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Many authors dread writing a synopsis. I admit it takes time and effort, but with a few pointers, a synopsis can become a useful tool for both the editor and the author.

Definition

A synopsis is a concise but thorough summary of a story, an overview that includes all main characters and high points.

Note: A synopsis is not the brief summary for back cover copy. That is much shorter and has a unique function.

 

Purpose                                                                                                                                                                                                           

A synopsis is a selling tool for writers, a way to pitch their story ideas to editors and agents. Properly executed, it reveals not only the storyline and book idea, but also the author’s style and ability to complete the project.

 

Content                                                                                                                                                                                                            

* “The Hook” to catch the reader’s interest from the beginning, just as in the manuscript.

* The synopsis should employ a similar “voice” to the story itself.

* A synopsis follows the storyline as it is laid out in the book, not necessarily chronologically.

* A synopsis always includes the ending. Don’t be coy with the editor by withholding the outcome.

* While we strive to “show” in the book, the synopsis requires us to “tell.”

* As in the story, we should not allow author interruption but remain in omniscient point of view.

* We may use a brief quotation or two from our story, but this is not required.

 

Format                                                                                                                                                                                                             

* In my experience, the best synopses run no longer than two (2) pages, single-spaced.

* I single-space mine, but the final answer on single or double has not been declared.

* A synopsis is always written in third person (he, she, they), even if the book is not.

* A synopsis is always written in the present tense (she runs, she sees…), even if the book is not.

* A synopsis is written in omniscient point of view.

* The first time a character’s name is used in the synopsis, it should be capitalized (SARAH DINSMERE).

* Use the same character name throughout; no nicknames in the synopsis.

* Write (POV) after the point of view character(s)’ name in the first usage.

 

Synopsis Checklist:

– Does opening paragraph have a hook to keep the reader reading?

– Are your main characters’ conflicts clearly communicated?

– Can the reader identify with your characters?

– Can the reader relate to them and feel concern about them?

– Have you obsessively checked grammar, spelling and punctuation?

– Have you included all major scenes and plot points, including the ending?

– Did you resolve all important conflicts, as in your manuscript?

– Did you use present tense, omniscient point of view, third person?  

 

Resources

* http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/how-to-write-a-synopsis.html

* http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/

* http://www.marissameyer.com/blogtype/6-steps-for-writing-a-book-synopsis/

 

Top Ten Mistakes in Writing Synopses (from http://home.pcisys.net/~pammc/Synopsis.htm)

1.  The format is incorrect.

2.  The synopsis concentrates on the first three chapters of the novel.

3.  The tone is inconsistent.

4.  The writer speaks directly to the reader.

5.   The synopsis ignores market considerations.

6.   The synopsis lacks emotion.

7.   There is too much detail.

8.   The synopsis leaves questions unanswered.

9.   The characters aren’t interesting or sympathetic.

10.  The synopsis lacks transitions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UnknownFrom the introduction to the final page, Threaten to Undo Us is an intense and fast-moving historical novel. Even though the story covers several decades, the author seamlessly connects time lapses and points of view without interfering with the storyline. In the introduction, we see Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt discussing the redrawing of Poland after World War II. At the receiving end of their dictates, war-weary Poles live with the aftermath. Consequently, millions of Germans living east of the “Oder-Neisse line” are forced to leave their homes, to be treated inhumanely by their new Communist overlords. It’s obvious from the first pages of this novel that the author has done extensive research on World War II and the post-war period, creating a story both realistic and credible. Ernst and Liesel are happy to live quietly and securely in their home. The house is solid, the barn stalls occupied, the garden flourishing, and their children happy. But things have not always been so. Liesel remembers hiding from the Bolsheviks during her childhood back in 1919, and the memories terrify her. Now, a man named Hitler is determined to change the world. Ernst resists enlisting in the German army, but his resistance is suspect, especially from his brother, who is an active member of Hitler’s Nazionale Socialist Party (Nazis).  When Ernst is eventually conscripted into the Wehrmacht, Liesel is left alone to care for the farm and the children. Life is difficult. Polish neighbors reject them because of their ethnicity, and their food supply dwindles. Then Liesel, pregnant and terrified, must flee with the children into the unending night of turmoil. When the tide of war shifts against Germany, the army suffers at the hands of the Russians. Ernst is listed as missing in action somewhere in Russia. Liesel is homeless and desperate. As months turn into years, they move from hope to despair, wondering if they will ever find each other again. How will the re-configuration of their home country affect their lives? Will their faith remain intact? Author Rose Seiler Scott does an exemplary job of keeping the reader in the story. Intensity is ratcheted up by character dilemmas and constantly escalating conflict. Every scene is woven into solid setting without excess description. People suffer and are forever changed. Threaten to Undo Us is skillfully shown, finely crafted. I believe this book will have a substantial impact on readers of historical fiction, as well as people whose families have gone through war and its aftermath. Rose Seiler Scott

