Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Don't Judge Me by My Synopsis


By Andrea Merrell

As writers, most of us shudder at words like proposal, query letter, and synopsis. We just want to write our stories and not be bothered with all the other stuff. Unfortunately, if we desire to be published, all these other elements are an important part of the process.

I can tell you from experience that writing a synopsis is not an easy task. Writing a back-cover blurb comes much easier for me. I can put a book in a nutshell without too much trouble. But my first attempt at a full-blown synopsis was a disaster. Some of it was all over the place, while other parts read like Cliffs Notes. Reading that first draft would not give anyone the desire to read my story. Back to the drawing board.

When you’re writing nonfiction, it’s much easier to do a chapter-by-chapter outline of your book. Each chapter has a title and a theme. You take that theme and break it down into bite-size portions that will whet the reader’s appetite. One short paragraph per chapter, and you have it.

With fiction, it’s much more difficult to break your story down without giving too much detail or leaving so much out the reader can’t follow you. I’ve read dozens of proposals by gifted writers who were unable to master the synopsis process. In other words, a poorly written synopsis is not necessarily a true reflection of your ability as a writer. Generally, when I receive a proposal, I skim through everything else until I get to the first chapter. It’s more important to me to see the quality of the writing—the storytelling and grasp of the craft—than all the preliminaries. If those first few paragraphs hook me, I am excited to read on. Then I'll go back and pay more attention to everything included in the proposal.

Does this mean we should not spend time making our synopsis the best it can be? Absolutely not. As with everything we do, we should always strive to give it our all. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17 NKJV).

So, what did I do with my first synopsis? I sent it to a friend asking for an honest rip-it-to-shreds opinion. Then I took it to my writers’ group and asked them to do the same. This is how I ended up with a decent synopsis to add to my proposal for my first novel.

As we hear over and over, writing is not a solitary venture. We need a network of people who can help us get over the inevitable hurdles we face along our journey. As I’ve said many times before, the best advice I ever received early on in my writing career was, “Join a critique group, attend writing conferences, and network, network, network” (thank you, Vonda Skelton).

What struggles have you faced with writing a synopsis? How did you overcome them? We would love to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and David Castillo Dominici.)

TWEETABLE


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Computer Tips and Tricks for the Tech-Challenged Writer


Our guest this week is computer-savvy author Linda Widrick.  We have asked her to share some of her computer tips with our readers. Be sure to check out her debut novel, Through a Shattered Image.


By Linda Widrick

You’re writing a best seller.  Your characters are driven, your adrenaline is flowing, and your plot twists and turns in ways you hadn’t expected. Yet you struggle when your lack of computer savvy hinders the speed with which you can brain dump into your masterpiece.
     
Here’s a brief look at a couple of computer tips I think you’ll find helpful.



Your New BFF – the CRTL Key
The CTRL (control) key typically sits on the far left of a PC keyboard. It changes the function of another key when both keys are pressed simultaneously. The shortcut list provided isn’t exhaustive, but let’s take a look at a couple of CTRL pairings to get you off to a good start. 

When your cursor is inside a Word document, pressing CTRL+N at the same time generates a NEW, blank document.  This is helpful when you want to move from your current document to a new one, such as when copying discard clips to a new outtake document.  The alternative (selecting the Start Menu>Microsoft Office>Microsoft Word) takes longer, while the simple CTRL+N saves time.  This applies to other Microsoft applications as well.

Pressing CTRL+N when your cursor rests inside your folder tree generates a NEW, identical window. This is helpful when switching between multiple folders.  

Most people are familiar with the copy/paste duo, CTRL+C and CTRL+V.  This pair is critical when creating subfolders in your folder tree. My current novel project, Cup Half Full, is a subfolder within my Writing folder. To create a subfolder inside my titled folder, I right-click the white space, then select New>Folder.   Then, I single left-click on the New Folder that I just created and press CTRL+C.  Back inside the white space, I press CTRL+V multiple times to create multiple empty folders that can then be renamed to better organize my project.  In seconds, I can rename these new folders with titles such as Research, Characters, Images, and Manuscript.  Organizing folder trees are an essential part of the writer’s life. 
  
Take Advantage of Auto Correct Keys
My current work in progress is set in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, I spell Nicaragua differently every time I type it. Rather than simply using Auto Correct, have you tried Auto Correct Options?  Right-click the misspelled, underlined word. Choose>Auto Correct>Auto Correct Options in the drop-down menu. In the center of the popup window, type Nic in the “Replace” box and Nicaragua in the “With” box.  Click “Add”, then “OK”.  Voila!  Each time you now type Nic, the word Nicaragua automatically appears. I use this feature for common words that I misspell frequently. 
            
Use Dual Monitors
You are using dual monitors, right?  If not, stop for a moment and research what you’ll need to purchase in order to set yourself up with two monitors.  You can see what graphics card is installed on your PC by going to the Device Manager, then clicking Display Adapters.  Take note of the information and provide it to your tech person (or your 2nd Grader).  Snap a photo of the back of your computer tower if you have to. Places like Best Buy or Staples can lead you to the right adapter if you need one.  I purchased an adapter for less than thirty dollars.

When working on dual monitors, I’m a stickler for continuity.  My manuscript doc is always on my right, and my discard doc, research materials, etc., remain on my left monitor.  I’m currently using a wallpaper image on my monitors that’s consistent with the setting of my novel. It keeps my head in that fictional place while the words continue to flow.
   
While this is only a taste of computer tips that are available, one thing is certain - there’s no need to fear technology. Understanding how to use computer shortcuts and tricks can streamline your writing process so you can more efficiently do what you love to do—write. 

Do you have any additional tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

TWEETABLE


Fiction writer, Linda Widrick, desires to be a beacon of light in a dark world, sharing God’s love and grace through her writing. A dreamer at heart, she pulls her inspiration for stories from snippets of everyday life. She and her husband, Keith, live on Florida’s west coast, but enjoy spending time on their farmland in upstate New York, the setting for much of her debut novel, Through a Shattered Image, (Prism Book Group, 2017).  Linda’s novella, To Complicate Matters, is tentatively scheduled for publication in 2019.  Linda is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers International. You might see her at a writer’s conference with a latté in one hand, and a bullet journal in another.  Please stop and say hello, or visit Linda at www.LindaWidrick.com, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.