Posts Tagged ‘synopsis’

I had three goals for this few weeks when I need to let the first draft of BEYOND THE PROPHECY cool before starting the revisions. I’m doing well on all three of them.

  1. “Modgud Gold”: This is a tie-in short story to the Dual Magics series, about what Arcas was doing during the events of the first half or so of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and explains, among other things, how he knew enough about the Modgud to get help for Vatar. I’ve been through the manuscript once and I’m halfway through the second pass. In this revision, I’m primarily deleting an unnecessary character. Yes, Kiara would be there if this were part of the book, but she’s just window dressing in the short story. She has no real role to play. One more pass, concentrating primarily on some descriptions that may not be needed and it’ll be ready to go.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
  2. DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING: I had decided to e-publish this one after all. It only needed a quick read-through and some formatting. It’s available for pre-order now and releases May 18th.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
  3. MAGE STORM: This is my middle grade fantasy. I’ve finished a read-through of the story, making very few changes. I need to do a little work, changing the query and possibly polishing up the synopsis. (I hate synopses.) And then send it to a publisher. Middle grade is still very much of an uphill slog for e-publishing. (How many ten- to twelve-year-olds have an e-reader–or a credit card with which to buy their own books? The answer to the first question is an increasing number. The answer to the second isn’t. So it’s much more necessary to find a way through the gate keepers–parents, teachers, and librarians–with middle grade fiction.)

I expect to have “Modgud Gold” done within a week or so. Then I’ll be ready to get back into BEYOND THE PROPHECY and turn it into the story I know is in there.

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So, that series guide I was thinking about in my last post. It probably won’t be something to put in a future newsletter after all. It might just be right here on this blog, with links added in the ebooks.

There’s already a good deal of information about the world of the Dual Magics series right here under the Worlds tab. Now, that could definitely use a bit of reorganization.

Right now, there’s a lot of the world building information about each of the different cultural groups in the story and a map. And more could be added to it.

Some of that would be new information, like a version of those synopses that have been bothering me, so that anyone who wanted to update themselves on the major events of the previous books could find that information here. Maybe even a brief history of how the Dual Magics world got to be the way it is at the beginning of the series answering questions like:

  • Why do the Dardani fear magic so much?
  • Are the Valson and the Fasallon really related and why did they separate?
  • And, for that matter, where did they come from and why did they leave?

Now, I’m still thinking of writing some prequel stories–possibly novellas–about that history. But . . . well, we’ll see.

And everything could be livened up with some images that show what I was thinking about when I wrote that part. Like, for example, this photo which is what I think Thekila looks like.

© Aksakalko | Dreamstime.com - Portrait Of Young Beautiful Red-haired Woman Photo

© Aksakalko | Dreamstime.com – Portrait Of Young Beautiful Red-haired Woman Photo

I’m liking this idea very much. Stay tuned.

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I hate synopses. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about that before. I hate writing them. I’m not very fond of reading them, either.

And I shouldn’t have to do them for books I publish myself, right? Synopses are just something agents force us to do, right?

Wrong. See, one of the decisions I made when I published The Voice of Prophecy

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????was to include a synopsis of what had happened in the first book, The Shaman’s Curse.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Just in case anyone picked up the second book first, or, you know, didn’t remember what had happened in the first book. It turned out not to be as brief a synopsis as I’d hoped.

I just finished adding the synopsis for The Voice of Prophecy. About 18 pages combined. If I keep this up, by the fourth (and final) book, I’m going to have a very long synopsis. Which means I need to do some more work, revising this monster down to a more manageable size. Trying to make it more interesting wouldn’t hurt, either. I think I’ll have to get some of my critique partners involved in that.

Also, because of Amazon’s Look Inside feature, I may have to consider moving the synopsis to the back of the book. Which doesn’t make very good intuitive sense, but that may be the way it has to be.

Especially since I’m also considering adding other ancillary material. I still haven’t got the map quite the way I want it, but maybe in time for Beyond the Prophecy.

