Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stuffing an Elephant into a Bird Cage or How to Cram an Entire Novel into a Synopsis and Not Go Crazy

A few weeks ago I chatted with my agent on the phone for nearly an hour. It was a good talk. She had attended the big book fairs during the spring and it was good to finally catch up with her. I was thrilled to find out she is currently reading The Tale of the Vampire Bride. We discussed the book and its sequel at length. She feels strongly that this is my next book that we should pitch and I agree. I especially enjoyed it when she laid out what she felt were the strong points of the character, plot and the narrative. It validated what I already felt about this particular book.

"Is there a second book?" she asked.

I told her there was a second and possibly up to three more after that.

Then she said the words I feared, "Send me a synopsis for the second book."


"Okay," I said, my mind whirling. "Uh...but I don't know how it ends."

"Write what you know," she answered.


Happily, the next day I had a "Matrix" moment and it was as if my entire novel was downloaded into my brain in a second. I suddenly had all of it, beginning to end. But I still had no idea how to shove that entire story into a synopsis.

I put off the synopsis for nearly a week as I cruised the Internet for advice on how to write one. I have failed utterly in writing a synopsis before. I just couldn't imagine successfully writing one this time. In fact, this task seemed more daunting than even writing a book. It felt like I had been asked to stuff an elephant into a small birdcage. How the heck was I going to compress an entire book into ten pages or less?

Finally, I hit on the blog of Karen Harbaugh. Part of the way down the page (as you scroll) is a section called "Karen Harbaugh's Index Card Method of Writing Synopses." Reading over the post, it utterly made sense to me. I broke out my hot pink index cards and a purple sharpie and started scribbling.

After two days of furious typing, I had my synopsis. I didn't even fill the cards out all the way before I knew exactly what I wanted to write. I sent it off to my test readers, tweaked some things per their suggestion (adding time frame, explaining a plot point a bit better) and sent it off my agent.

What did I hear back? She liked it! She thought it had some really great stuff in it. Yay!!

So now I'm working on the next synopsis I owe her. I'm using the exact same method, but also utilizing yWriter as well this time. I'm writing a summary for each chapter in yWriter in the chapter tab. When I'm done, I'll just export the synopsis using these chapter summaries (I love yWriter) and revise from there.

Have I conquered the Synopsis Monster? Not yet, but I have a better handle on what I'm doing now.

Monday, June 28, 2010

So Many Worlds In the Universe of My Mind

This weekend I realized I have moved on from Living Dead Boy. I didn't experience the gut-wrenching postpartum blues I did with As The World Dies or the day of mourning I had with Pretty When She Dies. I didn't finish the book and sit worrying about the characters or missing them. I really LOVE this book, but I realized it has never really been my story. It was written for Dr. Pus and my nephew, Brandon. This is their story from the first line to the very end. I wrote it for them and it was my gift to two people I care deeply about.

I suppose it helps that I had to close down that world fairly swiftly to move onto writing the synopsis for The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride. That probably helped with the "disconnect."

The way I define my writing process is as follows. I have all these little "worlds" swirling around in my head. Each one is complete with its story, characters, and the specific rules of that "altverse." When I write a story, I "open" that world and concentrate on it as I write. I try to keep only one world open at a time so I can concentrate solely on that one story and not scatter my attention. When I have more than one world open, I tend to get writer's block because it is just too much information coming down the pike.

Hell, I even visualize the process in my mind to make it easier to shift to the next story. I imagine myself standing on a cliff facing a beautiful nebula filled with all these worlds rotating slowly. I catch one, open it, and concentrate on that story. When I finish, I close it, and move on to the next one.

I have three of those worlds orbiting around me, rich and full of life, ready to be born, anxious to be written. These are the novel ideas I am writing a synopsis for to submit to my agent. I have even written a few chapters for each one. I have a few more worlds drifting nearby that I could easily snatch up and write next.

So many little time.

Yesterday I started working on the new synopsis and slowly the world the story inhabits opened up. I fell asleep last night with the characters in my mind, talking to each other. I woke up this morning thinking about them. I hope I can transfer their story effectively into the synopsis.

In the last two weeks, I have had fans write to me about how anxiously they are looking forward to the sequels to my two vampire novels and/or are hoping for more stories from the fort. I understand their impatience to read more about these worlds, but I still have a full time job and for now I have to do the best I can with the time available to write.

I can only promise that I will continue to write and do my very best to write stories my readers will love.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Movie Scripts, Free Fiction and a Synopsis-Oh my!

This week has been crazy busy, but absolutely awesome. I cannot complain one bit. I'm a little bit on the tired side, but that is what the weekend is for.

First off, there is a brand new As the World Dies Untold Tale up at my forum. It is Ken & Lenore's Story. There are three chapters up so far and I will be adding more over the next week or so. These two were always fan favorites in the books, so I hope you enjoy finding out what happened to them before they ever reached the Fort.

Second, some really awesome news. The movie script for Pretty When She Dies just leaped over another hurdle. It received a very positive endorsement from the script analyst at one of the big talent agencies in LA. Therefore, that agency is going to start sending the script out to all the people who make films happen. So exciting!

