https://www.facebook.com/groups/1921200231485411/ The Left-Handed Typist: June 2018

Saturday, June 30, 2018

How I Write a Synopis (with reveal!)

Last week my post was on writing flash fiction. Today I'm going to share some tips on synopsis writing, otherwise known as blurbs. You know, that pesky paragraph or two that goes on the back of a book? Hated by authors all over the universe. Unlike flash fiction, these aren't optional if you're headed down the author path. So the less miserable they make you, the better.



I actually love writing blurbs. To me, it's highly satisfying to make a book sound super exciting and all dramatic in a few short phrases. That doesn't mean it's always easy, though.

Tips to keep in mind


I always thought they needed to be as short as possible, but several well-loved authors I know getting published through big traditional publishers have super long blurbs ... like four+ paragraphs or just really long. So maybe length is personal taste. And my personal taste is short. ;) Mainly because I think being concise is important.

As I'm sure you know, the ultimate goal of a synopsis is to make someone read (or buy) the book. This means it has to be engaging and provide a "hook" that's unavoidable.

Of course, if it's not someone's genre or what have you, there may be only so much you can do. This is not about making false promises! If you give the wrong impression, you're setting yourself up for one-star reviews. But you do want to pose a problem or a "what if" that will appeal to people who read comparable books, which is why many blurbs end in a question.

Something lots of new blurb writers struggle with is the fact that it feels like you're giving spoilers. That's because you are. Often there's one vital piece of information revealed in the first few chapters that needs to go in the back matter to set up the story and the drama of the real revelation in the book. Trust me, it's a small worthwhile sacrifice to make and no one will mind.

So the real dilemma always becomes what do you tell? Only the pertinent details. Again, you're setting up the story. They don't need to know a bunch of names, places, eye color, or distant relatives yet. They'll get that throughout the first few chapters when they decided to start the book. The main character's name, role, where it's set, and whether or not God's a character would all be good things to include.

My formula


Ultimately, all those details to keep in mind make my process look something like this:

Paragraph One

  • Sentence 1: short and punchy introduction to the main character
  • Sentences 2-3: set up the story with those pertinent environmental details
  • Sentences 3-4: give the moment that changes everything
Paragraph Two (if there's a second main character or entity)
  • Sentence 1: short and punchy introduction to the secondary character/entity
  • Sentences 2-3: paint the scene for this character again with pertinent details
  • Sentences 3-4: show how this character relates to the first *optional* (some people prefer not to connect those dots until later in the story depending on how it's told!)
Paragraph Three (this will be paragraph two if there isn't a second main thing to introduce)
  • Sentences 1-2: state what begins to happen and what must or does happen as a result (fear, sacrifice)
  • Sentences 2-3: present the dilemma this poses for the character (often a question)
I hope that's helpful as a basic formula, but don't let it restrict you. I didn't use the formula to write my published blurbs (it just fits them). I did use it on the bonus blurb below. :)

Example blurbs


Here are the blurbs I have for my published books to exemplify that process.

***


Martin Hospitality (132 words)

Gemma Ebworthy is eighteen, pregnant, and alone. Now that she's been evicted, she finds herself sleeping in a barn, never dreaming that tomorrow could bring kindness of a life-changing magnitude.

The Martins aren't a typical family--even for rural Kansas. With more kids than can be counted on one hand and a full-time farm, Gemma must make a lot of adjustments to fit in. But despite their many differences, Gemma finds herself drawn to this family and their radical Christian faith.

When Gemma's past collides with her yet again, she must begin revealing her colorful history. With every detail Gemma concedes, she fears she will lose the Martins' trust and the stable environment she desires for herself and her unborn child. Just how far can the Martins' love and God's forgiveness go?

Andora's Folly (99 words)


A Pandora's Box retelling



Andora is a beautiful young woman with insatiable curiosity. Raised in splendor, she is spoiled by her privileged life. When a love letter is slid under her door, her life takes a drastically unromantic turn. Nothing makes sense—her arranged marriage, the gifts her parents bestow on her wedding day, or her new husband’s temperament.



