HOW TO WRITE THE PERFECT SYNOPSIS

 

Royal FP(From a Writer’s Work Shop)

Most agents will ask you to send them a submission pack containing three items:

  • A covering letter (see advice here and sample here)
  • A synopsis
  • The first three chapters / 10,000 words of                                                                         your novel

Most agents will look at the covering letter first, then turn to the manuscript. If they like the first three chapters, they’ll be thinking, “This book looks really interesting. I’m definitely tempted . . . but is the author going to hold my interest over the full 300 / 400 pages? Is it worth me making that investment of time to read the whole thing?”

That’s where the synopsis comes in. The synopsis is there to answer the question, “What is the story of this book? Is there a clear story arc and will there be a satisfying ending?”

Obviously the actual experience of reading a synopsis is quite underwhelming. Synopses are boring, technical documents which (we hope) would not be true of your novel. But that doesn’t matter. Agents know synopses are dull, so all your synopsis really has to do is:

  • tell the agent in very clear terms what your story is
  • make it clear what your hook / premise / elevator pitch is (more info here)
  • give some kind of feeling for why the story matters & how the jeopardy increases
  • sketch out an ending that feels satisfying

But – and this should be reassuring – agents do know that synopses are hard to write and they care less about the synopsis than any other part of your submission package.That means you probably don’t need to worry excessively about your synopsis – just follow the guidelines below and you’ll do just fine.

How to write a perfect synopsis

A perfect synopsis has the following ingredients:

  • Length: 500-800 words
  • Main purpose: Summarise your plot
  • Secondary purpose: Make it clear what Unique Selling Point your book has
  • Language: Be businesslike: clear, to the point, neutral.
  • Presentation: Be well-presented: no typos or spelling mistakes. Normal font size, normal margins. Line spacing no narrower than 1.5
  • Character names. It helps if you put the names of main characters in bold or CAPS when you first introduce them. That way, if an agent has forgotten who Carlotta is, it’s easy for them to skim back and jog their memory. (Remember that agents are reading a lot of these things, so they have about a million character names in their heads at any one time.)
  • Extra points. It’s certainly not essential, but if you have a really compelling way to ‘sell’ your story in 2-3 lines maximum, then you could insert that little snippet up at the top of your synopsis as a way of reminding agents why they’re interested in this MS in the first place. For example, a certain Ms Rowling might have opened her synopsis with, “Harry Potter, an orphan, thinks he is an ordinary boy when an owl brings him a letter inviting him to attend wizard school.” That’s not strictly speaking synopsis material, but it does instantly emphasise the book’s appeal.
  • And remember: Tell the story: your job is not to sell the book, write dust jacket blurb, or anything else. Just say what happens in the story. That’s all you need to do.

And luckily there are things you don’t need to do:

  • Go into great detail about setting. If you were writing a synopsis for a Jane Austen novel for example, you might simply say “This novel is set in a small village in Regency England.”
  • Go into vast detail about character – a few quick strokes are all that you need. For example you might say: “Bridget Jones – a ditzy, mildly boozy twenty-something – …”
  • Be scrupulous about plot detail. It’s fine to skip over subplots or ignore some of the finer detail of how X accomplishes Y. The truth is, you won’t have time to include those things in a 700 word summary anyway. Agents know that the synopsis is at best an approximation of the story so you don’t need to have a troubled consicence.
  • You also don’t have to give away your very final plot twist – though you should make it clear that there is one. For example, you could write, “When Olivia finally catches up with Jack at the abandoned lighthouse, he tells her the real secret of his disappearance – and their final bloody reckoning ensues.” Mostly though, a synopsis is the ultimate plot spoiler, and your job is just to spill the beans whether you like it or not.

Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

Word Painting

Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan (an excerpt from Writer’s Digest, January 2015) Here are four secrets to keep in mind as you breathe life into your characters through description.

  1.   Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway calls the “all-points bulletin.”

It reads something like this: “My father is a tall, middle-aged man of average build. He has green eyes and brown hair and usually wears khakis and oxford shirts.”

This description is so mundane, it barely qualifies as an “all-points bulletin.” Can you imagine the police searching for this suspect? No identifying marks, no scars or tattoos, nothing to distinguish him. He appears as a cardboard cutout rather than as a living, breathing character. Yes, the details are accurate, but they don’t call forth vivid images. We can barely make out this character’s form; how can we be expected to remember him?

