Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Suck At Synopses

A few posts back the lovely Nina in Ohio *waves at Nina* asked about the stuff I send to my editor when I'm pitching a book and I said I'd come back and post something on it. So here I am!

Now in fairness I should start out by saying I SUCK at synopses or synopiss as I like to call them. I always have a clear idea of what I want to do in a story before I set out but when it comes to describing it in a succinct manner or even explaining it out loud to someone - I suck nine year old lemons - and always end up saying (or typing) the words 'or something like that...' at the end.

Thankfully, when it came to the very first synopiss I sent with my partial to M&B the editors were good to their word and the very lovely Kate Paice (who plucked me from the slush pile) made her decision according to my writing in the three chapters. (Which just goes to prove your voice will win in the end) Now that's not to say people submitting to M&B shouldn't work on having as tight a synopiss as they can manage, but it just goes to show it isn't a deal-breaker. Kate requested the full manuscript based on my partial, and the rest, as they say - is history. And I wish I could say over the years my skill in this weak area has improved, but four editors later my current lovely Ed could tell you... they haven't.

Every editor is as individual as the writers they work with, so everyone will have a different way of dealing with the proposal for a new book. The one thing all published authors (or the vast majority of them that I'm aware of) have in common, is that we have to have an idea approved before we start. There are several reasons for this. One being that an editor needs to look at the books that are scheduled for a particular month to make sure they're not all the same thing. They don't want six office romances, or six Sheikhs, or six secret babies or six friends to lovers or whatever... they want a mix to appeal to as many readers as possible. So that's one reason. Another being the last thing any working writer wants, is to waste weeks on end writing a book that isn't gonna fit inside a particular line. Personally I'd rather spend time writing a book I might sell than one that will languish on my laptop until the end of time as we know it. But then since writing is my only means of income that's probably not surprising... Anything that I write outside of the guidelines for the lines I'm contracted for tends to be for fun or to help shake my muse loose. That's not to say at some stage I mightn't attempt something new to try and sell, but right now, the paying work takes precendence. And that's the way it should be for any professional writer.

Anyhoo. Keeping in mind that I suck at this, of late what I've been doing is sending my lovely editor a story and character outline (complete with pics and location info). From that we then have a brainstorm over the phone - she talks to me about the things that concern her or she would like to see tweaked or maybe a particular theme that editorial would like me to explore (like a mini-series they have planned for instance) - I try and explain things clearer if I haven't put my point across on paper - we throw out what won't work and then we have a right old giggle as we bounce ideas around. And the beauty of having an editor like mine is she always, ALWAYS brings something to the table that sets my imagination on fire. Lord but I love her for that! I'll then take that initial spark and put my own twist on it and run with it. She never forces me to write something I'm uncomfortable with (I think she tried to persuade me once and discovered the whining voice wasn't worth the effort) and she always has the utmost faith (even when I don't) that I know what I'm doing and can deliver a manuscript we can work on together to create something I'm proud to put my name to. I have to say, this is one of the absolute JOYS of working with the editorial team at M&B. They don't buy books - they INVEST IN WRITERS. And I'm living proof of that. Because believe me, in my pit of despair last year, my lovely editor literally held my hand and coached me through the bad times. She went WAY above and beyond the call of duty to stop me from throwing my hands in the air and giving up.

The number five has always been my lucky number. (I was born at 5.25 on the 5th) And my current editor is my 5th. Coincidence? I think not. Because in my opinion, some of my best work has been done with this editor...

So for the book I'm working on now, I sent four odd pages of info. (so much for the SHORT outline theory you had my lovely Blog readers!) Some of it was pictures and some of it bullet points. Like I said - I still suck at this. But my editor knows I do, I know I do, so we kinda work round it. And over the next couple of posts I'll add some more if you want to see them. (Should hopefully be interesting for some of you guys who followed the initial thought process on this one and helped me out with ideas and pics) And if this puts folks off buying the book when it (hopefully) comes out, I'm blaming Nina ;)

The Reluctant Billionaire (Working Title)
for the Modern heat/Presents line

Olivia Brannigan works for a corporate law firm in Manhattan. She’s a workaholic, over-achiever, ambitious young woman of twenty-seven, with her sights firmly set on the position of youngest ever partner at the firm where she works. To help speed up that process she sees an opportunity to win favour with her bosses by encouraging the new owner of Warren Enterprises to continue the contract his companies have with her firm. Not an easy job, especially when no-one has been able to pin down the new billionaire for long enough to get him to discuss the weather, never mind anything business orientated…

Olivia came from poor beginnings; the eldest of five children she was determined from an early age to make something of herself and escape Yonkers for the high life in Manhattan. She’s very smart but also has a tendency to want to fit in more than usual because of her background. She’s so eager to please and forward herself that she has great difficulty saying ‘no’ and is almost obsessive about things like neatness, her appearance and controlling her surroundings. It’s her meticulous attention to detail and taking on the picky little cases that no-one else wanted in the law firm she works for that have made her as successful as she is and Olivia avoids chaos in any way, shape or form. She’s basically a control freak, but it’s a shield and losing control or showing emotion in public or in front of a stranger would be her worst nightmare. Underneath it all she’s vulnerable, scared of losing everything she’s worked so hard for and fearful of emotions clouding her judgement.