As Andora begins to unravel the mysteries around her, she ignites a chain of events that have the power to sabotage her entire village forever. Only her new-found wisdom as a desperate peasant's wife can save her from her folly.

***

Both of those blurbs give away the entire first chapter, but they work! There are lots of optional goodies as well, like a log line, quote, descriptor (like with Andora's Folly), or even an editorial review. However, I think all of that is mere icing on the cake. The synopsis has to stand on its own.

You can do it! Those are not first drafts. I wrote and rewrote them, sent them to a trusted friend or two (who have good blurbs), and rewrote them again. Don't be afraid to revise! The synopsis for Andora's Folly underwent a total rewrite because I removed one chapter, thus changing the whole crux of the book. #oops

And just for fun, I'm sharing the brand new blurb for Martin Crossroads, subject to change of course! WARNING: contains mild spoilers for book 1.

***

Martin Crossroads (130 words)

Gemma Ebworthy won't be a single mother for much longer. Engaged to a man she's convinced she doesn't deserve, her new life with a husband, Savior, and growing family is only the beginning of her journey forward.


Farris grows up under pressures stemmed from his own conception. Fighting to exceed his mother's expectations, he finds a fast friend in his adoptive father. Yet the differences between him and his siblings continue to cause a rift in his heart.


With each development in the new Martin family's farm life, they must learn to overcome the past together. And when the past reappears in a form Gemma never thought possible, her trust in God and in her son will be tested. What will it take to bring them through the crossroad?
I sincerely hope that will be of help! Come back to leave your success stories!! On a scale of 1 to hellfire, how much do you hate writing a synopsis? If you're interested in some help, I charge a flat rate of $10 for a synopsis edit.

Once again, sign up for the newsletter in the sidebar to see the Martin Hospitality prequel flash fic in your inbox next week!

Speaking of my books, I'm participating in a Christmas in July event with a bunch of writer friends! My portion will be on July 28, but check out other stops along the way for individual giveaways and bonus ways to enter the really large giveaway (international option as well)! There's all kinds of Christmassy stuff going on to give you a break from the heat with a good read. 

Have a great Independence Day!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Pros and Cons of Flash Fiction

I've recently begun branching into some briefer storytelling niches, flash fiction in particular. A huge thanks to Rosalie Valentine and Just B. Jordan for their encouragement, support, and tips. Overall, I'm enjoying the venture. Here are some of the pros and cons I've seen so far.

Flash fiction is typically considered to be a story under 1,000 words. That's short. For those of you (like me) who can't picture what that looks like on paper, it's around 2 pages.

As someone who has only ever created stories on a much larger scale (30k, 80k, and 100k), there is an adjustment to trying out this kind of writing. I've found it to be a mostly positive enterprise.


Pros

  • punchier because every words matters. It tests your true skills as a wordsmith ... hehe
  • completed quicker because it can only take so long to write 1,000 words. (OK, so I've spent  a month stuck on one ... but still.) Checking that "finished draft" box way sooner is worth it!
  • edited easier. The entire process is pretty much expedited. Three readthroughs just don't take as long. (Yes, please!)
  • can be published in other venues like in magazines (check out Splickety Publishing Group) or on your blog. 
  • low investment, high return. I consider it to be a pretty decent test of all facets of my writing abilities and it simply way quicker.
  • easy way to experiment with new things like a different POV, person, or tense and not get stuck with a bad experiment for 200 pages
  • great for the "half ideas." You know the ones--the story prompts and Pinterst boards that have no details but are so. cool. Maybe they're not meant to be books!
Overall, it's more poignant and speedy. You understand why it's called flash fiction now, right? The fiction part implies that no manual can possibly be that short, but hey? Maybe flash nonfiction needs to be a thing. ;)

Cons

Trust me, these are hardly cons. More like difficulties. And what writing doesn't have difficulties?

