Friday, June 30, 2006

Synopsis - Your toe in the door to being published.

Honestly can’t believe you rotten lot picked this one for me to do first…. Because let me tell you, I hate these nearly as much as the rest of the world does…

The synopsis aka the sucknopsis aka the synop-iss, is a very important tool when selling a book to an Editor. The partial that Harlequin Mills & Boon take (which is a rarity with Publishers) – will give them a sense of your writing style, your flow, your voice (the most important part in my humble opinion) – but the synopsis is what tells them where the rest of the book is headed…
Does it really matter about the synopsis if your partial is amazing? Well, yes, it does. Harlequin receives upwards of 20,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year at their offices throughout the world. That’s just the stuff that isn’t from authors already on their books. So when you send yours in, you need to make sure you’ll catch their attention…

How do you do this?

BY BEING PROFESSIONAL…

Do your research! Make sure the story you’re pitching is for the right line. There have been changes-a-plenty at the company in this last twelve to eighteen months and you need to stay on top of what those changes mean. So that you can use that in your synopsis to show that you fit into what they’re looking for RIGHT NOW.

My advice would be to read the latest authors bought for the line, maybe from 2000 onwards. (If you check my Links page you’ll see I’ve even started a list of them for you – Go me!) If you pick up their first books then you’ll see what got them pulled from the slush pile. If you pick up their latest then you can see how they’re keying into the selling points of the line having got the added professional input of the one thing they didn’t have before: An Editor. Read the first AND the latest… and you will see how their writing has grown. Mind you, of course I’m going to tell you that for sheer reading enjoyment you could pick up anything from the line ;) But this is for RESEARCH.

Remember this is popular fiction we’re talking about here. Which means it changes with the times. So reading a book from ten or twenty or thirty years ago, although no less of a great read, won’t tell you where the line you’re aiming for is headed now and for the next few years. You’re selling your work! So be a salesman. Look at the line. Make sure your story fits. Then sell that fact in your synopsis…

Chances are that our over-worked lovely Editor tries to get through a certain amount of subs per week. Their time is precious. So they’ll want something that doesn’t waste their time. A glance over a two page synopsis will tell them if the story will fit the line it’s aimed at. If there are major problems that will make the story difficult to sell. They may still read your partial, or at the very very least a few pages of it. But if you had the job of reading all those extra manuscripts and you already saw a problem in the synopsis and the first few pages of the partial didn’t over-come that initial doubt, then what are you going to do???

Remember you may have slogged for months, years, half a decade over this baby. But you’ve only got a few minutes to get an Editor interested in it. Not fair? My friends, welcome to world of publishing…

So: Read the guidelines… Go read through what the publisher has already told us about the lines at either the Harlequin or the Mills & Boon sites and jot down what you think are the key elements… Then read the back blurb of one of the books you’ve read and see how the Publisher sold them… Does your book sound like it fits???

Let’s take my June 2006 Harlequin release, The Wedding Surprise, as an example. ‘Cos I just happen to have it here…

Desperate to save her father’s business, Caitlin Rourke enters a reality TV contest with one thing on her mind – The prize money! To win she has to convince her family and friends that she’s marrying a stranger

As she gets to know her gorgeous fake fiance, Aiden Flynn, she gets increasingly torn between helping her family and keeping her feelings for Aiden a secret. But as their wedding day looms, and the camera’s roll there’s another surprise in store for Caitlin…

This is basically a very shortened version of your synopsis. It tells us, in the space of two paragraphs, the names of our hero and heroine, the motivation behind them being together, the basic conflicts they have to overcome, and it leaves the reader with a hook to encourage them to read the story… Which is what you want an Editor to do by the end of your synopsis, right?

But is it some ground shaking brand new plot that has never been seen before? I WISH. What makes it work for this new line is the way it’s told and the modern twist on it…

In order for any publisher to stay in business, it has to continue to make sales and that means moving with the times. Popular fiction will appeal to modern day readers if they can relate to what’s going on, if they can imagine themselves as the heroine.

As the new Romance Line guideline says:
‘This is an exciting new series with a brand-new editorial vision — offering fantastic short, romantic reads with a lower sensuality level — with stories that are contemporary and 100% relevant to today's woman.’

And the new Modern Extra Line:
‘These titles promise to deliver to the reader a feel-good experience, focusing on the kind of relationships that women between the ages of 18 and 35 aspire to.’

Your story, and therefore your synopsis – has to hit that common theme – The modern day reader has to be able to walk in those shoes and understand why the heroine may do the things she does.

