How to Write a Novel Synopsis

There comes a time in every writer’s life where they’re asked to write a synopsis of their book. Not to be confused with sales copy (which is persuasive marketing to get readers to buy your book) the synopsis discloses a book’s entire narrative arc. It divulges to an agent or publisher what happens in your story, from start to finish. And it reveals all the twists and surprises that are held back from your reader. A synopsis needs to convince an agent or publisher that your premise is exciting and marketable. It assures them that character actions and motivations make sense. On the flip side, it can reveal plot flaws, lack of structure or hackneyed or cliched ideas.

The dreaded task of writing a synopsis is not fun or easy, but necessary. Most agents or publishers will ask for a synopsis (in addition to a query letter and manuscript sample) before considering taking on a book. Unfortunately, there is no one “right” way to write a synopsis, but the general consensus is that it should be 500-700 words, single-spaced. So how do you convey everything about your book in a modicum of space?

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What To Do When You Get Stuck

It’s almost a cliche at this point.  The writer staring a blinking cursor in a blank Word document or at an untouched sheet of paper, unable to go on.  And while many claim to have writer’s block, it’s sort of like claiming you’re haunted by the ghost of an 18th-century apple scrumper.  There’s nothing to prove you aren’t possessed by a barefoot French urchin boy in a neighboring fruit orchard, but nothing to prove you are either.  In other words – it’s all in your head.

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Diversity in Fantasy: We Can Do Better.

One of the best things about writing in the fantasy fiction genre is that anything goes. I’m not saying there aren’t rules – there are – Harry Potter wasn’t able to bring his parents back from the dead, the One Ring gave Frodo powers, but not without consequence.  If done correctly, magic or superpowers shouldn’t be a panacea to all life’s problems or there would be nothing at stake, nothing for our hero to overcome or run up against. There are limits to magic and rules that govern fantasy worlds.   But – the good news is, as a writer – you make the rules!  You can create a fictional world of fish people, so long as you can convincingly explain to the reader how they’re able to breath under water, what kind of teeth they have for eating prey and how they’re able to navigate the darkest depths of the ocean.  Fantasy – no matter how far-fetched – must have a basis in reality or you risk the reader suspending their disbelief.

Which is why a lot of fantasy worlds draw from science, historical events, real people or historical periods.  Doing this provides the reader with a recognizable framework through which to view the world.  Going forward, let’s call that framework belief glasses.  As long as the writer provides the reader with a pair of belief glasses, the reader should be able to comfortably navigate the writer’s world and not get taken out of it.  So when you’re creating those glasses, why create ones that only see white people?  Why create glasses that can see dragons but not women in positions of power?  Why not make full-spectrum glasses?

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BookCon: A How-To.

Unlike it’s predecessor, Comic-Con (which is now in its eleventh year), BookCon is a relatively new convention.  Started in 2014, BookCon is run by the same company that runs Comic-Con – ReedPOP – and follows on the heels of BookExpo, the largest and longest running annual book trade fair in America.  But while BookExpo is geared more toward professionals – publishers, writers and educators – BookCon is for the fans.  It hosts Panels, Meet-and-Greets, Giveaways, Autographing sessions and Fan Meet-Ups. Last year, BookCon took place in Chicago and was only one day long, but this year, it was held at the Javits Center in New York, Saturday and Sunday, June 3rd & 4th.  I was lucky enough to attend…

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How to Write a Blog.

It’s easy to feel like you aren’t a real writer when no one can see the fruits of your effort. If you’ve started to cringe when you tell someone, “I’m writing a novel” or you hesitate to call yourself a writer to your friends (because you don’t have any searchable content out in the world), blogging could be for you.  Writers write.  And if you don’t exist as a writer on the Internet, you don’t exist.  Don’t wait until you have a book to build your brand.  Now is the time!

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Would You Believe…Hanson?

In December of 2015, I’d just finished my 1-year teaching contract in Japan.  Hungry for adventure, I set off on a one-month sojourn along the eastern Australian coastline with a Scotswoman, a Frenchman and a Canberra-native in a Britz campervan.  (No, this isn’t the start of a joke).  There were all the usual road-trip high-jinks – forgetting to latch the kitchen drawers before hitting the highway, being delayed when our window was shattered by a ride-on mower at a rest stop, dodging the occasional kangaroo crossing the road, jamming the back door when we accidentally shut a sweater in it, battling plague-like proportions of flies and never ending sand, having our drying towels pooped on by a wombat.  You know – the usual things.  #justaustraliathings

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How to Stop Procrastinating. (Pt 2)

In the companion post to this one, I discussed the reasons we procrastinate, which was helpful in understanding the psychology behind our bad habits. In this post, I’ll provide tips on how to stop procrastinating.

If you missed part one, find it here: Why We Procrastinate (Pt 1)

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Why We Procrastinate. (Pt 1)

We’ve all been there before – when facing a looming deadline for a research paper or work presentation – we somehow find ourselves binge-watching episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix or re-alphabetizing our book shelves.  We have every intention of doing the thing…eventually.  We even set arbitrary deadlines for ourselves: I’ll do it at 11 o’clock.  And when 11 o’clock comes and goes and we still haven’t done the thing, we move the finish line.  I’ll start tomorrow.  I’ll start Monday.  I’ll start the first of May.  I’ll start in the New Year.  In the meantime, we stew in anxiety, guilt and self-hatred.  Why can’t I do the thing?  What’s wrong with me?  Will I ever do the thing?  Can I even do the thing?

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SELL OUT: Does Art Suffer from Success?

When I was sixteen, I was a fan of a one-man-band, Dashboard Confessional.  My friends and I traveled miles to tiny clubs all up and down the east coast, stood shivering outside in line in winter in bad neighborhoods, got our ribs bruised up against the partition in mosh pit, covered our backpacks and messenger bags in band pins from Hot Topic, went thirsty or hungry or without sleep – all to hear the soul-bearing lyrics of someone we considered to be a modern day poet.

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