Dual Magics BW Map

Through the second book, nearly everything took place in Caere, at Zeda, or in the Valley. Or, of course, somewhere in between those points. So it was possible to follow pretty easily without a map. In the third book, more parts of this world start to come into play, especially Kausalya and Tysoe.

And then there’s this quick reference to how the characters are related to each other.

Vatar's Family 2

Hmm. Maybe I’ll break that last one into two charts.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that part of my problem recently is that I’ve just been doing revisions for too long. Now, I don’t normally mind revisions, but I’ve been doing them for an awfully long time, now. First getting THE BARD’S GIFT ready for first readers, then the revisions to FIRE AND EARTH that came from my Pitch Wars mentor’s comments, and now on THE BARD’S GIFT again.

I love both stories, but I think my brain just needs to be allowed to go play in a new sandbox, with new characters and ideas. There’s nothing fresher than my “Jurassic Oz” story. It’s not ripe yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t let my mind go play with some world building so I can be ready to write it. I have a couple of good ideas, but they’re not enough, not yet. Plus, I still have to figure out how I’m going to get my “Dorothy” to Oz. I did a little Halloween story on this idea, and that might be a good starting point, but it needs a bit more development.

Or, I could play with my secret history idea that plays on the legend of King Arthur (to start with, anyway). That one needs a little more development, too. You know, as long as I’m just dedicating some time to letting my mind out to play, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Meanwhile, I have to stick to the revisions for just a little longer. My goal is to have THE BARD’S GIFT ready to start querying next month. I’m almost there. This is no time to quit.

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When I look ahead, I’m feeling a little scattered, so it’s time to lay out a plan again.


  1. “Heart of Oak” is out. I’ve made four sales so far–two on Amazon and two on Smashwords. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but then I haven’t done very much to try to promote it, either. Actually, “Heart of Oak” is likely to be part of the promotion when I eventually get BLOOD WILL TELL out.
  2. “Becoming Lioness” is another novelette, currently out on submission. I should be hearing in the next week or so. If it comes back, it’ll be my next e-publishing venture.
  3. “The Music Box” is a novella I had shelved because it’s really much more romance than fantasy. The speculative element is very slight and, in fact, you could remove it altogether and the story wouldn’t be noticeably changed. But I’ve always liked it anyway, so I keep coming back to it. So, I’m halfway through a revision right now. I’ll probably try to get a critique or two. Then I’ll either submit it to the same market that has “Becoming Lioness” now or just e-pub it.
  4. All this leads up to e-publishing BLOOD WILL TELL probably at the end of April or the beginning of May. It’s ready to go except for the specific e-publishing formatting, but that’ll be more complicated than for the shorter works. One or more of the shorter works published in advance of this will probably then be used as giveaways to help pomote the novel.
  5. I’ll need to make the revisions to BLOOD IS THICKER, the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL, so I can e-publish this sometime later this year.
  6. Then I’ll have to write the third book in the series BLOOD STAINS, so that I can e-publish it no later than this time next year.

Traditional Publishing:

I haven’t given up on this.

  1. I’m still querying MAGE STORM, at least until I get FIRE AND EARTH (formerly SEVEN STARS) ready to query.
  2. I need to finish up the last little details to get FIRE AND EARTH ready to start querying, probably next month. I think the query’s good–for this pass anyway. Experience tells me I’ll probably do a revision or two during the querying process. I do need to polish up the synopsis. I’ve got some feedback coming in on the first chapter. I’ll need to give that a shine and also make one more pass through the whole thing before starting to query.
  3. MAGIC’S FOOL is out for critiques now. I’ll need to make revisions to that, too, when all the critiques come back.
  4. I’ve started work on MAGIC’S APPRENTICE, sequel to MAGIC’S FOOL, but I’ll probably be setting this aside, soon. It really doesn’t make much sense to devote a lot of time to the sequel before I even start querying the first book.
  5. I’m just about ready to start work on the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT, my young adult alternate history (with dragons).