So, my hint would be to write your synopsis from the Heroines Point of View. It’s through her eyes the reader will read the story, it’s in her shoes we want her to walk. Makes sense, right? But like anything, it’s all in the telling… So a hero point of view in there from time to time may work too…

Both lines will talk a lot about the ‘Emotional Journey’ or a ‘Rollercoaster Ride’ – so make sure that your synopsis shows that. Don’t make their problems ones that could be solved over a cup of coffee and a bit of a chat. And remember that we as women, tend to analyze relationships way more than men do. So use that! Let the editor see that you understand your heroine, that she has similar doubts and insecurities to us all... so that women readers will get it...

The one thing I’ve been warned about most of late, and that seems to have received the most rejections from new authors, is a book that is too heavily reliant on an outside plot to create the conflict. You could argue that it’s an outside plot that drives The Wedding Surprise – if it weren’t for the reality TV Show and the money they would never get together. But that’s not what the story is when you read the book. The outside plot is a device, think of it as a set for a stage-play. It needs to be there to give us an idea of where we are, but it is NOT the crux of the story. Not for these lines. These lines do what a good play does and take our focus off that back-drop and onto what's happening centre stage! So if your synopsis focuses on that outside plot then you’re not selling what they’re looking for.

If I were to write a synopsis for The Wedding Surprise the key things I would want to get across at the beginning of my synopsis would be these:

Caitlin Rourke is a twenty-eight year old woman who, when she discovers her family is in financial difficulty, needs to find a way to help, and fast! She accepts a place on a reality TV show in order to win the money. But to do that she must lie to all the people she holds dearest, the ones who know her the best. And having had their unconditional love and support for all her life, especially when her fiance was killed, she knows it will be the toughest thing she’s ever had to do.
But when she finds herself falling in love with the man playing her fiance for the show, she has to find a way through the web of lies and broken trust. So that the people she loves understand why she wants to be with someone whose life has been such a polar opposite to her own. A man who she discovers has been telling an even bigger lie all along and may well have broken her trust in him beyond repair…’
What this does is show us that her conflicts are ones we can relate to. Who amongst us hasn’t had money problems? We’ve all experienced loss, so we know how it must have felt to lose her fiance, a man she loved. We can understand why she might be closer to her friends and family because of it. And we can believe that it’s not going to be an easy journey for her to take. – ALL focused on her. All on the emotional journey. And all things that we, as modern day women, can understand…
And in the space of a couple of paragraphs, just like the back-blurb of a book, we not only have the gist of the story but we have, hopefully, shown the Editor that the story has all the elements they’re looking for… Then, we can use the next page and a half to elaborate on that.
We have approached the synopsis in a professional manner and we have done our best to SELL THE STORY.
Which is, realistically, all that a synopsis is supposed to do. It won’t automatically guarantee a sale; your writing has to do that. But it will get you noticed out of that slush pile and with any luck; a request for a Full Manuscript. Which is one step closer to that sale…
So…
Have a read over your manuscript. (And the best tip I’ve ever received was to make sure it was finished first!)
And…
Make sure it fits into the line you’re pitching it at. (Read all you can and do your research!) Tell the Editor clearly that it’s for that particular line and that the word-count is inside the set parameters.
Then…
Focus on the characters and make sure we understand there’s a believable emotional journey to be taken; one that has conflicts that will hold them apart for the entire length of the story even though circumstances and emotion/mutual attraction may push them together.
Tell…
In the rest of the synopsis the key scenes that push the story forwards and how they are gradually resolved so that we believe these two people have found the kind of love that will last beyond the final page of your story…
And you’re done.
Then all you have to worry about is your writing…
Places you might find useful of the World Wide Web:

Harlequin - list of requirements for the various lines and where to send them.
Mills And Boon - list of frequently asked questions and contact details.
Catauniversity – More articles on Synopsis writing.
Romance Divas – Workshops galore and free to join up!
Eharlequin – The boards where writers can chat about writing and ask questions without fear of general laughter.
Trish Links – A listing of many of the latest signings to Harlequin Mills and Boon.

Feel free to ask any questions you might have on the Blog Comments – you don’t have to have a blog to do it guys! And I’ll do my best to answer them…

So, shall we just work on the next most popular topic you choose in the Poll? Keep voting then. You say – I blog…

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I've Peaked... Its all downhill from here...

Well... that's it... The revisions for Anticipation are away... done... dusted...polished til I cud see my face in it (which was a tad scary!) and in my current lack of exhaustion (I last slept on Wednesday afternoon thankyou...) I have come to one conclusion...