  • characters have to develop quickly. This isn't a bad thing ... it's just way different than a novel in it's pacing. The character arc(s) is on warp-speed
  • there's only one theme. You quite simply run out of room for much else. If you're like me and come up with a thousand plot bunnies in the first page ... you'll have to ignore them. Or just ... give them their own flash fiction?
  • forces words to be important. Not bad, just difficult. It tests editing skills in this way, I guess.
  • the exact opposite of long-form writing. Duh, right? Flash fiction requires a total mental shift for me as it's either summarizing a lot or focusing in on a little.
  • not typically for profit. You likely won't be making money off the finished product unless you compile a bunch of flash fiction into a book or win a paid contest.
  • takes as long to plan as to write. I have a super hard time planning flash fiction at all to be honest. I usually have to start writing to get anywhere so beware over-planning!

I'm not sure why I waited so long to give this a shot. It's not a very high-risk attempt (unlike setting out to write an entire novel ... or trilogy *cough*). And it's FUN. There's only so much room to get bogged down.
Have you tried flash fiction? If not, what's stopping you?! For tips on writing it, try this post that kickstarted me.

Speaking of!!! I'm sharing my first flash fiction piece in my newsletter which will be going out in ten-ish days. It may or may not ... be a prequel to Martin Hospitality? I'm very excited to share it with you all, so go sign up for the newsletter if you haven't! (If you have, I love you.)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Quest for Leviathan by Amanda Tero

Ah, biblical fiction. ^.^ Though I've been trying to exercise self-restraint when it comes to free books and the deadlines they entail of late ... sometimes I can't help myself. I think what hooked me on Quest for Leviathan by is the brevity of the story and the unique subject!





Leviathan took the life of Anath’s father. Anath has spent three years preparing for the voyage that will end the threat of Leviathan. Yet as the Valor launches into the depths of the Mediterranean, an inward quest also begins, taking Anath to depths he is not willing to face.

The story is around 4,000 words, but watch my review be just as long :P

I loved the length. Don't get me wrong, I still love a fantastic novel. But I'm more willing to gamble on something shorter (and less expensive) these days. Amanda's story proves that shorter does not mean less.

The characters were few, but well done and seemed to fit the era. The writing had strong imagery and a single focal theme that helped the short story pack a punch. I loved the illustrations--they added a lot to the story. Of course the background of the Leviathan (mentioned in Job) also made the story neat.

Overall, it I didn't find it endearing or mindblwoing, but it was a unique premise with a well-executed spiritual/character development arc that packed a punch. As a writer, I know that's quite the feat. 8/10 shrooms.

There's a giveaway of course!

Amanda is giving away TWO print copies of "Quest for Leviathan" to one winner--one for you, and one for your friend.


Amanda Tero began her love for words at a young age—reading anything she could get her hands on and penning short stories as young as age eight. Since graduation, she has honed her writing skills by dedicated practice and study of the writing craft. She began her journey of publication with a few short stories that she had written for her sisters and continued to add to her collection with other short stories, novellas, and novels. It is her utmost desire to write that which not only pleases her Lord and Savior, but also draws the reader into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.


 If you're looking for a short read or a taste of biblical fiction, this is for you! Have you read any other of Amanda's books? (This was my first.)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Summer Reading + Writing Bucket List

I have a whole list of blog posts to write on my phone at the moment. I looked at the list several times this week and none of the posts spoke to me. So due to procrastinating and seeing Audrey Caylin's blog post in my inbox this morning, I'm going to do something different on the fly here. Prepare to see my summer TBR, writing plans, and how I'm doing on my year's goals!


As I've mentioned before, my newsletter is the main place where I keep you guys updated with life and all the little things going into my reading, writing, editing, etc. Mainly because it's hard to fit all of that in here and feel like I'm doing a good job including you all.

But every now and then I can't help but post on some of what's up. I'm sure you don't mind. ;)

Summer TBR


Since I'm quite the list-maker, I was working on a Summer TBR the other day. Of course, it's ridiculously long. I've decided as a working high school graduate that getting more time to read in the summer is a myth. I'm going to have to make more time. Thankfully my reading accountability partner Lisa has been good at keeping up with me.

