HowTo

WORDS FOR WRITERS – How To Write a Synopsis

WORDS FOR WRITERS – How To Write a Synopsis

Having to write a synopsis is the single worst part of being a write. THE WORST.

I see you “tagged in a negative review on Twitter” and I raise you “having to condense 80k words worth of my beloved precious lyrical story baby into a summary.” Bad reviews happen, but they happen to you, they are not of your doing. But a synopsis? This is a torture you must visit upon yourself.

(Can you tell I love writing these things? Ha!)

Okay, seriously, a synopsis is hard. But you know what?

A synopsis is the most valuable tool in your pitch package.

I promise. Really.

Beyond being a really great intellectual exercise for you as a writer to use between drafts (“Does the book I actually wrote match the book I think I wrote?”), a synopsis is an invaluable tool by everyone else on your publishing and marketing teams too.

How?

  • If you are unagented, potential agents use them to assess the quality and content of your story, and of your ability to use writing as a medium to communicate. It helps them decide if this is a novel they want to try reading, or something they’d like to pass on.
  • If you have an agent, then the synopsis helps them have a blueprint of the story you’re trying to tell, so they can help guide you through revisions. It also becomes a valuable part of their own pitch packages for publishers.
  • Publishers review the quality of your writing and your stories to see if they’d like to read your book and / or sign it. Editors use it as when their pitching to their higher-ups in favor of signing you, and also to extrapolate potential series value. And like an agent, they use it as an outline for guiding revisions.
  • The marketing team at your publishing house uses it in their packages to entice reviewers, as the basis for blurbs and press releases, and to help craft back cover copy and ad copy.
  • Reviewers sometimes read the synopsis for the first book in a series if they’re asked to review the second, so they know what happened in advance. They may also refer to a synopsis after reading a book to help write their review.
  • The synopsis is sometimes given to moderators, speakers, and interviewers who won’t have the time to read the whole book before engaging with you for press.
  • Adaptations agents / entertainment agents / producers and screenwriters, and anyone else working on any sort of adaptation of your work may use it in their own pitch packages, or as a guide for what you the author consider the spine of the story, and all the same reasons literary agents do.

So, it’s really important.

It’s also important to know what we’re talking about when we say “synopsis” here. Sometimes the term ‘synopsis’ is mistakenly used interchangeably with Back Cover Copy or Pitch Copy or Hook Copy to mean the small paragraphs on the back of a book or in marketing materials.

A synopsis is actually a 1 to 5 page summary of all the major characters and events that happen in the book, including the ending (surprise your readers, not your agent.) This isn’t the ad copy you use to hook a reader, this is the full narrative laid out in easy to read language.

Sounds a lot simpler than it is, because it’s often difficult to figure out which parts of the narrative should be mentioned in the synopsis, and which shouldn’t.

Here are my biggest synopsis-writing pieces of advice:

  • Echo the voice of the book.
    • A synopsis is commonly written in third person present omniscient (“Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit of the Shire”), but can sometimes work in another tense and POV. 
    • Most importantly, use the same words, the same style of sentence structure, and the same idioms as your narrator or main POV character. The book should sound like the synopsis. 
      • Example – Book text: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
      • Example – Synopsis text: “Bilbo Baggins is a gentlehobit of good breeding, and he, like the rest of his kind, is very much not interested in Adventures, thank you very much. They are nasty things that make one late for dinner. So when the wizard Gandalf the Grey arrives at his doorstep with thirteen dwarves looking for help reclaiming their lost homeland, Bilbo is more than a little miffed.”
  • Create three different versions in three different sizes, and write the longest version first.
    • Write the 5 pager first. It’s much easier to trim down than pad a synopsis, so get it all in the big one first. Then trim to 3 pages, so you have that version on file. Then trim to 1 page. By then you’ll know what’s the really important stuff.
    • Start by writing a character/story introduction paragraph.
      • Basically, “this is who the character is, and where they are in the world and in their life, and why the following events will be welcomed/hated/a burden/etc.”
    • Then, ignoring the length of the synopsis for now, write one summary paragraph per chapter in the book.
      • Sometimes all the events in a chapter need three or four sentences, sometimes it needs just one.
      • Be clear about motivations. Not just “Bilbo doesn’t want to be seen with the dwarves,” but “Bilbo is embarrassed to be seen with raucous, rowdy dwarves while within the boarders of the Shire, where his reputation as a staid and reliable gentlehobbit is at risk.”
    • Then write a final conclusion paragraph that explains how the world and people in it have changed as a result of what they’ve experienced. 
    • If you go over 5 pages, go back and start tightening it up.
      • Decide if every event needs to be reported, and cut those that don’t.
      • A good rule of thumb for this is to only include events that directly effect the outcome of the climax, or directly effect the main character’s emotional arc.
  • Focus on Cause and Effect.
    • Lay it out as: THIS happens and as a result, THAT happens, and as a result THIS OTHER THING happens. Show the reader how the plot interlocks, one action after another, and how they all build to their inevitable climax.
  • Also focus on Character Growth.
    • Zero in on the lead, and maybe one or two side characters.
    • How have these events changed these people, their beliefs, and their perspectives. Tell us where the characters end up.