I've peaked with this one. Did I mention that it's my TENTH?? Can you see from the wordcount worm thingie that it was the longest I've done in, like EVER?? And we won't even discuss the page count records broken - Copy of War And Peace anyone???

I LOVE this book. I mean, really, seriously, LOVE this book!!! I think I'm so exhausted because I've put everything into this one - heart and soul. And if it comes back to me now with a big fat resounding 'No' - I may just jump under a bus... Not a word of a lie.

Now I know as authors we're not supposed to have a favourite child?! But you know that kid that just makes you laugh for hours even when it's not there? The one that oozes charm at you without trying so you forgive it it's lesser mistakes? The one you just have a little corner of your heart for that prays it will succeed in the big bad world?? For me, it's this book... I may need to coin a new phrase now that we Pineapple Book to describe the ones that were a stinker to do...

So I miss it already. Even if I did get caught on the Farrell surname and had to change it back to Flanaghan. *Waves madly at lovely lovely Editor (she of the new shoes) who read blog and caught me playing up with secret codes - Hello ;) - And I was kidding about the elephant being added in that last draft... So you can stop looking for it now...*

And the soundtrack for this book for anyone that needs to know? Duncan James new album - at the end there is a secret hidden track - the words of which *are* this book...

"Save this moment for me
Close your eyes and you'll feel
That im right here beside you
And im holding your hand
So...
Let this moment be ours
Even though we're apart
Understand I still love you
We're living seperate lives
But right now is our time
Save this moment for me"

This is a gorgeous album to write to and 'cos I found it so inspirational I'll be offering copies of it in my new Website competition this weekend... when I do the LONG OVERDUE update... And I really hope it brings whoever wins it as much luck as it did me!!!

Did I mention I LOVE this book???

Yep... it's all downhill from here on in folks...Watch as my career crumbles before my eyes...

Actually that's not funny. Cos I really haven't the feintest notion of an idea for any more books.

And can you guess from the Pics where I'm headed right now this very second??? I'll be back all rested and ready to go with the Blog you picked from the Poll. I'm a bit scared to look quite frankly! Be nice to me...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Watching Paint Dry

Your Five Factor Personality Profile
Extroversion:
You have medium extroversion.You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."
Conscientiousness:
You have high conscientiousness.Intelligent and reliable, you tend to succeed in life.Most things in your life are organized and planned well.But you borderline on being a total perfectionist.
Agreeableness:
You have medium agreeableness.You're generally a friendly and trusting person.But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.
Neuroticism:
You have low neuroticism.You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.
Openness to experience:
Your openness to new experiences is high.In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.
The Five Factor Personality Test


First up can I just point out that I haven't done one of these in like, forever.... Maybe my addiction is cured???

So, I promised myself when I got Anticipation away that I'd be good to myself and take a month off. Mmm... Now I have been sleeping to Olympic standard, which is rare for me - I'm a six hour a night kinda gal. But apart from playing with horses a little, doing laundry (I ran out of clothes so I had to) , catching up with friends and spending time with neices and nephews and watching countless DVD's - I have to say, I'm bored out of my tiny mind...

I still have my website to update and a critique to do for my CP. But apart from that, both of which I intend doing today, I really am at the stage where I'm ready to work again. So methinks ye olde longer book may be getting another running start. Which means I'll feel duty bound to go back and edit it all from the beginning - again. Why is it that we can never just leave something the hell alone???

In the meantime I'm kinda stuck as to what to blog about this next while. And as you're all so darn good with the polls I thought I'd ask you. Your wish is my time filler 'til my revisions arrive...


What should Trish Blog about next?
The creation of past books?
Editing - What to keep what to lose?
Revisions - Good thing or bad?
Blank Page - How to start the book?
Synopses - What they're looking for?
Critique Partners - Good or Paranoia fodder?
Hero's - What makes a hero?
Heroine's - What makes a heroine?
More Blogthings & an internet tour?
A.N. Other - Q&A for Trish
Free polls from Pollhost.com


So, it's up to you guys - you choose!!!

And whilst writing all this - my revisions have arrived!!! So you have a couple of days to let me know what we're doing when I come back out of the cave... It's pick a title or I'm gonna blog about the joys of watching paint dry... Which I will... You know me...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ruined enjoyment of movies for life? Nope.

So, last night I went to see The Lakehouse

Now the first thing I'll say about this movie is, if you have friends who have problems with lateral thinking or suspending belief, even for a couple of hours, do not take them with you! But then that's the thing I always loved about going to the movies from a very early age - the escapism, the fact that you could allow your imagination to run free and escape from all the hum-drum ordinary things that we fill so much of our days with. And I guess that's probably where my journey to becoming a writer came from...

