What? There is a world outside of my workshop?

I have spent the past week at a training workshop hosted by my preferred professional organization.  As you may have noticed, I did manage to get a few posts in.  The last couple of days, however, not so much.

I apologize for my absorption into this non-writing world.

Today was the last day of the workshop.  While I am still planning to meet a couple of my classmates and one of my instructors for dinner, the workshop is over and it has released its grip on my brain.  (This is a good thing – I think I was being too ambitious in imagining that I could actually get some of my synopsis done this week.)

Tomorrow I get to sit on planes and in airports.  These are always great places for writing to happen, since I’m basically trapped with limited activity options.  I let you know at the end of the day tomorrow if I managed to take advantage of the situation.  🙂

Stop Thinking!

I’m in professional training this week for work.  I have writing and presentation assignments due later this week, and when I got done with the sessions today all the hamsters in my brain were racing in their wheels.

Needless to say, I was a bit stressed.

Fortunately, my mom suggested going for a walk (a good idea after sitting all day, and also a good way to get my mind going).  I also know that my brain sometimes works best when the problem is in the back, not the front, of my mind.  I got one of the assignments drafted after my walk; much like some of my story, it seemed to appear whole and intact all at once.  That helped me relax about it, which should also help me focus on the other (bigger) assignment for later in the week.

I might sneak in a little synopsis work in there as well.

Getting worked up over words

I really should know better.

There are certain non-fiction subjects that I love to read about, and although at this point I can sometimes predict where the author is going with certain discussions, I almost always learn something new in the process.  The problem is that these same subjects can touch on my “soapbox” issues and get me very fired up.

I’m currently reading an older book on one of those topics, a book that deals mainly with some of the people and facts of the subject.  I knew that the author would get to the controversial part at some point; that point arrived today.

Now I’m irritated about the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly with the author.  I’m not irritated about his writing, or his stance.  He does an excellent job of cogently laying out the facts and supporting the side of the argument that I am on.  The irritation comes from the fact that the topic is even a controversy at all.

I’m also annoyed with myself.  I know that the subject gets me worked up, and that the controversy exists, and I shouldn’t let it get to me.  I don’t want to give up reading on the topic, so I guess I should either find a good debate partner or figure out a way to keep the reading from getting me worked up.

What subjects get you fired up and ready for a debate?  Do you still read about them?

Describe it for me

I like words.  I like playing with words.  I use words in writing, in presentations, at work and in my down time.  While I sometimes struggle with the best way to phrase something, or lose a word for a minute (mundane, anyone?) but words rarely escape me.

So why can’t I ever find the right way to describe my stories for people?

Right now I’m fighting my way to a synopsis, which is proving a bit more challenging than I anticipated.  This isn’t just a current problem; when I’ve tried to give people a quick summary of the tale, I find myself struggling to capture the concept.

This seems to be mostly a problem with my own stories.  I can usually summarize a book or a movie for someone, although perhaps not as eloquently as others.  I can usually find a single sentence or two (like the short version I posted a couple of weeks ago).  It’s the longer synopsis, the one that goes to agents, that I’m finding difficult.

Maybe the answer is right here, in what I just wrote.  Maybe the trick is to think of it as someone else’s story, rather than my own.  We’ll see if that helps.

Mundane (Or, how inside jokes get started)

I was writing a different post for today and referenced a family inside joke.  I thought, “Surely I’ve told my readers this story, so I can link that post to this one” and immediately went to find said post.

It doesn’t exist.

After my moment of “How have I not told this story!?” I saved that post (to continue another day) and began the process of sharing said story with you.  As a bit of background, my family and I share a lot of inside jokes, most of which are random and make no sense to others while cracking everyone in our group up.  That’s how it goes.  Don’t feel bad if you don’t find the humor; just smile and appreciate the fact that there is someone out there who is chuckling at the end.  This story also has a touch of my friend Jack to it, as well, since I believe the original version (sans family joke) was his, not mine.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are searching for a word, and your brain gets caught on another word, close but not correct, that keeps repeating like a skipping record and getting in the way of finding the word you really want?  I was explaining this concept to my family in the following way.  I have no idea why I chose the word mundane for the example, but I did, and the results will be explained at the end.

You’re trying to think of a word, and your brain says, “Oh, I’ve got it!  It’s mundane!” and you respond, no, that’s not quite right.  So your brain offers, “Maybe it’s mundane?” and you say, no, that’s what you just said.  “Perhaps it’s mundane!” No.  “…I know!  Mundane!”  NO.  “Then how about… mundane?” NO!  This is the point where you say, Forget it brain, I’ll find another word.  Of course, about 30 minutes later (with mundane put away) the real word you were looking for pops into your head.  Probably when you don’t need it anymore.

Now, a couple of things about this story before we continue.  Obviously my brain and I don’t actually have conversations; this is personification for dramatic effect.  I am not (that type of) crazy.  You must also imagine me, standing, acting this out with different voices, fully emoting the “excited” brain when it think it has the right answer.  Got it?  Good.