The third and last update is about the sequel to The Tale of the Vampire Bride. My agent is presently reading the first novel in that series and wanted to see a synopsis for the second book. After having a mini-heart attack (I'll blog about that later), I sat down and did what I thought impossible. I squeezed an enormous book into a six page synopsis. After I had several test readers look it over (who were big fans of the first book), I sent it off to my agent.

She sent back word that it had some really "great stuff" in it and it was good. Yay! So hopefully we can talk soon about the first book, the synopsis, and what comes next.

That's it for now, folks!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Sneak Peek at Living Dead Boy

As Living Dead boy heads into the homestretch to publication, I thought I would post an excerpt from the novel so the fans can get a feel for the new zombie world I created. At first I was intimidated to write about children, but once I connected with their world the flow of words came easily. I think the story is one both young adults and adults can enjoy.

I hope you enjoy the excerpt and the novel when it is released later this summer.

To read the exclusive sneak peek, click here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

When All That Is Left To Say is Good Bye...

Living Dead Boy, I'm going to miss you.

My terrible little tale of the undead squaring off against a group of kids is in its final stages of birth. Final draft is done. Now comes the proof copy and the last read through before it hits the printers, and all other distribution points.

Yesterday, Kody Boye finished formatting the book and sent me a copy. I scrolled through the pdf, staring at the words laid out in a really cool format, admiring the font choices, etc. I got to the end of the file and thought, "This is it."

A big moment.

The very last part of the equation is being worked on. That is the cover artwork by Dan Galli, the artist behind a majority of the Library of the Living Dead Press covers.

Here is a sketch of the cover artwork.

I absolutely love it and cannot wait to see the final product. I think it perfectly captures the essence of the book.

Kids versus zombies.

Also in my email this morning was a really awesome blurb from David Dunwoody, one of my favorite authors. He loved the book! That really touched me. Coming from him, that is high praise.

All the test readers loved it as well. They are all adults and die hard zombie fans. Knowing they could read a book with child protagonists and enjoy it was an enormous relief. I know my nephews and niece will love it, but I was hoping that adults could invest in the kids as well.

So I'm very close to letting this one go forever. Another child birthed and sent off into the world.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The End Is Nigh - Living Dead Boy Update

I haven't been hit with the postpartum blues yet. Those terrible doldrums that hit when a book is done, finished, tucked away, kissed goodbye and sent off into the ether of the publishing world.

I know its coming, its just not here quite yet.

Over the weekend I read Living Dead Boy from beginning to end. I did some minor revisions and rewrote the last chapter. I added in a few small moments that I felt were missing the first time. I may go back in and tweak the last chapter again. I'm not sure yet. I'm letting it sit for a bit.

Almost done. Almost there.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The First Two Chapters of The Tale of the Vampire Bride is on Scribd!!

I thought I would share the first two chapters of my latest
novel The Tale of the Vampire Bride with those of you curious about my vampire novel, but are unsure if you want to actually read it.

You can read the first two chapters here at Scribd.

There are also a few short stories I have written over the years along with excerpts from Pretty When She Dies and As The World Dies: The First Days.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Slicing Up My Outline

Last night I made a lot of progress in my zombie book for the Library of the Living Dead Press called Living Dead Boy.

I felt good about seeing the end of the book in sight at last. It's been rough writing with all the insanity the first part of this year brought to the table (though I'm not complaining). A lot of the changes taking place this year have been very positive, but it feels like my time has just been gobbled up left and right. Finding time to write when I'm not completely mentally and physically exhausted has not been easy. The fact I got TWO chapters done this holiday weekend was a huge relief. Also, the flow was amazing and felt so good.
I loosely outlined the last six chapters of the book after I finished writing the latest chapter. I basically tried to lay out (in order) the scenes I had in mind for the rest of the book. I am an organic writer, which means I write by the seat of my pants, so I don't always know how everything will connect up. I usually go into a novel with the main character in mind, how the story starts, bits and pieces in the middle, and sometimes (but rarely) the end.
The outline also felt solid until I slid into bed and turned off the light. Suddenly, my mind was ticking through the plot points."This doesn't fit.""This doesn't make sense.""This should happen instead of that.""This character should have this happen, not that."It was like watching a movie and seeing alternate scenes being spliced in.
One of the scenes I wanted to write, but has never "sat" just right in the storyline, hit the mental scrap heap last night when I realized it would completely shift the story away from our main protagonist and reduce his heroic role. I admitted that the reason I wanted to shove that scene into the story was because it made a cool action sequence, but came across as a plot device.
So I hit the eject button on the scene, felt the plot shift in my head, and just like that, a new scene, much cooler than the original, slid into reality.Now the book has a slightly different ending and it retains the heroic role of the lead character. It also adds more of an emotional wallop by keeping the focus on the character previously established, instead of bringing in a minor character to steal his thunde
Things are feeling very solid with the book. Hopefully, I will have this first draft done soon so I can start the revision process.