When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. The details must appeal to our senses. Phrases that merely label (like tall, middle-aged, and average) bring no clear image to our minds. Since most people form their first impression of someone through visual clues, it makes sense to describe our characters using visual images. Green eyes is a beginning, but it doesn’t go far enough. Are they pale green or dark green? Even a simple adjective can strengthen a detail. If the adjective also suggests a metaphor—forest green, pea green, or emerald green—the reader not only begins to make associations (positive or negative) but also visualizes in her mind’s eye the vehicle of the metaphor—forest trees, peas, or glittering gems.

  1. The problem with intensifying an image only by adjectives is that adjectives encourage cliché.

It’s hard to think of adjective descriptors that haven’t been overused: bulging or ropy muscles, clean-cut good looks, frizzy hair. If you use an adjective to describe a physical attribute, make sure that the phrase is not only accurate and sensory but also fresh. In her short story “Flowering Judas,” Katherine Anne Porter describes Braggioni’s singing voice as a “furry, mournful voice” that takes the high notes “in a prolonged painful squeal.” Often the easiest way to avoid an adjective-based cliché is to free the phrase entirely from its adjective modifier. For example, rather than describing her eyes merely as “hazel,” Emily Dickinson remarked that they were “the color of the sherry the guests leave in the glasses.”

  1. Strengthen physical descriptions by making details more specific.

In my earlier “all-points bulletin” example, the description of the father’s hair might be improved with a detail such as “a military buzz-cut, prickly to the touch” or “the aging hippie’s last chance—a long ponytail striated with gray.” Either of these descriptions would paint a stronger picture than the bland phrase brown hair. In the same way, his oxford shirt could become “a white oxford button-down that he’d steam-pleated just minutes before” or “the same style of baby blue oxford he’d worn since prep school, rolled carelessly at the elbows.” These descriptions not only bring forth images, they also suggest the background and the personality of the father.

  1. Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.

One well-chosen physical trait, item of clothing, or idiosyncratic mannerism can reveal character more effectively than a dozen random images. This applies to characters in nonfiction as well as fiction. When I write about my grandmother, I usually focus on her strong, jutting chin—not only because it was her most dominant feature but also because it suggests her stubbornness and determination. When I write about Uncle Leland, I describe the wandering eye that gave him a perpetually distracted look, as if only his body was present. His spirit, it seemed, had already left on some journey he’d glimpsed peripherally, a place the rest of us were unable to see. As you describe real-life characters, zero in on distinguishing characteristics that reveal personality: gnarled, arthritic hands always busy at some task; a habit of covering her mouth each time a giggle rises up; a lopsided swagger as he makes his way to the horse barn; the scent of coconut suntan oil, cigarettes, and leather each time she sashays past your chair.

A Book Review of D. G. Kaye’s Non-Fiction, “Words We Carry”

It is my belief that every woman on the planet should read this non-fiction inspirational story that reveals the negative self-esteem experiences that many if not all women encounter during various incidents throughout their lives, and the consequences of those experiences often begin in early childhood.

D.G. Kaye writes with empathy, compassion, and a plethora of knowledge using her own experiences to help other women understand the importance of realizing their sense of self that is intimately associated with our self-worth. Self-worth is not a vanity and it not excessive pride. It is how we access our own sense of being, of who we are.

The author, D.G. Kaye, writes with a warmhearted conversational style that beautifully eliminates dogma and in effect the judging of us, by us, and others for what we may perceive as a failure to have fallen victim to ridicule, to embarrassment, and instead we begin to believe in our personalities and our value in the world.

Our society often appears to judge women by our appearance: a cultural sense of what beauty is, a person’s station in life, and least but not last – money. If as a child we experienced being bullied, laughed at, ignored, and ridiculed, our self-worth without a positive, loving alternative from your parents, grandparents, and siblings—is damaged and our chances of feeling unlovable, inadequate, and homely take root in our psyche. A psyche that is damaged presents difficulties in our self-expression, our personalities, and our ability to thrive in the world without a sense of inadequacy. This sense of inadequacy leaves us open to being further damaged by others.

D.G. Kaye, the author, encourages us, helps us to understand, and presents a rationale that can and does present a newer, healthier view of ourselves as well as to develop healthier relationships. Once we rid ourselves of negativity, jealousy, envy, and that awful feeling of inadequacy; our inner personalities, our joy of life, and a sense of inner happiness will begin to shine.

D.G. Kaye’s inspirational non-fiction for women is the best of its kind that I have ever read, and a must read for all women. I give this book a 5-star rating.

 

A Review of Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney IV

A Review of James J. Cudney, IV superb novel, Watching Glass Shatter.

 

The title alone intrigued me. I already knew that James J. Cudney IV, was a fabulous writer and I already loved his writing style. I knew that it would be a great read, but I had no idea it would be so superb and that I would spend hours reading it while ignoring everything else that went on around me. Honestly, if my house had burnt down around me I probably would not have noticed.