I'm not a movie critic. I hate the word critic as it happens. Maybe simply because in my mind it's a shortened version of the word critic-al and so many people out there can take that word as an open invitation to pan something for no other reason than it makes them feel superior, and I'm just not into that. I like what I like and hate what I hate and by no means do I express my opinion as a way to run others down. I'm just a tiny speck on the face of the planet realistically... with a blog... And I still live my life by the 'do unto others' adage in fear of saying something that may one day come back to bite me on the ass. I believe in karma!

So, anyway, I knew when I went to see this film that I was going to see a love story. An occupational hazard probably; I just can't resist a story that brings two tiny specks together on this big old planet of ours. But what struck me on a personal level as I watched this story unfold on the big screen in front of me, was that I watch them with a much more examining eye than I did even ten years ago. Is that an age thing, I wondered? Or is it simply that I spend so much of my life now creating love stories that I can't watch one without noticing all the little things that make up the bigger story?

What struck me in this one wasn't just the originality of the storyline - two people who 'make contact' through the link of living in the same house by a lake but then find they are experiencing it with a two year time difference - but it was the threads interwoven through it. It's something I'm more and more conscious of doing with each book. On purpose? Who the heck knows?? But in this film I could spot them. Loneliness is a key theme, as is the relationships with the main characters and their parents; Keanu Reeve's character Alex with his Father in particular. There is a theme of missed opportunities, of taking chances and seeing what happens even when it goes against what our 'sensible minds' tells us can't be happening. There's the theme of 'making do' with what we have rather than waiting for a magical something we might never find (one I know only too well let me tell you!!!) and there's the glimpses of what we may lose along the way. Add to that the fact that I could see how these two successful actors
portrayed their differing emotions through such simple things as hand movements and glances and I may as well have been sat at the keyboard trying to put together scenes of a book.

Which led me to think on the way home if becoming a writer has ruined me for watching films in the same way that, for a while, working in the music industry ruined my sheer joy factor listening to music? And after much thought, I think the answer is no.

Because while I continue to grow as a writer, I'm becoming more aware. I can look up at that big screen now, and while I watch the story unfold, I can better appreciate the work of others. The little things that make up the whole. I can appreciate an innovative plot, the way it was shot in such a way that the people looked real rather than touched up, cleverly lit fantasies of normal living, breathing people. The way that a look or a touch or a hand movement in the right place can convey as much as words do. It's all the little things that we try to convey on paper when we write a book. We might not realize we're doing it - and I have to say if I thought about it that hard I'd probably lose the ability to just tell the story - but it's all there nevertheless. And I can see that now. People may critique the shorter contemporary romance all they like, but if readers can lose themselves in the story, will the characters to a happy ending, and get the same enjoyment for a few hours as they would watching a film then the author has done their job. It would be all I'd ever need to hear in praise!!!

So, for me, this was a very lovely film. Yes, you do have to suspend some belief, but then that never stopped generations from enjoying The Wizard Of Oz! And yes, the timeline will have those friends of yours with lateral thinking issues debating outside the cinema as to what year the film actually finished in! And yes, some people will say that Keanu Reeves comes across as a little wooden in places, but it never stops millions of readers enjoying an inscrutable hero who simmers beneath the surface. (I disagree on the wooden part just so you know). But all in all if you want a love story, you want something nicely paced and sweet at it's origin with a storyline that has you praying there is a happy ending then I think you'll enjoy The Lakehouse as much as I did. It's one I will certainly buy on DVD and one that I'll most definately be nominating for The Pink Heart Society's Hall Of Fame.

All in all it reminded me why I do what I do and that I love what I do. It reminded me to keep believing in love even while I'm happy being single. What can I say, I'm obviously a romantic. So just go ahead and shoot me, 'cos I ain't changing...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The First Book Is The Easiest -