And remember, however difficult it may be to distill your baby down into so few pages, it will totally be worth it in the end. Polish, refine, get beta readers, and work your synopsis just as diligently as  you do your book, and I promise you won’t regret it.

*

Still have questions? Read more WORDS FOR WRITERS here or ASK ME HERE.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS – How To Write a Synopsis
Read more

WORDS FOR WRITERS: How do social media and writing/publishing work together?

WORDS FOR WRITERS: How do social media and writing/publishing work together?

Today’s topic suggestion comes from author Tina Chan. Thanks, Tina!


Okay, okay, so we’ve all heard it before – you need to get your social media in order if you’re going to be a writer in the 21st century. Here is something to keep in mind when you finish your book and start the process of querying (either to publishers or agents), or alternately begin the process of self-publishing your book: You Will Be Googled.

There’s lots of great articles out there about How To Win At Social Media (and how to make sure that when you are Googled, what potential publishing connections find leaves them with the best impression of you as a writer), so I’m not going to repeat that advice. Instead I’m going to dig down a bit and answer the WHY.

WHY must you Win At Social Media as a writer? Why must you use it at all?

What’s the point?

Why can’t we all just live in our little cabins in the woods and worry only about the writing part of writing, and let the publisher’s marketing team take care of everything else? Why must we be as accessible and as for sale as our books?

Well, partially because that’s how it’s always been. For as long as books have existed, the author has been held up as a selling point as much as the tale itself. This is part of being a published author, like it or not.

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels sold well not only because it was an enchanting (and moralistic) tale suited for the children of the upper classes, but also because of his connection with his intensely private patroness, Henrietta Howard, and the gossip people loved to spread about them – and he didn’t quite deny. Beatrix Potter was unaware of her own early monetary success but was a consummate storyteller who entertained at parties, and who had family and friends clamoring to know what the next book was about and telling their friends. Charles Dickens did speaking tours, and was as known for his critiques and the weekly journal he edited for decades and his time in facinating prison as much as his novels. The Claudine books may never have done as well if they had originally been touted as being written by Colette instead of the scandalous, society-going, gossip-magnet Willy.

Each of these writers used their social influence to sell their work.

Writers always have; writers always will.

But we have an advantage that Jonathan, and Beatrix, and Charles, and Colette & Willy didn’t – we have social media to help us. And it’s free. (After factoring in the cost of devices, internet access, and software licences, of course).

Paid ads and print placements still exist, but while social media marketing can be fast-paced, exhausting, and sometimes frustrating, unless you elect to pay for digital ads, the only cost is in sweat equity.