I didn’t answer my iPhone, or make dinner or finish the laundry, I was so taken by it, so entranced by it, that I could do nothing else but read this novel that is as true to life as anything I have ever read. The people in this novel, come to life as real as you and me.  James J. Cudney IV’s novel brings a realism to this novel, Watching Glass Shatter, like no other. It is so astonishingly real in every conceivable way.

Normally, when I read a book, I know it is fiction, but not this story, no, anything but fiction. This story is like stepping into a family’s life in a very intimate way, observing, as though you are their invisible friend, and wanting so much to give advice, to hold a hand when tears flowed, to cheer when things go as planned, to grieve when they grieved, to respect their choices, even though poorly chosen sometimes, but necessary.

When I finished reading the last sentence, I knew I didn’t want it to end even though it was after midnight. I realized I had been reading for many hours without stopping for nether food nor drink. I knew in an instant that I would never forget this family, their lives, their losses, and their triumphs. I also knew I would be buying the print version today. I am also thrilled that now, knowing that Watching Glass Shatter is to be printed in several languages, because I am so happy that other people around the world will love this book as much as I do, and I hope the French language is of them. I give this story 5 stars and it doesn’t seem fair…it should be 10 stars!

 

Why You Should Never Stop Reading Fairytales!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Stop Reading Fairy tales! by Karen DeMers Dowdall 

I thought it would be nice to re-post one of my favorite posts about fairy tales. Considering that I am really into fantasy, paranormal, fairytales, and witches, this new blog title suits me to a T…Once Upon a time…. It is far better than just my name (it is way too long). This new blog title really makes me happy. I love fantasy stories that begin with Once Upon a time…Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle in time, however, does not begin Once upon a time…it begins with, “It was a dark and stormy night”…that works too.

I have collected volumes of fairy tale books, everything from all of Hans Christian Anderson to all of the Grimm’s Fairy tales, Scotland Folk Tales, Irish Myths and Folklore, among many other volumes of Fairy tales. Perhaps, one could say, I live in a fairytale world of my own making. So true. I can’t think of a better place to live…especially in the world as we live in today.

Also, my collection of books includes my favorite books of tales about Princesses, Dragons, Monsters, and of course…Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and all his friends, too. Less I forget to mention, my love of everything in King Author’s Court and the Knights, especially, the Wizard Merlin, and also,the Hobbit’s Gandalf the Grey. So many magical creatures that do often represent the best and the worst of humanity.

These stories tell me that most, that perhaps all of humanity is redeemable, because we are not given an instruction manual for raising babies, toddlers, and especially teenagers – God love them, one and all. Oh my goodness, it can be a real juggle out there for those growing up and with our delicate egos at risk…anything can go wrong.

Perhaps, that is why I love Fantasy, Fairy tales, Paranormal, Greek Mythology, and Science fiction too. Quoting the famous words of Albert Einstein, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Well…perhaps it doesn’t work with everyone. I am still learning.

I will add to that quote, if I may, my own philosophy:  “Never stop reading fairytales. No matter how old you are! We are forever learning, and not much teaches us more than a good Fairy tale!”

by Karen DeMers Dowdall June 4th, 2019

 

 

A Telling Time

~This is a telling time, a time to consider consequences as there are worse things to come; if those that are keen with pen and paper fail to support right from wrong. ~ Karen Dowdall

 

“In every age it has been the tyrant…wrapped in the cloak of patriotism or religion to deceive and overawe the People”

~Eugene V. Debs

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. ~Thomas Jefferson

 

The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything.  ~Clarence Darrow

 

Ignorance has always been the weapon of tyrants; enlightenment the salvation of the free. ~Bill Richardson

 

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.  ~Albert Camus

 

It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.  ~Henry A. Wallace

 

Tyrants always have some slight shade of virtue; they support the laws before destroying them. ~Voltaire

 

Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of. ~Bill Moyers

 

“Freedom is sloppy. But since tyranny’s the only guaranteed byproduct of those who insist on a perfect world, freedom will have to do.”
~ Bill Willingham

 

“Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.”
~ Lysander Spooner

 

“The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law.”
~ Christopher Hitchens, Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essay

 

“All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.”
~Alexis de Tocqueville

 

 

 

 

Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering

 

 

 

3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

A Few Quotes that Shine a Light on Being Who You Are.

 

 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas A. Edison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
 Robert Frost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often times writers get writing blocks resulting in a temporary lost of self-belief in their writing, especially if their much loved published book doesn’t get much attention/sales. Well as Robert Frost says, “life goes on”;  Thomas Edison says, “I just found 10,000  ways that don’t work” (well, maybe); Yet, Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “You have already accomplished the greatest of challenges – you are still you!