All right. No wonder I’m feeling a little scattered, is it? Now all I have to do is prioritize. For the moment:

  1. Finish the revision to “The Music Box” and decide what to do with it.
  2. Get ready to query FIRE AND EARTH.
  3. Start THE BARD’S GIFT.
  4. Revisions to MAGIC’S FOOL.
  5. Prepare BLOOD WILL TELL for e-publishing.

That ought to keep me busy for the next couple of months.

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Whew! I finally finished my stint in query and synopsis purgatory. Well, mostly. Experience tells me that these things are never really done. I’ll still be tweaking them as I go along. But I now have two queries I like.


Rell doesn’t want magic. He doesn’t dream of being a hero out of old legends or a mage. Certainly not a mage, after they all incinerated each other at the end of the Great Mage War. He’d just like not to be in his big brother’s shadow for a change. Someone should have reminded him to be careful what he wished for.

All he knows of magic are the violent, frighteningly aware mage storms formed of the ashes of those dead wizards. Caught in a mage storm, Rell is struck by a strange blue cinder that infects him with magic that protects him from the fury of the storm and allows him to shield his family. Rell starts to think that maybe magic’s not so bad after all, but he finds it only complicates his life. His father expects him to bring back the benefits of magic from before the war, but Rell doesn’t know how. Meanwhile, others who only remember the terrors of the war fear Rell and his new abilities. Frustration and anger only bring out one of the most dangerous aspects of his magic: fire.

Rell soon learns that whether he intends it or not, his magic will leak out, uncontrolled, whenever his emotions are strong enough. Now, he has to find some way to learn to use this “gift” before he ends up adding his ashes to the mage storms.

BLOOD WILL TELL (still working a bit on the last line of this one):

Being a half-blood is inconvenient on a good day, especially when the half you got from your mother is werewolf.  Valeriah can’t take wolf form, but the full moon still fills her with manic energy.  Running helps; a tired werewolf is a good werewolf.

Living perennially caught between two worlds–human and werewolf, magic and non-magic–doesn’t leave much room for love. That suits Valeriah just fine. She’s never had any luck with that anyway.

Until her cousin’s life is threatened, that is, and out of necessity she accepts the help of a mysterious young man to protect Cristel. Rolf is everything that makes Valeriah’s pulse speed up in spite of herself. Now, with Cristel’s life in the balance, is the worst possible time for that kind of complication.

But Rolf’s secrets could be fatal, both for their budding relationship and for Valeriah.

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I believe I’ve mentioned that this isn’t my favorite kind of writing. In fact, I don’t think I know anybody who’d say it was. But it is necessary. So, I’m back at it–doubled this time because I’m doing new queries and revised synopses for two books–MAGE STORM and BLOOD WILL TELL–at the same time.

I think I’ve just about completed the MAGE STORM (MG Fantasy) set and will be ready to start sending that back out into the world of agents next week. Now I’ve got to work on the query and synopsis for BLOOD WILL TELL (paranormal romance). This time around with BWT, I’m emphasizing the paranormal romance aspect, rather than the urban fantasy. It’s a somewhat different set of agents. Maybe it’ll play better, since the story really doesn’t have the hard edges often associated with urban fantasy.

Queries are bad enough. At least they’re only about 250 words. Of course, I agonize over every one of those words. The hardest part for me is to get some semblance of the story voice into the query. Too many years of practice writing bland business letters, I guess.

Synopses: that’s a whole new level of torture. I didn’t have to do too much to the MAGE STORM synopsis. Just reflect the changes in the latest revisions. Not that I’m thrilled with it. There’s no way I’ll ever be thrilled with trying to tell a 50,000 word story in 1,000 words. Just not going to happen.

I’ll probably have to do more to the BLOOD WILL TELL synopsis, since I’ve changed the focus of the query.