And it comes with some distinct advantages that old school marketing doesn’t:

  • Social media is in people’s faces all the time. Our phones are always in our hands. More people scroll through social media on their commute to work than read the newspaper. Your marketing efforts – be they paid placed ads in a feed, or a conversation in comments, or an article you posted, or a call to action tweet – are literally right at their fingertips.
  • Again, it’s free. Unless you’re electing to purchase ads or specific software (and in the world of apps and startups, you can usually find something that does the equivalent of what you need – or at least close enough – without the high price tag. e.g. Canva vs Photoshop.)
  • It can be automated – thanks to Hootsuite, MailChimp, and other similar platforms.
    • You can spend a day setting everything up and let the automation handle posting at the right times, on the right dates.
    • There are now hundreds of low-cost promotion services as well, which will handle promoting your book to their feeds and newsletter subscribers, operating your sales and giveaways, arranging blog tours, etc. If you’re in the financial position for it, consider farming out the flogging. (Just check that they can actually do what they’re claiming, beware of extravagant promises, and review WriterBeware before you give any of them your money.)
  • Contrary to what common Social Media best practices teach us, the internet is a great place to provide long form advertisements and advertorials, as well as a place to provide whole or excerpts of short stories and books.
    • Lots of people are more inclined to buy a book if they have the chance to read some of it first, or at least get a sense of a writer by reading longform posts.
    • Most people only watch the first 5 mins of a video or read a 500 word blog post. But because there is actually no time limit on the internet, you can make your blog posts and videos as long as you personally want.
    • This also means you can post whole bundles of text as well – full chapters, long scenes, whole novellas and short stories. Obviously you can’t do it directly on social media, but you can link to places where the stories are hosted – Wattpad, Inkitt, Tapas, TappyToon, Archive of Our Own, Webnovel, RoyalRoad, Gravity Tales, etc. or even your own blog. It will be less discoverable on your own blog, but the links to the buying pages are right there on your own website.
  • Social media is a great place to build a rolling campaign or build groundswell – it’s much easier on social media than in traditional print/TV/radio marketing to start dropping hints every day of an upcoming project to build interest and speculation (for example, Taylor Swift’s lead up on Instagram to the drop of her music video “Me!” – though this may be a case where leaving room for too much speculation bit her in the nose. Some fans were very disappointed when they realized it was just a music video drop and not a clothing line, or that Swift was planning to come out as bi.)
  • It’s a great way to establish and reinforce your brand.
    • For me, that’s trope-challenging writing, academic-style engagement with fandom topics, and literary-style prose in a SF/F world. I carry that over into my social media and marketing by talking about those very things, yes, but also by engaging with other media that tackle those topics the same way – movie reviews, book reviews, current events, etc.
    • It gives you a place to do more than just shout about your books desperately (nobody wants to be around desperation), and instead provides you a subtler way to market your work by interacting with people. As my agent is fond of saying, Twitter is a Cocktail Party – keep it light. Talk to others. Engage, engage, engage. Build your audience organically.
    • It also provides you the ability to invite people to view (a curated) slice of your life. You can give people a peek into your wiring processes and behind the scenes.. You don’t have to TMI or share everything, but look, I follow Neil Gaiman as much for info about his books and series as I do for behind the scenes shots of David Tennant being a devilish goof, and Neil’s bees and dogs.
    • BRANDING. I keep the color palette of my social media sites, posts, headshots and website consistent so it’s obvious all of this combines to make the person who wrote those books.

Outside of the advantages that Social Media provides you in Marketing your work, it also straight up makes it easier for you to be a productive writer (if, you know, you can ignore the siren call – ironically – of social media). You can:

  • Find new writing software that works for you. I wrote Triptych, the first draft of The Skylark’s Song, and my first screenplay in Microsoft Word because that’s what came free on my computer when I bought my first laptop. And there was So. Much. Scrolling. UGH. I have since discovered Scrivener for novels (oh my god, I never write chronologically so the binder feature is so damn useful), and I have adopted CeltX and FinalDraft for comic and film scripts (intuitive formatting! Auto-fill production binders!) I know other authors who dislike Scrivener, and use something else, and screenwriters who hate FinalDraft. The point is, finding a software that works with the style of writing you do means that you’ll spend more time creating and less time futzing.
  • Collect media
    • Create an inspirational Pintrest board
    • Create writing playlists or inspirations playlists on Spotify, 8Track, etc.
    • Track articles and images on Tumblr
  • Find and contact festivals, events, and conventions. There’s something happening every weekend, all over the world, and you can find information about the events all over social media by following hashtags, groups, or simply asking.
  • Easily join social media contests (like #Pitchmad) that help you get your work in front of agents and editors.
  • Research and submit to festivals and writing contests.
  • Join writing motivation communities like NaNoWriMo or join in on impromptu or organized word sprints voa tracking hashtags or joining fan groups, writing groups, or lists.
  • Easily access research materials
    • GoogleMaps
    • Special Collections
    • Academic Articles
    • Book Excerpts
    • Blog posts and social media of subject experts like pediatricians, law enforcement officers, and historical textiles scholars (and the email addresses or DMs of said experts if you approach them politely).
  • Find or build your own writer’s community
    • Websites offering curated groups or circles
    • The ability to find and interact with beta readers and sensitivity readers
    • The ability to talk to other writers and ask questions, like at AbsoluteWrite, Duotrope, or WriterBeware but also by following hashtags like #writerscommunity or #amwriting
    • The ability to build organic groups of beta readers and critique partners through chatting with one another via social media.
  • Accountability – if you tell people about the book publically then you have to finish it, right?
  • Gives you the chance to build groundswell readership – publishing sites like the ones previously mentioned allow you to revise and rewrite a whole novel in real time based on reader feedback. (Pros and cons to that – I find it frustrating and stressful and disingenuous. Other writers find it stimulating, and exciting, and that it helps them produce their best work.)

And most importantly:

Social Media makes barriers of access permeable.

 

What do I mean by that?

I mean that Social Media has opened the lines of communication and access between authors and the people who buy their books. And authors and publishers. And writers and agents. And authors and reviewers. And authors and research materials. And authors and resources. And authors and their writing community. And, and and…

You can now talk and sell or pitch directly to readers, or book stores, or agents, or publishers. You can talk to other writers directly, or subject experts, or researchers.

It also means that people who traditionally blocked from this access (or had higher hurdles to overcome to gain access) due to their geographical location, disability, ethnicity or cultural background, income, etc. have more equitable opportunities and access to these same people and resources.

Social Media gives writers:

  • Direct access to publishers, editors and agents via
    • Organic conversations online, including the ability to ask clarifying questions regarding submissions or comment on articles or posts
    • Online Pitch competitions
    • Advice blogs and columns
  • The ability to share ARCS and review copies to a larger number of people, and  gives the actual audience and readership a platform to discuss a book, or trends in publishing, or tropes.
    • While there is immense value in trained critics and reviewers, there is also immense value in the audience speaking for itself. (Just look at how much Venom was panned by critics but embraced by the general audience. There can sometimes be a disconnect between what the critics hail as worth investing in, and what the audience does.)
    • This also has made the field more equitable in terms of which books get reviewed and what kind of buzz they garner. Selfpubbed or indie/small press publishers can’t always afford to (or even qualify to) submit to all of the big industry trades that require print copies to be mailed in, or require a fee. However, the rise in indie hobbiest book bloggers online means that a book can still be reviewed, making book review culture more of a meritocracy. Books with big financial marketing backing are now not the only ones that are being buzzed.
  • A megaphone and a platform for #OwnVoices
    • With direct communication with readers, agents, and publishers, those writers who have previously not had as much access to publishing opportunity or who were gatekept out of the community can speak up, and communicate directly with those who want their books.
  • Authors working with a disability – both physical or mental – can use social media platforms to have greater accesses to physical spaces (such as a library with lots of stairs but no elevators), or utilize software (like text-to-speech or screenreaders) to write, research, and pitch their novels. We can also use social media and new software technology to say, give a presentation to a school that our disability or mental health may keep us out of, or to read our book outloud to children on our behalf, or to take meetings without having to navigate travelling to the agent or publisher’s home base.
  • It also makes accessing research materials, locations, maps, images of places, and speaking face-to-face with agents/publishers/fellow writers without having to travel easier for authors at a financial disadvantage or from a low-income background.
  • Utilizing story sharing sites like Wattpad allows writers to tap into not only a community of fellow writers and their shared experience, but also have the advantage (dubious or not, as I mentioned above) of getting real-time feedback and critiques from the readers themselves. They provide the ability to workshop and live-edit a story as it’s being written.
  • As the resurgence of episodic storytelling like Game of Thrones has proven, humans love cliffhangers and ongoing stories and the joy of guessing what comes next. Social media allows writers to return to the early print publishing tradition of serializing a story – dolling out parts week to week, or month to month, without the increased costs of physically printing all those little chunks.
  • Allows authors to give things away to readers more easily – to find and reward those readers who like swag, prizes, letters, personalized emails, copies of their books, etc.
  • And it allows readers to give authors things (fanart, presents, feedback, thanks, letters, etc.) more easily as well.
  • Allows readers and fans easy access to author’s appearance schedule, and one that can be kept up to date more often and more swiftly as well.
  • Gives writers the ability to run a Fangroup or website for other people to discuss topics around your work with one another, like the fan groups and trade magazines / fan zines of old but more interactive, with a microphone for everyone.
  • And lastly, it connects writers directly with people who are willing to be sensitivity readers, and a much easier way to find them.