Here's what I've got on my list so far (in no particular order):

  • War of Loyalties by Schuyler McConkey // I own it and it's beautiful and she needs more reviews but it's so long I haven't delved in yet. I can't wait!!!
  • Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nate Philbrick // Nate's hilarious and his book is awesome. Life happened and I never finished it. I'm thinking it's a good read-aloud-to-the-brothers option.
  • Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes // Yes, I've already read this, but it is time to soak it all up again and to expose the siblings!
  • Something by Flannery O' Connor // I talked about this with my pastor's wife because we're both trying to read more classics right now.
  • Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore // In progress and loving it.
  • Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge // On loan from Kelsey Bryant.)=
  • Tarzan by Edward Rice Burroughs // Because I've owned a pretty volume of it from Barnes & Noble for a year now and it will give me an excuse to watch the new movie again.
  • The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke // Jeff has an excellent sense of humor and I've heard such good things about this book!
  • book club // This will be two more books that haven't been chosen quite yet.
12 isn't excessive, right? I cherrypicked these hoping to not bog myself down but fly through some really great reads! What are you trying to read over the summer?


Writing Plans


These change all the time. And even though I'm back to making good headway on Martin Crossroads, I have two other story ideas that will. not. leave me alone. No matter how nicely I ask!! So I'm obstinately refusing to give them any writing time like a good, focused writer. :P

Here's what I'm hoping for:
  • a freebie for my end-of-June newsletter peeps. You hear that? You're gonna want to be subscribed to receive this! I'd been struggling on what to include, but I had a breakthrough the other day and it's now awaiting the feedback of my critique partner, Ivy. It's an understatement to say I'm excited. :D
  • something fun for Andora's Folly turning one in July. If you have any ideas or things you'd like to see, let me know! I've got two ideas I'm hoping to make happen at the moment. :) I'll also be doing Camp NaNo again this month (woohoo!).
  • the Self-Editing Checklist in August. Remember when I shared my Self-Publishing Checklist? I really want to do one as an editor to give writers some tips and such that I share when I edit for people. Whoever your editor is will thank you for knowing some things in advance! This will probably be shared in a blog post so everyone has access and be kind of a promotional thing for my editing services I suppose.
  • a complete first draft of Martin Crossroads by the end of September. I'm currently at 40k and aiming for 100k, so this should be feasible if I don't drop the ball! (August is my true goal but I'm guessing the summer will explode on me.)
There. That's nice to have down on paper for my own sake. What are your summery writing plans?

2018 Goal Progress


*hides* I'm so bad at checking my goals that I was a little worried for this bit. Here's how I'm doing.
  • memorize 10 items // I memorized a lot of music for choir??? No? Okay ...
  • publish something // Maybe I can do a Christmassy short story or something as I'm holding off Behind the Act for traditional publication (hopefully ... one day) and Martin Crossroads still has a way to go.
  • read 40 books // I've read 17 and am currently reading 3 more which means I'm still on track! *phew*
  • review everything // Um, I think I've reviewed all 17 books on Goodreads and even a few on Amazon ... I'll need to double-check that ;)
  • 5 book buy limit // BAHAHAHAAA Yeah right, who was I kidding? I've probably already bought 12 or so -_- However, I have stuck to my goal of all those books being on sale when I bought them so I shall not be ashamed.
  • travel // Oh oh oh! It's official I will not be attending any writing conferences this year because $$ ... but I just booked a flight to NYC for 5 days in September. *screams* I'm going with my aunt, cousin, and sister. While I'm sure the 10-year-old will control the itinerary since it's over her birthday, I'm holding out for a visit to Harper-Collins (because hello tax write-off), Hugh Jackman's coffee shop (say what?!), and of course Broadway (which is a guarantee).
  • writing experiments // Thanks to flash fiction and the checklist I plan on publishing, I think I'm getting there with this one.
  • finish writing lectures // Oh yeah ... xP I did finish one series but I have two more to go!
Did you make any goals for the year?
That got long, but you are officially in the loop and responsible for holding me accountible! ;) What are your summer plans?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Biblical Self-Promotion

I feel like this something I've never seen addressed, but at first blush, it is a bit of a conundrum. The Bible clearly tells us over and over again not to parade ourselves or to do good things just for the sake of publicity and praise. It struck me for the first time the other day that self-promotion kind of does those things. So how can we as Christian writers justify it?


