way through to The Point of No Return or it might have been Crisis. I can’t remember. Anyway, I’m thinking, WTF do I do now??? For two days I couldn’t write another word. I was in the dark about how to finish the damn thing. Then it hit me. Why not work backward! I had a basic idea of how I wanted the book to end, so I essentially worked my way back to get those last scenes in my head.
In the process, I wrote one of the best synopses I’ve ever written. Now the process outlined above may or may not help you write a synopsis, but as I tell my kids, you have to at least try it. If you don’t like it then you eat or do something else. While it might seem like a formula, it isn’t really. It’s just a list of the necessary ingredients that have to go in a book and the writer has to add in those same ingredients to a synopsis. It’s taken me five long years to have my “calculus just is” moment when it comes to synopsis writing, but now that I have, it’s going to be a lot easier from here on out.
In response to this blog, Claire Delacroix directed me to a class she’d done about synopses and it’s a HUGE help as well. Check it out at the RWA HEA Cafe