For some reason, part of the way through this tale, my family started to laugh.  I started to laugh.  I don’t think I even finished the story, we were all cracking up.  (Honestly, most of the time I don’t know how or why my family’s sense of humor works.  I just enjoy it.)  Now all someone has to do is say “mundane” and we all start chuckling again at the memory.  The word has taken on a life of its own, just by connection to the story and the moment of my telling it.

There.  Now I have told you the story, so when I mention mundane in another post (in order to reference this tale) you are in the loop.  Maybe you aren’t enjoying the joke, but at least you know what’s going on.  I don’t like leaving people out if I can help it, and references that only three people get aren’t very useful.  🙂

When You Don’t Want To Write

Here is a challenge we all face as writers: how to make yourself work when there’s nothing enforcing it.

When you don’t want to go to work in the morning, there are reasons you get your butt dressed and out of the door anyway.  You may have to report to a boss, or you might not get paid if you don’t show up.  Maybe there are other people depending on you, or responsibilities you have to fulfill.  Even without personal motivation, you have lots of external motivators keeping you on track.

If writing isn’t your full-time gig, then it’s probably something you do for your own fulfillment.  There are plenty of ways to enforce motivation (I like competitive pressure, like NaNo, myself) but the trick is to find the right combination so there’s always something there.  Without it, on days when you’re tired, or busy, or just not into it, it won’t happen.  I’m trying to stay on track, even with a lot of other pulls on my time, but tonight I’m finding it a bit of a challenge.

To all the authors out there: What do you use to motivate yourself to write?


I’ve been slowly working my way through chapter summaries for Dragon, and I’ve discovered something that will make my life easier when it comes to the final synopsis.  The main character spends several chapters in training.

Now, it is interesting training.  Rather than drone on with a lot of repetitive stuff (which is what training is, right?) there are snapshots of her training.  Everything we see is new and interesting, helps develop her relationships and reveals a bit more of who she is.  She’s also learning cool things.   Flying in a thunderstorm?  Intricate magic work?  Dragon battle training?  Yes, please!

The thing about it is that, while every chapter is unique and revealing, it’s all still training.  This (theoretically) makes the synopsis a bit simpler, as I need to summarize all of it and pull out one or two moments that are key to the plot later on.

We’ll see if that’s really how it falls out.

Finding What’s Important

I am an author, and one that is very character-driven.  This means that, by definition, I am attached to every character in my story in some way.

Some advice that I found about writing a synopsis said to leave out anything that isn’t key to the story, including side characters.  This is valid advice, but I now feel like a parent being asked to choose between my children.

Ok, that’s not fair, since I’ve never been a parent and I have no idea what it would be like to choose between children.  I still feel bad about leaving characters out of the synopsis.

For now I’m working on chapter summaries, finding the key actions and emotions from each chapter. It’s hard enough to leave out plot points and sum up the entire chapter in two or three sentences.  I’m bracing myself for the difficult decision of cutting those down, until all that’s left is the key points of the story.  Fortunately, unlike Butterflies, the layering of characters is more distinct.  It shouldn’t be too hard intellectually to know which kids get to stay, even if my emotions want to give everybody a mention.

Starting with the right stuff

Tonight I made a fancy grilled cheese with ingredients that I got at the local farmer’s market.  I made something similar last week, so I was very hopeful for dinner.

It turns out that the pieces I used this week weren’t quite right.  I like all three ingredients – handmade Nordic bread, locally made dill cheddar cheese, and heirloom tomatoes.  The end result isn’t great, and I think the bread is the problem.  I’m still enjoying it, but it’s not as good as last week’s sandwich.  (If you’re curious, last week was pumpernickel, not Nordic, and the cheese was store-bought shredded Italian.  The tomatoes were the same.)

This has implications for writing, which is why I’m mentioning it here.  A good novel takes lots of pieces, and they need to fit together effectively.  Certain writing styles lend themselves to certain stories.  Particular characters are suited for specific tales, and tie back to the writing style as well.  If you have a stoic character, you can’t write with a lot of dialog, and a focused, low-action tale needs a deft hand with detail.

If your story isn’t quite working, take a look back and see if changing point of view, writing style, or even rebuilding a character can help.  Sometimes swapping out one ingredient makes all the difference.

Summing it up

The agency that I want to query wants a one-page synopsis of Dragon.  I wrote the very short blurb for the query letter, as well as a more detailed (but still short and somewhat vague) paragraph about the book for the query letter.

Now I need to write an actual synopsis.

I just finished re-reading Dragon, so I should be in a good spot for writing a synopsis.  The trick is to not just list what happens, but to capture the essence and emotion of the story.  It also needs to be excellently written.  After the query letter, this is one of the only chances I get to impress the agents.

Looks like I have a new project!


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