How to Write a Synopsis for Your Next Big Project: A Synopsis

A fallen ego maniac, I had the idea that because I am so old and have written for so long that I must know how to do what I do every day – WRITE — and be pretty good at it.  hahaha Teachers think that, you know. In our defense, we have to or the kids would eat us alive. Frankly, we spend our whole careers learning to teach writing, so we should know something. But the truth is…

BOV 2013 Purple 5

After tackling one new writing project after another….

  1. First a blog, (I’m still learning new things every day.)
  2. I braved a NaNoWriMo novel.
  3. Carol convinced me to take a children’s story class, and I wrote several (almost ready) children’s picture book stories.
  4. Then a local history book for Arcadia Publishing Co.
  5. Now back to my novel.

SFW misc Benches 2

…I admit there are a few many things that  I don’t know. (duh!) Now I’m checking first with other experts to see what they say.  Writing a Synopsis is a link to a Writer’s Digest page – links to several articles about how to write a synopsis. Here is a synopsis of my favorite by Beth Anderson.

Does your writing meander?
Does your writing meander? Writing a synopsis ill help.

Seven  Sentence Synopsis

  1. Write a sentence that tells what your book or article is about, and names the major characters.
  2. Explain the beginning in one sentence.
  3. The third sentence tells the end of the book. Don’t pull any punches here. Spit it out. The boy gets the girl. The gorilla dies. The tooth fairy drops all the children’s teeth into magic water, and they change into dentures.
  4. Write a sentence about each major point of action in the story, and put those between step two and three.

That’s it. Step one, done.

Step Two – Write a One Page Synopsis

  1. Use your same opening sentence, then describe the beginning in a paragraph.
  2. Write two or three paragraphs describing the major points of action.
  3. Finish with a short paragraph about the end of the book.  Again, you don’t try to trick any readers here. A synopsis is to sell your book to a busy agent.

Step Three – Write a Three Page Synopsis

Add more action points and obstacles. Add secondary characters. Tell, don’t show!

Step Four – Write a Six Page Synopsis

Add more action points and obstacles. Add secondary characters. Make sure the road-blocks get more obstacally as the plot thickens. Characters never come out unscathed until the end of the book where they emerge scratched and smiling, prize in hand, and not a hair out-of-place.

Step Five – Write a Twelve Page Synopsis

By the time you add more obstacles and action points, your book is finished. All that remains is to add the dialogue and describe the setting. The best part is you know how it’s going to end.  Those pesky characters can’t sneak up on you and write their own script. Oops. They can?  Yep, these experts say they can, so watch out.  However, you have it pretty much in control.

No David's nose

How to Write Essays to a Prompt for Tests, Work, or School

Sample Prompt: Explain a complicated process that you can do well to someone who doesn’t know how to do it.

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. Ernest Hemingway

Writing Is a Complicated Process                                         Do you struggle when you have to take a writing test, or write a report? As a teacher/consultant writing essays was my forté, yet writing to a prompt is a complicated task.  When I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity, either writing or grading essays for over 20 years.  Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write.  While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, they struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Notice the blingy water.
Notice the blingy water.