After this, I need to do a serious round of revision on my Writers of the Future entry for this quarter. Then it’s back to MAGIC’S FOOL. I’ll be really glad to get back to original writing by then, I’m sure.

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I’ve already confessed that I’m a discovery writer in an earlier blog post. But I don’t tackle a novel completely off the cuff. I might do a short story that way–take a concept and see where it goes. But not a novel. There’s just too much more room to run off into the weeds. Still, I have to give myself room to discover and explore because my best ideas seem to come to me while I’m actually writing. Something about keeping the juices flowing, I think.

I don’t do a classic outline, but I have tried to make what I call a proto-synopsis. But what do I put in this document? Well, more or less, the high points of the story:

  • The main conflict. (I always insist on knowing this, since it’s what makes the story hold together as a unit, but it may not actually be written in that proto-synopsis.)
  • The inciting incident. That’s obvious, of course. How can I start the story if I don’t have at least an idea where it starts?
  • The first try/fail cycle. What’s my protagonists first, and horribly insufficient, attempt to solve his problem or achieve his goals?
  • The second try/fail cycle. (This is one I’m sometimes still a little fuzzy on, even when I start writing.)
  • The climax. I pretty much always know how the conflict will be resolved when I start. It may even be one of the first scenes I jot down.
  • I don’t actually worry about the denouement at this stage. That’s one I pretty much always allow myself to discover out of the characters and what they’ve been through. I’ve been surprised by it a time or two, but that just makes it more fun to get there and find out.

Right now, I’m in the process of re-thinking this just a little. Using a proto-synopsis I think is not actually helping me as much as I hoped in writing a final synopsis. In particular, in hitting the parts of the story, I may not be giving enough emphasis to that central conflict. Something I need to consider carefully.


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First, an update:  Last week I blogged about e-publishing.  SFWA’s Writer Beware has a very informative and realistic article about e-publishing on their blog. Plenty of food for thought.  I’ll be interested to see the next installment.

Over the last week, especially, I’ve been working on refining the query and synopsis for MAGE STORM.  I’m almost happy with the query:

The only traces of magic left in Rell’s world are the violent, semi-sentient mage storms made up of the ashes of the magic-wielders killed in the great war.

At least that’s what Rell believes until a mage storm infects him with magic he can’t control. The magic ebbs and flows with his emotions, protecting those he cares about one day and starting fires the next. His only hope of returning to a normal life is to find someone who can help him learn to either control the magic or get rid of it.

Rell follows rumors of a teacher but instead finds a cult leader, Trav. When Rell witnesses the death of another student, he realizes he’s next on Trav’s list. Forced to flee, Rell can’t forget the friends he left behind. Somehow, he has to learn enough to return and free the others.

That is, if Trav doesn’t catch him first, because Trav doesn’t let anyone with real magic live long enough to challenge him.

I’ve also started my research and developed an initial list of agents.  In the next few days, I’ll take a deep breath and start submitting MAGE STORM to agents.  Fingers crossed.

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Harsh Critiques

They sting, there’s no getting around that. No matter how thick a skin you think you’ve developed. But sometimes a blunt critique is the very best gift you can recieve. Someone who’ll tell you flat out where your story fell down and couldn’t get back up. If nobody tells you, how can you fix it?

This may be particularly true with query letters and synopses. Hopefully, your actual story doesn’t have plot holes you can drive a truck through. If you’ve honed your craft, you should have found most of those yourself. But it’s not so easy when you’re trying to condense all or part of a story you’ve lived with for months into 250 or 1500 words. It can be much too hard to forget all the complexities that lay behind those few sentences that your reader can’t possibly know unless they’ve read the book. Even then, there are likely details you know that never made it onto the page.

That’s where someone who doesn’t know (and hopefully already like) the story is so helpful. They can tell you the impression the couple of paragraphs of your query really give, so you have a chance to go back and refine it before an agent sees it.

So, take a deep breath, rub a little balm on the sting, and sincerely thank the people who will tell you the truth about your writing.

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