But by controlling her environment and her emotions the way she does, Olivia is suppressing a big part of her personality. She has sacrificed some of the closeness with her family, fun with her friends and romantic relationships and although she has a growing awareness and regret of those things, she still sees them as being something she can regain further down the line when she has achieved her ambitions. It takes a brand new multi-billionaire who sees life completely differently from her to shake up her life, loosen her inhibitions and make her re-evaluate what she wants out of life.

Character Notes:
  • 27 yrs old, five foot eight, blonde, blue eyes.
  • Raised in Yonkers, New York – father works as a refuse collector, mom is a part-time waitress. Has three younger brothers and a younger sister.
  • Friends: Melody (columnist for a fashion magazine) and Eva (works in an alternative therapy store) – who share an apartment with her in the Lower East Side.
  • Highly intelligent and an over-achiever she was valedictorian at High School and went on to do seven years studying law with the aid of scholarships and part-time jobs. Although deeply in dept by the time she passed the bar exam she had her sights set on a high flying position in Manhattan and ended up at Wagner, Liebstrahm, Barker and DeLuise in their corporate law department. Heading up the Warren Enterprises account would put her on the radar for early partnership at the firm.
  • Although her family is close, her new life in Manhattan, her work schedule and her deliberate choice to detach herself from her upbringing – particularly to friends and work colleagues –has combined to cause a growing rift she feels guilty about. Despite the continued best efforts of her friends to encourage her to have fun, she isn’t much for going out and partying the way they do. Basically life outside of work is passing her by, and her constant need to ‘fit in’ where a part of her still doesn’t truly believe she belongs means she’s almost lost in the persona she has created. But she has a ten year plan and she tells herself if she sticks rigidly to it there’s still time to meet the right guy, settle down and have a couple of kids.
  • Has a secret love for classic black and white romance movies, a weakness for desserts she constantly battles in order to maintain her weight and has yet to experience anything even resembling the hype about sex her friend Melody writes about in her column.
  • (Over) Thinking type: thinks thoroughly through a situation, figures out the problem and takes control to bring about a solution. Makes decisions based on principles, not on feelings (though struggles with the feelings part sometimes). Is logical, objective and methodical.
  • Intuitive typeinterested in future possibilities. Dreams new visions, plans and ideas, plays hunches (but only if they’re carefully considered and measured up).
I'll do the part about my hero in the next blog...


Aideen said...


This is excellent. I love the layout, so simple yet effective, concise and to the point. You almost make this sound easy...

And there's loads of room to add/remove layers as you go along should the need arise.

I think sometimes its a case of not seeing what's right before our eyes. I'm going to give this a go for the ms I'm almost finished, to see if I've stayed on track with my character profiles.


Nina in Ohio said...

Trish - *waving madly back at ya!*

Thanks so much for putting this in your blog - it is such a help and I can see where doing this at the start really makes you think about your character's motivations and, like Aideen says, keeps you on track while writing the story.

And if it puts someone off from buying the book, I'll buy extra and give them to friends ;-) - in fact, I'll do it anyway!

Janet said...

What an interesting character. After you post the H's profile, could you give us a hint of how you use your character profiles to create the plot? (I always find that part so difficult)

Trish Wylie said...

You're welcome Aideen! I hope it proves useful for you :) Will help whenever the sales of this book plummet cos I'll have given away the majority of the plot ;)

As to the easy part. Hmmm... Well the PLANNING is a breeze. It's the FUN part. Writing the suckers? Not so much some of the time...

And I hear ya on the case of not seeing what's right before our eyes. It's why I think prep work, then telling the story and THEN editing can make it easier to see the mistakes - theoretically - cos when you have an editor she'll then spot things that make you do the whole palm-to-forehead thing.

Trish Wylie said...

Hi Nina! *grins at us waving across the pond*

You're welcome babe! I do think you really gotta know these people before you start. They've got to be really REAL so that you lift yourself out of your own head and into theirs. One way of getting into the swing of doing it is to write out one for yourself, as if you were the heroine in a romance novel ;)

And knowing them does indeed help keep you on track. Well... it works for me... so far anyways...

Trish Wylie said...

I will indeed Janet! Great idea! And when I've posted the hero's info, hopefully you'll get and idea of some of the things I'll talk about when I do ;)

I think having things in their character profiles that immediately suggest conflict options is half the battle if I'm honest. It's keeping those conflicts and the characters different enough to be individual from one book to another after you have a few under your belt that I find tough some days. It's why I have SO MUCH respect for everyone with 25/50/75/100 and more books for M&B!!! I can only HOPE to aspire to writing that many books without tearing my hair out in great chunks.