Definition of an Essay

Commonly essays fall into four categories : expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. Essays  convey information rather than tell a story, although they may use facts or short stories to persuade or convince readers to take action. An essay consists of three parts:  an opening paragraph, the body, and the conclusion.  Many teachers in our county use Step Up to Writing to teach this process to students and teachers alike.
  1. An opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts.
  2. Body paragraphs expand on the three or four facts, one paragraph per main idea.
  3. The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.
PG and Pie
Ideas Matter: Brainstorm and Analyze  Before Writing 
Step Up to Writing  steps sound simple enough.  However, even though the process is simple, fuzzy ideas swim in the writer’s head and often come out jumbled.  Maybe the writer knows nothing about the prompt. Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt.  I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.  If I can use the computer during the test or when writing for publication I search for a quotation and a definition or explanation of my topic. Most important: Make sure to answer the prompt.
  1. Analyze the prompt or break it into pieces.  Ask, “What DO I know about the prompt?  OR How can I relate it to something I know better and still answer the prompt?”
  2. Ask, “What can I write in a few paragraphs without repeating myself?”
  3. Consider, “Who is my audience?”
students-at-computers1
Research , Research, Research
Writing to a prompt is difficult for many reasons.  An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word and repeat it multiple times throughout the essay. Unprofessional essays often start and end with the words, “Today I am going to write about (prompt words)”  This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that writers need to display more sophistication in their writing.
  1. Wikipedia is fine for quick bits of information partly because each entry has a bibliography which the writer can also check. It is good to have more sources than just Wikipedia. I use Google, but there are other ways of getting information quickly off the internet.
  2. Books and articles provide detailed information. Digitized books allow the writer to mark what he or she wants to remember and to sort out unnecessary information.
  3. If time is not an issue, articles and scanned documents can be processed into searchable PDF documents using inexpensive or free downloadable programs.
  4. When writers don’t have these options, note cards work well. I always note the title, author and page number, so I can go back and check my sketchy notes. I don’t take time to write detailed notes.
  5. Highlighting works well on printed material that the writer can keep.
  6. Post-it notes allow the writer to comment on materials and books he or she needs to return. Writers can color code these by book or article, topic, time period or any category they choose.
writing, blogging, book reviews, New_Office04
Weed Out All But the Most Important Information
Essayists can’t use it all.  According to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day. One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the first step is deciding which thoughts are keepers. When I write under pressure on a topic, use these techniques.
  1. Brainstorm on paper. Lists, webs, and tables all work well.
  2. Move to an outline. Find connections between the list of words. Sort them into categories. Writers may do this mentally, but it is more effective if they write it down. I use the old fashioned outline because it puts my thoughts into a hierarchy, most important first.Manny's Trip to Spain
Match Writing Style and Vocabulary to the Task
Prompt writing is a formal process.  Vocabulary, spelling, and style become issues.  My blogging style is informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and I attempt humor. Formal writing style differs in several ways. 
  1. It uses a more academic lexicon or vocabulary.
  2. Sentence structure varies.
  3. The tone is generally, but not always, more serious.
  4. Each sentence starts with different words.  For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words.  If I have more than two or three of the same beginning word, I will change one of them.  I will look at how many of the same words I use within the sentence as well.  Word processing programs and the internet have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word constantly. If the internet is not allowed during an essay, use the scratch paper to free-associate synonyms.
  5. Spelling is most difficult for me if the internet is not an option. When I can’t remember how to spell a word, I substitute a word I can spell.
  6. Punctuation errors show up, and even though there are differences about how to punctuate. Study Strunk and White before you take a test, or take it with you.
Ralph's remodel003
Keep the Conclusion Uncluttered
Students, test takers, or essayists who utilize these tips will have a passable essay for any project, exam, job application, or work-related report, and become an expert in writing to a prompt.
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Practicing Descriptive Writing Here – Brain Fog? – No, Real Fog!

It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.

fog7

If you can get away from it, fog is beautiful. This week Debbie Simorte, my Girls on Fire editor, asked me how the weather in Visalia could be sunny and foggy at the same time, like that was a Kansas City impossibility. When I drove to Los Angeles this weekend for a meeting, I had to drive almost to Tejon Pass before I found an example of what sunny fog looked like. Visalia had no sun that day, only fog. The freeway, I5 South, split the fog in half as it curled up for a nap against the mountains north of the Grapevine.

fog5

As I drove south, the light haze on east side of the freeway foretold of the clear skies awaiting me in Los Angeles. The beauty of the graduated fading fog enticed me off the freeway long enough to snap these pictures before I continued on my trip. I didn’t move much from one spot as I rotated from east to west to capture the entire scene for you.

My favorite feathering of fog

My favorite feathering of fog

Tinkerbell should be in this picture somewhere sprinkling magical fairy dust in the mountain canyons. It seemed unreal to me.

fog3 The arc of fog needed a rainbow marking its border, but none appeared. It remained stark white. Fog tried to bar the sun from entering the valley.  At about two in the afternoon the sun tried to burn a hole in the clouds as it had already done on the east side of the freeway. I couldn’t stay to see if it succeeded.
I

 

 

Not a dense fog
Not a dense fog

I stood behind the tree and tried to shoot up at the sun, but the effect didn’t please me.

foggy night
foggy night

I left the meeting at 4:29 PM the next day in a rush to get over the Grapevine while it was still light. Dropping into the Central Valley, the fog greeted me. It probably had never left. At at night fog no longer felt benign. I took this picture through my dirty windshield as I ripped through the fog approaching Bakersfield, I must have plowed the clouds away. On a closer inspection microdrops of dust on my windshield remained as a calling card of the fleeing mist. I look straight ahead. I could see clearly now. When I looked to my left, there it was. It hovered just off the freeway at a gas station ready to pounce on me again. Once Bakersfield’s lights no longer protected my car and me from the fog, the sky dropped puffs of translucent cotton air onto the road. My car became a vacuum cleaner sucking in white dust bunnies. The stronger the suction, the thicker the fog became. By the time I turned off the freeway onto a country road, I could see only three lines ahead of me. A car passed me going the other direction. I counted to six as I watched him in my rearview mirror, and poof, he was gone. Fog turned the roads I know so well into a strangers.

For those of you who have never experienced Valley fog, this is a taste of what the natives call “Tule fog.” How do you describe the fog in your area?

