Tag Archives: writing

The Dreaded Synopsis

Tell me, how do you write the synopsis to your W.I.P.? Because here’s how my typical synopsis writing day goes. 

First, I remind myself and anyone within earshot of how much I hate writing the synopsis. Then I open a Word Document. After staring at said blank page for about three straight minutes, I toggle over to Twitter and tweet about how I despise the synopsis.

Then, I eat something. After that, I let the food digest. We’ve all heard our mothers remind us to wait twenty minutes after we eat before working on our synopsis. Don’t want any writing-related cramps after all.

Finally, I go back to the blank page and eek out two lame sentences. I berate them. I judge them. Then I take the time to berate and judge myself. You suck, Kerri!

If there is any time left I send my BFF an email expressing my extreme suck-age. And then she tells me over g-chat that I don’t suck and reminds me of her favorite thing I ever wrote, which was my first attempt at a romantic suspense novel and involved a shattered woman, FBI agent and a fat cat. Personally, I think it blew. But seven years later, she still insists it was fabulous.

And then she tells me what she had from Starbucks that day. Usually, a Chai Latte.

Why do I hate the synopsis so much? It’s a part of writing after all. And I love writing! When I’m writing a novel the words just flow from my brain (or heart?) through my fingers onto the keyboard and out to my computer.

But the stupid synopsis? That feels like work. Like school. Except I actually liked school. So like the gynecologist. Yes, that is more appropriate. The synopsis as a gynecological visit.

Or, maybe… writing a synopsis reminds me that I have finished a manuscript. I’ve spent countless hours conceiving of an idea, creating characters and plotting out the best story I can. That means it’s time to send all that hard work out into the world for editors and agents to have the opportunity to reject.

I’ve dreamt the same dream scenario as many of you. You get a call on the first query you send out begging you to sign with that agent or editor. I will be the exception to all of the rejection stories we’ve heard.

But dream time is over. I have to send my baby out into the world. For better or worse. (And then I call my BFF just to hear once again how much she liked that sucky story seven years ago….)

So I ask you, fellow writers: Any synopsis-writing advice?

She’s Got a Ticket to Ride

Writers talk a lot about finding time to write.  I’m one of the writers who works a full-time job outside the home.  I’m a librarian and not because I love to read (that’s for another blog).  It’s enough to say I have to find time to write.  Or make time.

There were years when I couldn’t make any commitment at all to a writing schedule.  Family, illness (I’m an MS patient), career, and a loooong commute all conspired against a writing career.  Now, though, the kids are grown, the MS is under control and I’ve changed my schedule so I can take the train to my job in the Bronx.  No car, no every 6-week oil changes, no zillion $$ in gas each month.  And almost ten hours a week to sit back, think and (gasp) write.

Riding the train is all about the schedule – the minutes it takes to get from here to there.  My schedule puts me on the train at 7:04 a.m. every weekday.  I change trains at 7:52.  That’s 48 minutes when I can write.  A take-out cup of coffee, get up the stairs and across the causeway to the tracks, and I’m back down on the platform in time to claim my favorite seat.  Even better, morning trains are super quiet.  After all, we just woke up!

When I decided to start writing again, I started carrying a notebook with me in my satchel.  Now I settle back and pull that moleskin out.  Slip the elastic, move the bookmark to a fresh page and note the date.  For this morning:

5/18 Why her?  His usual GF – dark, sensual, stormy.

Her: cool, blonde, composed

— his challenge:  rattle her cage

Why him?  Her usual – stormy artist BUT she has broken that habit.

Wants a stable life

Sam = bad boy  Nicole =control

Yes, these are just notes on what the main characters’ normal dating patterns are and how these two people will be thrown off balance.  But I can begin to visualize the scenes Nicole and Sam will be pushing each other’s buttons and what they might think as the action unfolds.  Plus, I promise myself that I have not finished my writing for the day until I’ve made those notes into paragraphs in a scene on the laptop at home.  Turning the pages back this evening, I saw a cryptic note:  Keep Grandma?  Dad?  Nursing home?