While not exactly a no-brainer, I feel like most of us have already come to terms with this, whether we gave it intentional thought or not. But don't we all have those Facebook friends who come across a little full of themselves and their work? Like every chance they get, their books somehow become the topic of conversation? It gets annoying! So not only do we want to make sure we're not angering God in putting ourselves out there, we don't want to be "those people" who are downright pests.

Yes, self-promotion is necessary. And to be real, it starts much earlier than you'd think. Sure, hire someone to do it for you on social media. That works for busy famous people, but even then. It's not the same. People want to hear from you. Or at least I would because, more than it being your job, it's your privilege. You of all people should know how much people need your books, right?

Now that that's out of the way, here are some reasons I don't think we need to feel ashamed to share our book sale, cover reveal, or even just the link.

  • As Christian writers, what we're promoting is ultimately for the glory of God. Of course we have to be careful to keep the right mindset and not make it all about us and numbers, but if you approach it as a kingdom enterprise, there is nothing wrong with sharing!
  • In that same vein, we're told to go and make disciples of all nations. There are two action words there! While writing might not be directly making disciples, your books being written from a Christian perspective (whether they have God as a character or not) will impact people and show them God. Whether they know it or not! So take action and share that message!
  • Writing is my ministry so I'm going to spread the word. See what I did there? I am so not an evangelical person it's not even funny. Spreading the Word kind of scares me. So if I can share my book's link on Facebook and get one new person to read it and bring them closer to God then by doing so, I feel like I've accomplished what I was trying to explain in my second point. Of course it might not be the end-all of ministry, but it's a wonderful start. If you promote.
  • It's not about you, it's about the story. This is the little one, but possibly the hardest. Of course it's about you because you're the author, right?! But no. It's about the story and that story points to God. If you can keep that mindset, I think sharing will feel more natural and be less of a potential ego thing.
  • Because our stories are from God and for God, we should be proud of our stories. That's right. As if this post couldn't get any more counter-biblical sounding, I just recommended pride. But geez, God was well-pleased with Jesus. So too can we be proud of our little book babies and hopeful for the message they carry, whatever that may be. They're not doing anyone any good sitting on the shelf. So go get those readers and be proud of that too.
I feel like I kind of went in circles there, but do you get my point? This isn't about us becoming rich and famous, though I don't think we'd complain. If we can just remember that much, I think we're already on the road of working actively for God instead of doing things just to look good and be part of the cool author crowd.

What this means, I think, is that we should give thought to our self-promotion. Sure, sometimes it's awkward. (At least for me. Tell me I'm not alone in this please!) But if you don't act like it's awkward, chances are people won't think it is. It's super important to remember that while we're promoting ourselves, we're promoting for other people. God as aforementioned if you're a Chrisitan writer, but also your potential readers. You want them to know things! Honestly, if you're thoughtful about how you promote, then it's their problem if they don't want to be told things.

Obviously, I didn't get into very many ways to actually self-promote. I think the key is really just to get yourself onto some social media platforms (maybe start with one) and be personable. Let that part of your person that's tied up in a passion for sharing stories shine through just like all the other wackier bits. 

I guess in my mind it all comes down to why you're self-promoting more than how. Of course there are strategies to figure out, as manipulative as that may sound. But don't be afraid to ask for help and favors! Make friends first and then you might be surprised at how many are willing to do things for the sake of you and your story.
I hope that made sense because I kind of felt like I rambled. (How many times did I say "of course"?) Is self-promotion a natural thing for you? What mindset do you have as you're sharing things about your books? The numbers, fame, need, or the benefit to the kingdom?

Just as a caveat, nowhere in there did I say this was easy. I struggle with this ... a lot, the more I think about it. You're not alone and I rather doubt I am either. ;)