So while the lure of Tumblr is great when you’re in the middle of writing stall, and you may lose enough productive house to Instagram that you curse social media for ever being invented, remember that there are a lot more benefits to having it as a writer than not.

But don’t just take my word for it.

I asked my authorfriends way they used of social media, and they replied:

Alex White: Social media is how I got off the ground, making my contacts and creating an author brand. I use social media as a way to interact with fans, create community, and so on. And I’m pretty sure that’s despite my being terrible at it!

Alexandra Perchanidou: Asking opinions during research/drafting, research EVERYTHING that has to do with plot, depending on the world building. [Social media also provides you access to] Mentors: following the life/career of any author you aspire to emulate and learning from them without having a formal mentor/mentee relationship.

Wendy Lynn Clark: Co-workers: if you are full time writing, social media is listening around the water cooler to news, trends, etc. They will also celebrate your successes and empathize with your failures.

‘Nathan Smith: Social media allows networking from within marginalized identities on a much, much easier level than before—I can find other queer writers, readers, publishers, editors, cover artists, you-name-it, and bypass (some of) the frustrations of being queer in a non-queer environment. It also allows those voices an opportunity to have virtual meetings/discussions/dialogs that are so plentifully found in places like cons/festivals/events, but rarely inclusively.

Mike Perschon: Social media made my career, insofar as publishing and presentation opportunities. I’ve only once had to submit an article for publication. Every other publication I’ve made, and many events I’ve attended as a guest-of-honour or keynote came to me via Twitter or my blog.

Derwin Mak: Social media was helpful for me in that there are Facebook groups about anthology calls for submissions, and that’s how I found out about some markets. I’ve also seen writers develop a certain type of online personality to appeal to an audience, that is, selling the author as a personality/celebrity versus selling the book itself. However, I’m not convinced that going on social media to develop a reputation as a certain type of personality actually helps to sells books. Some writers aggressively pursue a left-wing persona, and some writers aggressively pursue a right-wing persona, and they get plenty of likes and followers (and dislikes and trolls), but how many of those followers actually buy their books?

A.J. Phoenix: Wow. Loaded question. There’s so many ways in which I know social media helped me. In fact, given that I go by a few nom de plume, I’m not sure I’d be an author if not for the internet. I was able to test out my original, unedited work with audiences over social media. I built my own community/brand, email list, and ARC team through social media. I met and learned from other authors in my genre because of social media. I learned how to advertise through the internet and social media. The list goes on. I’ve only touched upon the tip of the iceberg of what social media can do for an author.

*

Still have questions? Read more WORDS FOR WRITERS here or ASK ME HERE.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: How do social media and writing/publishing work together?
Read more

WORDS FOR WRITERS: When Does Style Get in the Way of Story?