A Book Review of Haunted House Ghost by James J. Cudney IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James J. Cudney IV’s captivating mystery, The Haunted House Ghost is the 5th book in the Braxton Campus Mystery series.  The novel itself is a marvel of intricacy, very much like a corn maze, with dead-end paths just when you think you know who the murderer is and it leaves you guessing, and you forge ahead as the Protagonist, Professor Kellan continues to forge ahead to unravel the 50 year old mystery. Beyond the mystery are unique personalities that you get to know like family.

A fascinating aspect is that the writer deftly combines 50 years of mystery about the one murder discovered after 50 years, that brings new mysteries to be solved and solved they will be. Kellan, the brilliant one or so his grandmother Nana D. refers to him, is a very dedicated amateur sleuth that puts all the pieces of the puzzle together in very ingenious ways.

Imagine that it is approaching Halloween night in Braxton, Pennsylvania and you have just purchased a historical home with a storied history of a beautiful young woman named Prudence, who was married to Judge Hiram Grey. Prudence is said to have disappeared 50 years ago during the fiery Vietnam War Protest at Braxton Campus that damaged the oldest part of the Campus Library.

You are told that Prudence haunts her family’s ancestral home that was built before the Civil War in America, but you just shrug your shoulders because you don’t believe in ghosts, until suddenly you do.

Imagine in that same small town of Braxton, Pennsylvania,  a young male Army veteran just home from the war, named Ian, disappears on the same day during the fiery episode of the Vietnam War Protest in front of the College. Therein lies the heart of the mystery, but that mystery just opens up Pandora’s box to reveal hidden crimes of money, betrayal, love, and revenge that appears to have rattled the bones of everyone in town.

Imagine it is now the present day and the Board of Directors at the Braxton Campus decides to tear down the oldest part of the Library as they wish to upgrade the College Campus into a University. During the demolition of the more than 100 year old structure of the oldest part of the Library, it was a shock to find the bones of a human being with brutal injuries suggesting a murder had taken place 50 years ago in the Library.

The town’s older generation wonders, could it be Prudence or some other poor soul? Many people remember Ian, whose wife to this day is full of grief at the loss of her husband. Did he abandoned her when he was discharged from the Army or did he really make it back home and is it his bones at the bottom of the now hollow hole?

Professor Kellan, the grandson of a longtime resident of the small town of Braxton, Pennsylvania, Nana D., finds himself in the center of this mystery as he actually bought the Civil War era haunted manor.

Professor Kellan being an amateur sleuth, knew he had to find out the truth. He manages to convince April, the town’s new sheriff, to help with his informal investigation when they become aware of the strong chemistry between them. They both aim to discover who the bones belong to and who is the murderer. Kellan devises a plan to research and dig up the ugly truth, so that he and his daughter Emma may live there without being haunted in their newly renovated home that may still belong to the disappeared Prudence. Kellan decides to get the help of a psychic medium who warns him of the danger he is in.

During all of this upheaval the Halloween Festival must go on with horse drawn carriages, haunted hayrides, and the race through the spooky corn maze. Everyone was enjoying the Festival when out of the dark, something spooks the horse drawn carriage causing deadly damage to two people, Professor Kellan knows that this was no accident.

This brilliantly conceived mystery, Haunted House Ghost, is a superb story that is thrilling, captivating, fascinating, and a very satisfying read that surprises you when you least expect to be surprised. This novel is the kind of thrilling mystery that you will want to read again and again. 5 stars

 

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

James J. Cudney IV

 

Websites & Blog

 

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

 

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

 

About James J. Cudney – Author, Book Reviewer & Blogger

 

James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter, a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. My second novel is Father Figure, a contemporary drama about two young women’s journeys on a college campus filled with secrets and tragedy. My third, fourth, and fifth novels are a new mystery series focusing on Braxton Campus. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com and you can buy the books via Amazon.

 

 

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Book Marketing – Radio or Podcast Interviews – Grab the opportunity by Sally Cronin

Having a live Interview is definitely important for marketing you and your book.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I was very lucky to be a radio and television presenter from 2004 – 2012 and in that time I interviewed many authors about their books. The key to an interesting interview for the listeners or viewers is in preparation and research, not just by the presenter but by the author too. The purpose of the interview is to encourage people to buy your book and read it, and that is a key element you should keep in mind when answering questions.

This week a look at how you can prepare for you interview on radio and next week on camera.

Wonderful news, your hard work in promoting your new book on social media and locally has paid off and you get the call or email. An invitation to do an interview on a radio station, television show or author promoting podcast.

Getting an interview on a radio show or…

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