Well, I did keep the grandmother in the story, but the father is currently dead.  Which means I have to write a scene of mourning for lost father/daughter bonding opportunities.  Which means I’ll begin drafting that on the train sometime soon.

In four more weeks, though, school will be out and I’ll be off for the summer.  I won’t be riding the train in the morning again until September.  Or will I?  I’m considering buying a $139 monthly commuter ticket for June, July and August and making myself get on that train.  Just to keep myself in the habit.  I could be riding the rails, watching the scenery spin by and having nothing to do but scribble in that notebook or maybe even bring a laptop.  Who knows?  The MTA might just be my new office this summer.


I like to read in the bathtub.

In fact, reading a good book in a nice, warm bubble bath is on my list of favorite things to do. Sure, I’m a writer, but I was a reader first. And trust me, there is no better place to read than in the bathtub. (Except for maybe the beach. Hmmm….)

But reading in the bathtub is not a simple process. Many years of plotting and field research have contributed to my idea of a perfect evening. So here are my thoughts on this sacred ritual.

What to Read
Now, I don’t have to read a Nora Roberts (swoon) novel, although it is preferred. However, since I have pretty much read all of Nora’s books at this point, I’ve had to branch out.

Hard covers? I don’t think so. Hard covers are for bubble bath virgins. Unless you have impressive arm strength, or are some kind of martyr, this is just not going to work. I suggest sticking to bath-friendly paperback options.

While I prefer romance novels and other works of fiction, I do sometimes include magazines during bath time. People magazine is one of the best due to its light weight and short articles. I adore Glamour magazine but sometimes it’s just a tad too heavy and the bottom of the pages edge dangerously close to the water. I would also think long and hard before bringing In Style or Vogue in the water with you.

E-reader folks ? Don’t even consider it!

Bath Accessories
I like to keep it simple. Sure, I’ve purchased a bath pillow in the past but honestly, a washcloth strategically placed behind my neck can offer the same support. And I like to keep a dry hand towel nearby… just in case.

Next, find your bubbles. This is kind of like finding your signature drink at a bar or favorite coffee beverage at Starbucks. I prefer lavender-scented bubbles myself.

Some people go for bath salts. This is a personal choice. If I use bath salts, I like to mix them with my bubbles. Bath salts by themselves might smell wonderful, but I like the look of frothy bubbles.

Candles add a certain ambiance I enjoy. However, please be mindful of how you hold that paperback or People magazine when a lighted flame is involved. And find the right scent. Bath time might not be the ideal time to spark up that pine tree or Christmas cookie-scented candle. I enjoy matching my candle aroma with my bubbles.

Again, this is a personal choice. I love to play music while I write. In fact, I don’t know if I could write in total silence. But reading is a different matter. In my humble opinion, Nora does not need accompanying sound. But if reading to music is your thing, go for it. Just keep any electronics far from the water.

I hope I’ve given some good bath time suggestions. If you’ve had an unproductive day of writing or just a lousy time at whatever you do, think about running an indulgent, luxurious bubble bath tonight with a book in hand. I promise it will make you feel better.

So now you all know what I’ll be doing later. Reading, relaxing and dreaming of the day someone can’t wait to read a book written by moi in their very own bathtub. (Paperback version, of course.)

Thank You Al Gore

Okay  . . . I know that Al Gore didn’t invent the internet but I don’t know who did and I’ve got to thank someone!  The worldwide web has been key to my life as a writer and I don’t know what I would do without it.

Now, if you read the first ever post on this blog, then you the know that the Waterworld Mermaids was the result of a raucous game of “Romance Jeopardy” and the meeting of 13 virgins at the Washington Romance Writers retreat.  we came together – all new – but also recognizing names from the WRW Yahoo loop.  The first step in a new friendship – aided by the internet.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. “Butt in chair hands on keyboard” does not lend well to group activity. And if you want to be a writer, then you have to write. But, we all live apart from each other, some at a great distance and keeping connected is a challenge.

We need a sense of community. A cheering squad. A therapy group. A we-will-kick-your-ass-when-you-get-lazy group.  It keeps us grounded, motivated, and inspired.