Rose Seiler Scott is the author of “Threaten to Undo Us” which is due for release May 1, 2015. She is also a contributing writer to “Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon,” due out September. Says Rose: “I live in Surrey, BC with my husband and our two youngest who aren’t really children anymore. Until our daughter was born, I was the lone feminine voice in a crowd of loud and louder, but the older two are married, which nicely evens the male-female ratio when everyone comes to dinner. “I knew when I was about ten I wanted to be a writer, but life being what it is, I sort of forgot for a few years and did stints as a bookkeeper, piano teacher and PAC President at my kids’ school. “I never really stopped writing, if you count church newsletters, parent advisory council minutes and raving letters to the editor. But what really brought me back was the compulsion to tell a story, a complex, but compelling tale that has unfolded over the course of many years… “I am also a Christ-follower and a student of God’s Word. My Christian worldview will colour my perspective; I sincerely hope in a gracious and God-honouring sort of way. “In between writing, I like to sing, read, scrapbook, play the piano and bike ride.” For more information about Rose, check out her website at http://roseseilerscott.com.

Practice of the Presence of GodBesides conversations recorded by others, Brother Lawrence also connected with friends via letters. Some of these have been included in the book, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”

The first letter was apparently written to the prioress of one of the Carmelite convents nearby.

 

 

 

FIRST LETTER

Concepts:

A habitual sense of God’s presence is a gift from the Lord.

The best way to achieve a constant recognition of the presence of God is to give ourselves completely to God, and to “renounce, for the love of Him, everything that [is] not He.”

We see ourselves as poor criminals, and God as both Judge and Father.

When our minds stray from focusing on God, we should not beat ourselves up about it, rather readjust our course in the preferred direction. “I found no small pain in this exercise,” wrote Brother Lawrence, “yet I continued,” because of these great advantages:

– holy freedom

– familiarity with God

– grace from God

– natural and habitual awareness of God’s presence.

Prayer is not only for specific times and places, but a constant, continual connection with God.

“We can do nothing without [God],” Brother Lawrence reminds us. “May all things praise Him.”

Our Response:

Sometimes these concepts sound simple, since they are simply framed. But, as Br. Lawrence reminds us, “I found no small pain in this exercise.” Am I willing to take pains to become wholly God’s? Am I willing to renounce everything that is not God? How attached am I to this world?

Yet I long for holy freedom, familiarity with God and a natural awareness of His presence.

Seems to me the choice is plain, if not simple. What will we lose and what will we gain when we make this choice?

“He shook hands with Hitler, spent more than a month lost at sea, and ended up in a Japanese torture camp. Louis Zamperini has seen many days he’d rather not recall but he’ll never forget the day he met Jesus Christ.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRJrS8Vsn_Y
Unknown

From his first breath, Louis Zamperini was incorrigible. Anecdotes related by his parents reveal a child who could not be contained or restrained, whose rambunctious endeavors would have certainly killed anyone with less fire in his soul. His antics led him into trouble with peers as well as police, but at the height of his chaotic youthful life, Louis was saved by his brother Pete, who encouraged him to run track.

From that point, Louis Zamperini’s story led to Olympic fame in Berlin in 1936. Unfortunately, his future as an athlete was cut short by the second world war. Future Olympics were put on hold and Louis was recruited into the army air corp where his fearlessness became legend. Then, in 1943, Louis’ plane was shot down over the Pacific, leaving him to survive against unbelievable odds. “If you get me outta this, God,” Louis said, “I’ll serve you forever.”

The stories of life in a POW camp in Japan were nearly enough to make me stop reading (listening), but I persevered because I had to know what happened to Louis. Again, survival was doubtful.

The subsequent retelling of life in postwar America for bruised and battered soldiers is enough to threaten defeat, and nearly did for Louis, if not for the interception of faith. What would happen to Louis’ promise to serve God?

For me, the final chapters of this saga were the most moving. It was as if the Louis of childhood returned in all his boundless energy and passion to change lives as his had been changed. In 1998 Louis carried the Olympic flag to open the Japan-hosted Olympics in Nagano.Unknown-1

I listened to the audio version of this story. Had I been reading it, I might have skipped sections because of the brutality. I’m not sure I could watch the movie, but the trailers are fascinating. I’d recommend this story to anyone interested in the resilience of the spirit of mankind and the power of faith. Unbroken is a story I’ll never forget.

