I’m not usually a woman of few words: why limit yourself to one sentence when a paragraph, a page, or even better a chapter, will do!
Uh, yeah. Okay. No surprises I must have been destined to be a writer, right? ;-)
And it was a long, hard, painful journey learning the discipline needed to write more concisely, and finally graduate into being able to successfully write novella-length. Go me.
However, regardless how smug I might feel about being able to write anything from 25,000 words right through to 100,000 if it’s called for, the dreaded synopsis still gives me conniptions. Doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 pages, 5 pages, or 2 pages, distilling a story down to its bare bones is harder than writing the whole darned book.
But a special circle of hell must be reserved for the short summaries used for query letters, or the kind that you see on the back cover of books. Introduce both characters, their goals, motivations and conflicts, and give enough of the plot to make reading your story compelling, while conveying a sense of whether the story is dark, humorous or whatever? Not easy.
After a bit of grumbling, I can usually throw together a halfway decent paragraph but I prefer to be able to use two paragraphs — one devoted to the hero and one to heroine. Something kinda like this:
Kat On A Hot Tin Roof:
Kat Meyer sleepwalks–buck naked sleepwalking, just to make it even more humiliating–and she goes to great lengths to lock herself in her house at night so she doesn’t inadvertently entertain the neighbors. She’s been there, done that, and she’s never quite gotten over it! Adding to the stress, her lazy cat, Cupcake, seems bound and determined to be a cat-burglar extraordinaire. But instead of just leaving “gifts” like house keys and trinkets on her pillow, Kat’s pet has now gravitated to stealing rings. Specifically, a man’s ring.
When Jace Burton wakes in the middle of the night to find a naked and highly distraught Kat in his living room, he’s inclined to believe her bizarre tale of sleepwalking and cat-burglars-of-the-feline-persuasion. And did he mention she was gorgeous? And naked? As an added bonus, he’s beyond grateful to learn that Kat’s found his grandfather’s missing ring. Jace is appalled to think of what harm might have befallen Kat while she prowled the streets naked at night. She’s gotten right under his skin and all his protective instincts kick in with a vengeance. It’s sure no hardship to escort her safely home–nor to offer to help her find out how’n the heck she getting out of her deadlocked house at night. But when the unbelievable truth smacks him right between the eyes, Jace doesn’t know what the hell to think! Should he hide what he’s seen from the woman he’s fallen head over heels in love with? Or should he tell her the truth and risk losing her forever?
Unfortunately, when you’re sharing the back cover of an anthology with three other authors, you don’t have the luxury to take up that much space… as I found out on Friday.
In fact, you only get about 60 words.
That’s right. 6-0. Sixty.
And after spending a large portion of my Saturday trying to get the “right” sixty words, I was no closer than when I’d started! Worse, I had about a dozen different versions. Some written solely from Jace’s POV. Some from Kat’s. Some from both. All too damn long! DH even had a go…. And soon discovered that it wasn’t easy. His final effort sounded OK in his head, but when he read it aloud, he decided to put away his pen and paper and pour us both a large glass of wine.
Fellow Red Sage author, Alice Gaines, gave me this excellent advice: “First, don’t try to cut something long down to that number of words. Mention both characters by name and try to include the basic conflict, plus a hook.” Her example was brilliant. Wish she could have written mine!
I got to work again. And came up with some shorter versions. But none of them captured the essence of this story. It’s a much lighter paranormal than I usually write. In fact, my editor described it as “howlingly funny”. But that wasn’t coming across in the blurb. Neither was the paranormal aspect. It sounded like a cozy mystery, not at all like an erotic romance. Where was the heat between Jace and Kat? Nowhere to be seen, unfortunately.
In a word? Aaargh. I suck at this! (Well, that’s five words, but you get where I was at.) So I gave up for the day and decided to sleep on it.
The next morning, after a large cup of very strong coffee, I finally came up with this:
Workaholic architect, Jace Burton, inadvertently flashes a woman. That same woman appears at a crucial meeting…and seduces him in the bathroom. Kat Meyer is one of the designers vying to impress him. And boy, is he impressed to discover her prowling his house—naked. Kat has no clue what’s causing her nocturnal wanderings. And when Jace discovers she’s the victim of a zodiac curse, will he fight to keep her, or run for the hills?
And then, after emailing the blurb through to Alice, Nicole and Anne (the other authors participating in the anthology) for some last minute advice, I tweaked it to the final version:
Kat On A Hot Tin Roof:
Workaholic architect, Jace Burton, inadvertently flashes Kat Meyer, who later turns up at a crucial meeting…and seduces him in the bathroom. She’s one of the designers vying to impress him. And boy, is he impressed to discover her prowling his house—naked. Kat has no clue what’s causing her nocturnal wanderings. And when Jace discovers she’s the victim of a zodiac curse, will he fight to keep her, or run for the hills?
It’s still a bit over 60 words but I’m hoping I’ll be forgiven. Fingers crossed Red Sage like it!
Anyway, that’s how I spent my weekend: in a special circle of hell reserved for just for authors like me, who struggle to say what they need to say when they have a world limit imposed on them ;-)
Needless to say, coming up the two-word title for the anthology was a breeze compared to this!
Hang on. speaking of titles, have I even told y’all what the title’s gonna be for the anthology yet?
Secrets Volume 30: DESIRES UNLEASHED by Alice Gaines, Nicole North, Anne Kane, Maree Anderson
Coming soon! (And if the blurbs that Alice, Nicole and Anne wrote are anything to go by, I can’t wait to read their stories. Readers are in for a real treat!)