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

 

Social Mediadizing Social Media: Three Tricks That Didn’t Work – Exactly As Planned

I consider blogging social media. Yet we need to use social media for people to notice our social media. Today I experimented with social mediadizing my social media. I don’t know how it will go, but here’s what I did.

blogging

1. I edited my WP page about blogging and added a page, “Marketing Your Blog.”

2. I googled hashtags for Twitter because people told me to include # hashtags after the messages so that they go to more people. Google found several blogs that had already done the work of finding hashtags for authors, bloggers, photographers, editors… I cut and pasted some hashtags onto my new WP page and credited the blogs. Easy peasy.

hashtag tweeting3. Then I told my twitter world all about my new page on WordPress that will help me to market my blog using hashtags. At the end of the link to my tweet, I copied several of the recommended hashtags.  Hold on. I’m going to check my page views. Be right back… I’m back. (… means pause)

twiddle my thumbs

So far no one has noticed my new page, not one click, hashtag or no hashtag.  But my Twitter account buzzed all day. I got 2 new followers, 1 person retweeted a post, two people wrote their own description and referred their followers to my post, and 6 people liked it. That was pretty amazing to me.  Thank you Twitter friends. 🙂

While I’ve Twittered, I ignored my FB fan page, and I’ve lost one poor soul from my likes. Fell off my wall, like Humpty Dumpty and is probably lying in a broken gooey heap at the bottom of the internet somewhere dark and ignored.

Humpty Dumpty

Social media is like juggling. I get one media up in the air, and the others crash down on my head. It amazes me how many followers some of my Twitter-happy experts have. Into the K’s.

followers
Really? Remember the 1960s ads that promised that you could make $5,000 from home without a high school education just by licking envelopes? I think I sent in a few envelopes when I was 10.

One tweeter published 200 more tweets than I did over the couple of years we’d both been tweeting, but listen to this – He had about 43K followers and I have 415. So I asked myself, am I tweeting too much? The less you tweet the better you feel, so don’t tweet yourself at every meal?

One self-proclaimed twitter expert said, “Tweet your posts two times a day because people might miss them otherwise.”

follow me

But If I do that I’ll end up with twice as many tweets as that 43K guy and have 418 followers, and he will tweet maybe two times and have 86K followers. (Not that I care, really, I think it is an interesting phenomenon.)

cat, pet, writing, blogging

This is pretty boring to most of you, but elementary teachers birdwalk.

writing description.
writing description.

Yesterday, when I wrote the description of the house that I thought I asked you to describe, I obsessed about the angle of the downward slope of the roof.  I drew it on a piece of paper, then I asked Vince to estimate it. Then I measured it with a protractor. He was right, 3 degrees.

Now does anyone honestly care that my fictitious character, Sarah Clay’s house in Girls on Fire has a roof that slopes from east to west by 3 degrees? I doubt it, but I probably spent 10 minutes trying to figure it out.

fingers crossed

By the way. it turned out that the way I posted my pictures yesterday some of you Ralph thought I needed a description of this girl with her fingers crossed. He came up with some creative descriptions.

retirement
Brandi Jo Newman, another person who stole Another Day’s picture and photoshopped her out of it. 😦

Tell me what you did this weekend.  I hope you did something more useful yesterday than I did.

And how do you mediaize your social media?

Thanks for the pictures, Google.

Writing Description: What Are Your Tips?

Write posts on Word. Save posts often. Will I never learn? I deleted a picture from my blog post, and the entire post disappeared.

writing, fiction, Visalia, Sarah's house, Beverly Glen1

Vince sells real estate. Yesterday I rode to Visalia with him to take pictures of places in my book I couldn’t remember well enough to describe. I am not good at writing riveting descriptions. I get lost on the cracks or shadows in the road, and miss the important details. Or my mind focuses on an imaginary conversation between me and a real person, two imaginary people, or me and someone imaginary, who might be real, but would never talk like we do. This takes so much of my attention that I probably should never drive. Vince asks me if I remember going places. Sometimes I wasn’t with him, so I have a good excuse for not remembering, but just as likely, I sat right next to him having an internal conversation.

blogging, books, Visalia, Tulare County
blogging, books, Visalia, Tulare County

Since I struggle with descriptions I rely on others to help me. George Pilling wrote a great book, A Walk Around Visalia. He’s told me what trees grow where, which neighborhoods my characters would choose, and what’s around them. He had a gorgeous picture of the house I pictured for Sarah. Yesterday Vince and I found it in person.

writing description.
writing description.

I spent about 20 minutes writing a detailed description of this picture. I ignored the cracks in the road.  How would you describe the house picture?

fingers crossed

I promise I won’t copy… OK, not without your permission.