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An important aspect of a writer’s trade is that of resource books. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites below. For writing craft topics, pick up as many Writer’s Digest Books as you can get your hands on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Craft of Writing:

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (Writer’s Digest Books)

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell ((Writer’s Digest Books)

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress (Writer’s Digest Books)

Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham (Writer’s Digest Books)

Plot by Ansen Dibell (Writer’s Digest Books)

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card (Writer’s Digest Books)

Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble (Writer’s Digest Books)

Editing Your Fiction by Michael Seidman

Mastering Point of View by Sherri Szeman

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M. Bickham

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (accompanying workbook)

Writer to Writer by Cecil Murphey

Grammar, Spelling, Usage and Punctuation:

Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik

Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner

Write! Better by Ray Wiseman

Merriam Webster’s 11th Edition Dictionary (or something similar)

Roget’s Super Thesaurus by Marc McCutcheon

Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer

My Digital Library of Writing Books: (in part):

Author Publicity Pack by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart

How to Write Faster by Marcy Kennedy

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

The Story Template by Amy Deardon

The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron

Writing Online by Sean Platt

You Are a Writer by Jeff Goins

GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) by Debra Dixon

Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell

Indie Publishing Resource E-books:

Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide by Joel Friedlander and Betty Kelly Sargent

Search Engine Optimization for Writers by Clover Autrey

Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors by Carla King

Indie Publishing Handbook by Heather Day Gilbert

The Writing Life:

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Write Away by Elizabeth George

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (a bit new-age here and there so beware)

Besides these gems, collect books, either print or digital, that resource your particular genre or time period. I write historical fiction set in Revolution era Russia, so I have a lot of books referring to that historical setting. (View my partial list HERE.)

You are a writer, as Jeff Goins says in his book, so start amassing helps and hints and tips. Happy writing to you!

 

 

What is PUG?

* Punctuation

* Usage

* Grammar

Some of us are detail fanatics, who lie (not lay) awake at night because somewhere someone is misspelling something on Facebook. Others will write their stories and ask a grammarphobe to correct the mistakes. Either way, we need to be aware of the importance of proper PUG in our writing.

Punctuation is a bit of a stickler, as rules change over time and differ between publishing houses. The Chicago Manual of Style is usually considered the final word.

My rule of thumb is to read my work aloud and use punctuation at pause or breath points. The aim is effective communication.

Consider these sentences without punctuation:

“Slow kids at play.” That’s a nasty attitude.

“Woman finds inspiration in cooking her dog and her family.” Dark. Very dark.

As writers, we must make sure our words communicate our intent.

My personal plea: Do not use more than one exclamation mark at a time! Ever! Instead, use strong words and appropriate action tags to add power to the sentence.

Usage: “the customary manner in which language is written or spoken.” (Dictionary.com) There are times when rules overshadow meaning. An old rule stated that a sentence should not end in a preposition (to, with, in, of, etc.). The following sentence applies the rule but sacrifices clarity: “This is a rule up with which I will not put.” (Ascribed to Churchill, but unsubstantiated.) We must be accurate and clear in our meaning.

The most important tips on word usage:

– use strong words in all parts of speech

E.g. “chartreuse” instead of “a shade halfway between green and yellow.”

We should aim to use as few adjectives and adverbs as possible, replacing them with strong nouns and verbs. E.g. “She hurried / dashed / trotted / slipped away” instead of “She walked quickly away.”

A rule of thumb is to use the simplest words to convey our meaning.

Use action beats with dialogue. E.g. “Stop!” She pointed the gun at him.

Grammar doesn’t have to be boring. We can find answers in entertaining and informative books such as these:

Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Conner

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik

An option is to trade skills with someone who is more competent in grammar than we are.

Proper use of PUG has always been a priority in any writing contests I’ve entered or judged. Offering up our stories without attention to the details of PUG is like showing up at a party in a gorgeous outfit sporting ketchup stains. We may have a fascinating storyline, but poor grammar will reduce credibility and professionalism.

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Google image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all in the details.

This is the 4th “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God

 

Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.

 

 

 

FOURTH CONVERSATION

Concepts:

The substance of religion is faith, hope and love, the practice of which unites us to God’s will. Prayer is simply sensing God’s presence.

We must realize our utter worthlessness, accept that trouble is common to man, and become dependent completely on God alone.

The best way to draw near to God is by doing our daily tasks, whether large or small, to please Him (not others).

We should not be discouraged by our sins because:

– our confidence is in God’s grace

– our confidence is in God’s merits (not our own)

– our confidence is in God’s faithfulness

Our Response:

I strive to prove my faith by my works instead of separating faith and works. Paul says that’s organic religion.

In this fourth conversation, Brother Lawrence condenses religion to three simple concepts: faith, hope and love (charity). He suggests that it makes no difference what task or vocation or occupation we apply ourselves to, but that we do it for Christ.

Surely this should remove competition between Christians. But does it? We take pride in our works, when they mean nothing to God. We try to appear godly, when God is looking not on the outward person but on the heart.

Life would be much simpler if each of us were to commit ourselves to following God in our “corner of the world” instead of trying to do more, or better, or more noticeable things for Him.

“All things are possible to him who believes,

they are less difficult to him who hopes,

they are more easy to him who loves,

and still more easy to him who perseveres

in the practice of these three virtues [faith, hope and love].”

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