- To be sung in tune with the Rod Stewart track;
'The First Cut Is The Deepest'
- c'mon sing-a-long - you know you want to...
Yes, at the risk of you all running out there, gathering sticks, and setting a big bonfire to burn alive she who speaks the words of the devil (i.e: Me) - I'm gonna stand up here on my nice re-enforced soapbox and shout it loud. I really do think the first book is the easiest. Erm, sorry...
Now I can hear you all asking in a Yoda-type voice (while passing the matches for the bonfire behind your back) - 'Think this do you, why?' And I'm just that good that I will you. Burn me after if you wish, frankly I'm too tired to care, and I've drank enough wine this last week that I should keep a pretty flame going right up to Halloween...
The first book is the easiest because:
1/ You're not on a deadline other than one you set for yourself to finish it.
2/ On your very first book you'll maybe try something 'outside the box' to get you pulled from the slush pile so you just go ahead and write what you would like to read yourself no matter what sort of nonsense you read.
3/ You don't worry about all the other fantabulous Best-Selling authors of the line being on the shelf at the same time as you (Cos all you wanna do realistically is get revisions or the golden grail that is an actual sale).
4/ You will still remember that there is a life away from the computer/laptop and will allow yourself time to go visit it. When the mood/necessity/ rabid friends who haven't seen you months strike.
5/ You will make a concerted effort to still care about what you eat/your weight/exercise because you still worry how you look when you do go back to your life (see point 4)
6/ You can still read other peoples books for the sheer enjoyment of them and not find yourself looking for all the clever things they've done that make you green at the gills and force you to think what you're working on is utter drivel.
7/ You don't worry constantly and moan on MSN messenger to other authors about the fact that you think you're but one book away from being dropped. (because with a first book you can only see the idea of being bought and to hope you'll have a second/third/fourth is a jump too far)
8/ You can appreciate pictures of hot men purely for their aesthetic qualities and not because you've just built an entire character around them that demands you go write about it immediately, jumping the queue for the one you're already knee deep in and more than likely in the difficult middle of.
9/ You don't have the bile producing guilt that comes with having a website and a blog that hasn't been updated since 1978 because you don't actually need one at that point.
10/ You don't worry about repeating phrases/plotpoints/descriptions/hero & heroine names over and over and over again from book to book - because you only have the one darn book so it's still original...
In fact, come to think of it, all this kind of falls into the same league as the Things They Don't Tell You About Being A Writer series that we did not that long ago. Which means I'm repeating myself doesn't it? Ha! See point 10!!!!
And the cause for all this angst my friends? Prolonged time in the deadline cave whilst the Writing God's conspire to make me insane...
Not that there was anything actually wrong with the story or the characters in Anticipation you understand. (well, having said that is has only just gone to my Editor this morning so time will tell...) The book itself, once I got going, was an absolute joy to write. They were just so real after the first few chapters that they told the story themselves and towards the end I found myself alternatively weepy and laughing aloud.
Mind you, that could have been the exhaustion... and the wine...
Thanks to a little help from my friends with the casting of the hero, and a little bit of a twiddle round with the casting for the heroine at home alone the story flew. But then there was the cyber wine drinking competition I had while I buddy wrote alongside my super dooper friend Natasha - who is still in the cave - pop over and give her a yell of support if you get the chance...
But I did have a few small things hold me back along the way. A short deadline to begin with (my idea - just shoot me if I ever suggest that again) - a short jaunt out onot the circuit with some freelance work with horses (which nearly killed me) and then I had a sad loss when I finally lost my lovely horse Katie (I will blog about it soon 'cos I know a lot of you were following her story) and then I had alternate sunburn/heatstroke/flu and several powercuts... oh and virus that shuts down my laptop three to four times a day. ..
Yes, gals, The First Book Is The Easiest...
And my reward for all this trouble from the Writing God's? Cos I really think I deserve a reward, don't you?
Well, this weekend we're having a mass girls night out to see The Lakehouse - Keanu Reeves - Sandra Bullock - nuff said...
Oh, and I have a surprise release out this month - Direct only - so it's only available through the eharlequin website - and I'm up on the Harlequin Romance Writers blog too if you want to take a look see... Its The Wedding Surprise... one of my personal favs...
Back to my life and sleep for a few days and then a big website overhaul methinks...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Not ignoring you... Honest!!!

Just a very quick post to let you all know I haven't forgotten about you...

I've had a rough few weeks all round and my Modern Extra book is now so late it's convinced it might be pregnant...

So, I am barricaded into the deadline cave and am not allowed out until I'm done. Please forgive me?? If it's any consolation - when I'm done I have a month off so expect mayhem to abound once again! I feel a competition coming on - and maybe a blogger template poll - and a Pink Heart Society members update - and more drool worthy hero's for the Hero Database... Oh, and I might even update my even more neglected web-page...

In the meantime to keep you amused - look what Donna has been keeping secret from us??? I ask you, should something this good be kept secret???

Whereas me, well, I share with my friends...


Oh, and this one sings too... In a direct quote from the album track I am now listening to...'Just tell me what you need and I'll be there...' - My answer to which is... 'Dear Santa...'

And if you're my editor and you're reading this... I'm not blogging - Really I'm not...