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.

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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!

 

Assembling the Packet

I’ve picked one agency to query, at least to start.  Interestingly enough, it’s the same agency that I started with for Butterflies.  That probably makes sense, because the same things that drew me to them the first time still hold true.

Tonight I pulled their submission guidelines from their website.  (As I’ve said, the website is your friend!)  Now I get to start assembling the packet.

Ok, it’s not really a packet.  The agency wants email queries, so it’s a collection of attachments.  I still have to prepare and gather my documents.

Fortunately, unlike others I’ve seen, this agency is explicit in what they want.  I’m not just talking which documents to send, or what types of fiction they want.  They are also particular about formatting, and they’ve made that very clear.  When someone is this specific about how to query them, I would hope that every query fills their requirements.  (Knowing people, that’s probably not true.  But no one can say they weren’t told.)

The next couple evenings will be devoted to preparing the documents and polishing everything! 

I should have prepared better…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!

I should have posted this last night (Tues), so he would have seen it this morning (Wed).  Ah, well, this way he’ll get a little more celebration tomorrow.  🙂

I guess it gets to be a lesson in timing.  Hope everyone has a great day, including you, Dad!

The Website is Your Friend

Last night I started working through the list of agents that I created a few days ago.  For each agency that I am considering, I made an index card.  There are only a few things I am concerned about for these cards: how open they are to new authors, how they want query letters, how quickly they respond, and their websites.  If they specify exclusive submissions or have something special they are looking for, I’ll note that as well.

The website is a very key piece. Most agencies have a website, and on that website you’ll find updated submission guidelines, contacts for queries, and a great deal about their agency.  It’s definitely something to explore before you send a query letter to an agent!

Tonight I discovered just how important the website is.  I picked two agencies to start my querying, and visited their websites.  One is currently closed to queries, making my decision that much easier!

Once the letter is finished and the revisions are done, the first query will go out.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Excerpt from Dragon Pendant

Last year for my birthday challenge, I posted excerpts from both novels and a short story to my blog.  As I promised something challenge-worthy for this week, here is the prologue from Dragon.  Enjoy!

Te’Kalyn stretched as her body finished its transformation.   The space between her shoulder blades itched terribly, as always, and the pendant that now hung from her neck was warm against her skin.  She took two steps across the room to a small table next to a mirror.  Her eyes were focused on the prize lying on the table. Greedily she reached for the medallion.  The weight in her hand was much more substantial now that she was in this smaller, weaker physical form.  She absently rubbed her thumb across the symbols and images carved into the unusual metal.  This talisman had cost her dearly, although she was shrewd enough to guarantee its effectiveness before making her purchase.  She was also smart enough to know that the maker was only a liability, and to ensure his inability to speak of what he had made for her.  A satisfied smile crept across her face.  It revealed the pointed teeth that, along with cat-slit pupils, betrayed Te’Kalyn as a Khai in human form.   Fortunately, the irises of her eyes were so dark as to be black, concealing the pupils, and it was easy enough not to smile.

Slipping the medallion into the pouch on her belt, Te’Kalyn paused to admire her carefully created appearance in the mirror.  Small and slender, a black a-line skirt and white buttoned-down shirt accentuated her petite frame and strikingly pale skin.  The professional image of the outfit was spoiled by her chunky black boots and the black collar that hugged her slim neck.  Her black hair, so dark it barely shone in the light, was cut in a short, spiky style that still made her look feminine.

Pleased with the overall effect, she confidently strode toward the door of her home.   She stopped long enough to don a flowing hooded cloak made of rich black velvet, in order to make herself less incongruous while still on Erova.  Walking was not her usual mode of transport, but horses would not pretend to tolerate her presence, much less suffer her to ride.  Walking would be her only choice.  Fortunately, her destination was not far, and she had magic enough even in this shape to keep herself comfortable no matter what the weather.

The path to the ruins was dirt, well compacted but with the intrusions of plant life that disuse brings to a road.  Ancient fir trees shadowed the lane, their lowest branches high above Te’Kalyn’s head.  Birds stilled their voices as she walked near them; they recognized a Khai as a predator regardless of her current shape.  The world around her provided little distraction to the young woman, absorbed as she was in her own thoughts and plans.  She was finally within yards of her lifelong goal, finally near the ruins and her passageway to another world, a world more suited to her tastes and desires.

Te’Kalyn walked around a bend in the road and the ruins suddenly loomed ahead of her.  She had spent the last year overseeing her servants as they meticulously rebuilt one wall of the damaged structure.  The original stones, identified by magic, had been collected from their scattered resting places.  Three smaller ones had even been recovered from the walls of her own home.   Now, standing again where it had stood centuries ago, was a gateway.   Te’Kalyn gently stroked the smooth wood of the door.  This was the only part of the gate that was not original, for the door had long since deteriorated.  It had taken weeks of magical work to recreate the door – for something this important, a substitute could not be used.  Everything about the gateway must be identical in magical signature to the original structure in order for it to work.  The Khai had not been pleased at the amount of magical energy that the re-creation had required, but it was fundamental to her goal, and so she had spent herself dry for days on end.

Now, at last, she had received the final requirement for passage: a gate medallion.  The slimy little magician who had created the metal disk in her pouch had somehow managed to steal and duplicate a very strategic key, one of the few that could open any gateway, regardless of age or deactivation.  This theft and the subsequent results of his work had proven the depth of the man’s talents; it had been unfortunate that she had been unable to allow him to continue using those gifts.  It had been quite enjoyable to watch the man twitch and struggle as she slowly drained the life from him, his painful whimpers turning to agonized screams as she finished him off with flame.

Smiling a little to herself at the pleasing memory, Te’Kalyn removed the medallion from her pouch and approached the gateway.  Making certain that the symbols were oriented correctly, the Khai reached up and placed the surface of the disk against the matching depression in the stone to the right of the door.  She used a tiny trickle of magic to activate the disk, and the metal warmed in her hand.

For a moment, nothing happened.  Te’Kalyn was unsure if the process would work; each part had been done correctly, but with a rebuilt gate, a replica of the door, and a magical duplicate of the medallion, there was always the possibility that a flaw had found its way in.  After a moment, though, the wood began to give off a glow visible to the Khai’s other sight, and she smiled insidiously.  Placing her hand on the knob, she opened the door, shed her cloak, and stepped through into a different world, the first Khai in a generation to venture onto Earth.

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