WORDS FOR WRITERS: When Does Style Get in the Way of Story?

The one and only creative writing class I took was in third year of my undergrad studies. I was taking play/screenwriting from the Drama department at the same time, but I wanted a rounder view of storytelling to accompany learning how to construct a script. I signed up for a short story writing course – where, let’s be honest, I handed in a lot of thinly-disguised fanfic – and looked forward to finding the deep, intellectual, creative camaraderie that one sees in films about groups of writers.

There were eleven of us, and I remember four other people from the class distinctly. Two, because they were fanficcers like me (and friends to this day), who also like me learned some things from the class but mostly had been taught all the basics of storytelling and grammar from the online fanfic community.

There was an older woman who really should have been in a memoire writing class over a short story class. I always got partnered with her because I seemed to be the only one who bothered to take the time to explain to her that just because “that’s how it happened in real life” doesn’t mean that’s exactly how it should happen on the page, especially when you only have 5 000 words and no space to waste them.

And then there was him.

You know who I mean.

That Guy.

The self-important, ego-centric, hipster (though we didn’t have that word yet) cis straight white guy who idolizes Hemingway and reads Mein Kampf in public as a deliberate act of protest and discusses Hitler’s wordcrafting as if his politics were never the problem, and doesn’t believe that Writing is a skill you have to practice and improve upon. Someone who doesn’t use an editor because “every word out of my pen is perfect the moment I set it down” and who thinks the publishing industry is just a sad money-grab for hack writers getting suckered by greedy agents, but still not-so-secretly desperately wants to be an Oprah Selection, a New York Times best seller, and Nobel Prize winner.

At the end of the semester, we had to write a short story using some set of elements, which we would all then spend the last few classes critiquing for one another. I left That Guy’s for last because I know I would enjoy it least.

When I finally got to it – printed out, typeset in courier new and bound with a brass brat –  looked like this:

Onceuponatimetherewasacircusclownwho jumped all day upand down ona trampolinemadeoutof thehair of a beautifulgray mare whoneverletanyone brusherhairbuttheclownHelloOldGirlthe clownsaidto heronedayas he pushedbacktehdustyredflap of the circustentinwhichthe oldgraymarelikedto spendhertimebetween herperformances

But it looked like that for five goddamn pages.

When it came time to discuss That Guy’s story, everyone looked around the table, not wanting to go first. Someone said something about the metaphor of the clown, someone else said something tentatively about the color of the prose, and then everyone looked at me.

It was awful, their eyes said. You do it.

(I had, at that point, garnered a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a Stone Cold Bitch when people were Trying To Be Clever in class. At that point I was writing, reading, and critiquing for two creative writing courses, as well as somehow writing a play for the theatre department and maintaining a mildly successful fanfiction series on Fanfiction.net, and providing Beta Reads for other folks in the fanfic community, keeping up with homework for three other courses, and working part-time at McD’s and another job postering for the Centre for the Arts. I think this was also the Year of LARP. I had No Time For Shenanigans.)

I hesitated, and then I finally said, “To be frank, I never read the damn thing.”  There were gasps around the table, and the professor murmured something about it being part of the course. I held up the page – more black than white – and said, “It’s unreadable. It might be a great story, but I will never know because he has intentionally made it a frustrating, difficult experience. I got eye strain trying to figure out the sentences and fatigue from the mental work of understanding. I was so caught up in translating the text that I missed what the story is completely.”

There was some bluff and bluster about the story maybe just being too clever for me from That Guy, and the professor smirked and then looked away quickly.

And I said: “Listen, you ever wanna make money on this? You never will. Not if you pull stupid stunts like this. It feels like you’re condescending to your audience, you’re trying to trick them, and it’s too hard to read. Nobody will pay for you to laugh at them.”

“But the story is good!” someone else in the class protested. (I was perhaps being a bit too harsh, and I think they were trying to soften the blow.)

“I never found a story,” I replied. “The text wouldn’t let me into it. I was locked out by the style. I’m sure there’s a story on the other side of this brick wall of words, but I couldn’t get access to it. And if it’s that hard for me, and I am paying for the privilege of being in this class and reading these stories, imagine how much less inclined a paying audience will be to spend the time to understand it.”