If you are seeking virtual writing companionship I can make a few recommendations:

  • Your local RWA chapter – most of the local chapters have internet loops where members exchange information, news, celebrations and setbacks.
  • Online RWA chapters – for those who are not located near a local chapter there are a few online chapters. Check out the RWA website and hook up with one. Some are even genre specific – mystery, fantasy – find your niche. Also, check out the PRO and PAN loops.
  • GIAM – a free, online group of accountability, goals, motivation and friendship. They also have free workshops on relevant topics and techniques. I am member and I cannot say enough about this amazing group of writers started by the equally fantastic, Amy Atwell. Find them Facebook and the Website.
  • Savvy Authors – another great site for writers. This site is free – or you can upgrade to a premium membership. It has classes, a learning center, webinars, writing challenges and a Yahoo loop.
  • Twitter – I’ve hooked up with some great writers on Twitter and joined up with Vicky Dreiling to put on the weekly extravaganza, “Man Candy Monday Night”.  It’s frivolous and funny and full of half-naked, hot men.  Join us at the hashtag #ManCandyMonday and the blog for the choicest eye candy – I like to call it literary inspiration!
  • Facebook- don’t forget this social community as a source of information and connections to other authors.

See you in cyberspace!



The Write Time

You can’t see her but she’s there about halfway down the to-do list and she’s pissed off. How do I know? Maybe it’s the way her perky button nose is snarled. Or it could be the smoke pouring out of her ears. Perhaps the laser beams shooting out of her dark brown eyes was the give away. All I know is that right now I’m glad she’s not a real person . If she was, she’d be swinging and I’m a big wimp who can’t take a punch.

The she in question is my heroine. She’s stuck in a story after finding out the identity of the villain. She’s primed and ready for action, but is floundering around ignored by me as I work my way through the to-do list. More insistent that a hungry two-year-old who hasn’t had a nap, my heroine is ready to get moving but I’m still searching for the time to get the next chapter on paper.

Yes, time management is the bane of an author’s existence. Whether it’s a day job, Internet gossip sites, writers loops or the hot guy mowing the lawn across the street, it’s easy to find other things to do besides write. I fight the time sucking demons myself (as my poor heroine will attest), but here’s how I try to avoid them.

First a caveat: My day job work schedule is super flexible, which is awesome and not an advantage that everyone has. Some days I’ll only work a few hours. Other days, I’m burning the midnight oil way past midnight. It all depends on the workload.

Plotter or Pantser?

I’m a hybrid. I plot out the main turning points of the novel. I write four or five things that have to happen in each of the first four chapters. Then, the urge to write overwhelms me and I start. I go and go until I’ve written myself into a wall. Pulling back, I consider where I am in the overall plot. Next, I outline the chapters I’ve written (often I’ll find and fix plot holes here) and four or five things that must happen in the next four chapters. This revs my writing engine up and I’m off again. Believe it or not, I’m an organized soul and would love to be an actual plotter. However, like many writers I have to fit my writing in whenever I can, so this process works with the scheduling craziness.

Time to Write?

I schedule two hours a day to write Monday through Thursday. Yes, I actually block off the time on my calendar, turn off my e-mail and hide my cell phone. Some days the words flow like crazy, other times I spend those two hours beefing up previously written pages. In addition, I take Fridays off to write, at least until I have to pick up the kiddies from school. This gives me a huge chunk of time to just go for it. I look at these days as a type of book in a day exercise. I write without revision as much as I can in that time period. I’d love to say I don’t have to spend any time with revisions, but that would be a big fat lie. So I fit in my smoothing, beefing up and tweaking for about two hours a night. Yep, the kiddies go to bed and I write until 10 p.m. Then it’s a beer and some trash TV – oh how I love The Soup. Joel McHale is my TV boyfriend, don’t tell the hubby.

So, why is my heroine stalking me? Because life has a way of messing with us authors pulling us away from what we want to do and forcing us to do something else. Hey! That sounds like the definition of conflict. Now I know why we write about conflicts, it’s cheap therapy.