The Guy huffed and crossed his arms and slumped and said, “So, I should dumb down my work?”

And I said, “No, you should work on your work. Standardized punctuation and grammar exist for a reason. They exist so the words don’t get in the way of the story you’re trying to tell. Not knowing the rules and not even trying to learn them is not the same as making a deliberate stylistic choice to break them.” (I might have had a chip on my shoulder from earlier in the semester when I had to teach the fool what a bloody hard return was actually for in dialogue.)

That Guy starting pouting and everyone looked to the Professor. He shrugged and said: “She’s not wrong.”

I don’t know what mark he got on the story, but I do know that he was made to rewrite and hand it in again.

So what does this anecdote illustrate? Why did I bring this up?

Because when I think back to that story, when I think back to what happened, I still get angry and frustrated. I feel like a child trying to express the way-to-big-emotions that are filling up my still-so-tiny body and just crying and screaming because that’s my only tool of communication. I hate the story, and I hate that writer, and I hate the fact that he was trying to trick me in some way and it was all just so weakly obvious and condescending.

Now do I really hate his story? No, I never read it so I don’t actually have an opinion of it. Do I really hate That Guy? No, of course not. Do I really think that he was trying to deliberately trick me? No.

But it feels like it.

I don’t remember his name. I don’t remember his story. I don’t even really remember what he looked like. But I remember how he made me feel.

And for readers, how a book makes them feel is so much more a part of the experience of reading than the wordcrafting. People talk about how stories make them feel all the time – in reviews, in blurbs, to friends and neighbors. Writing sells because of how it makes people feel.

But a story can’t make anyone feel anything if they can’t figure out how to read it.

Now, I’m not advocating for ‘lowest possible denominator dumb it down’ writing. I’m advocating for clear, easily understandable communication.

“Style” is word choice, and imagery choice, and how long your sentences are and where you break up paragraphs. It’s about how you write out dialogue and accents, and what parts of the story you choose to tell, and whose POV you tell it from. It’s about how you play with the musicality of the rhythm of the words. Its about which rules you decide to break, and how, and how consistently you do so in order to convey something extra and beyond in the prose. (Breaking a rule should always be a consistently-applied deliberate choice that adds something to the reader’s understanding of the story, rather than taking away).

I’m not saying don’t have style.

I’m saying that the moment style gets in the way of story, then it’s gone too far.

Style should always add, and not detract.

Think of a story like a set of stairs. Style should be the escalator going up, helping readers get to the destination smoothly. It shouldn’t be an escalator going down, so your reader has to huff and puff and fight against it to get to the end of the book.

When figuring out a style for your tale, build an uppy escalator. Not a downy one.

*

Got a question about the craft or business of writing? Ask it here.

Read other Words for Writers blog posts here.

JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: When Does Style Get in the Way of Story?
Read more

I Stole A Time Lord and Ran Away

I Stole A Time Lord and Ran Away

I wrote an article about the #Steampunk #TARDISGown for the #SiliconWebCostumersGuild newsletter “The Virtual Costumer” for this month!

Click here to read the full article.

This is a members-only newsletter until the Patreon readers have got their advanced copies, but as a special treat editor Philip Gust has agreed that the public can get a crack at my pages. I had a lovely time meeting the Gusts at  #ConVolution2017 in San Jose this past October, and I encourage every #cosplayer I know to check out the magazine.

Happy Reading!

JM FreyI Stole A Time Lord and Ran Away
Read more

Words for Writers: The NaNoWriMo “Keep Yourself Accountable” Checklist

Sched

NANOWRIMO The Keep Yourself Accountable Schedule

Click the above link to download the PDF and then print it and post it beside your writing space! Ta Da!

Because there’s nothing more satisfying than checking little checkmark boxes, right?

(The schedule is based on the calculations found in THIS POST by Writerlynn)

*

For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: The NaNoWriMo “Keep Yourself Accountable” Checklist
Read more