Syn-Syn-Synopsis

I brushed off writing my synopsis like I was signing a birthday card with élan when I wrote about it in a post earlier this month. Writing a synopsis wasn’t that easy for me.

It’d been yonks since I’d written one. I wanted to do the best that I could. I knew the idea was that it’s a brief summary. How long should a synopsis be? How much detail should be given? Should I describe the character and setting?

Searching for answers, I pulled out books on writing and publishing that I have on hand. I read magazine articles, newspaper articles, and blog posts about how long a synopsis should be, what it does, and what it shouldn’t be. I panicked. I read agents and publishers’ opinions about what’s at stake in the synopsis in their opinion for accepting or rejected a novel. I read what authors shared about their rejections and their initial efforts writing synopsis, and I grew disheartened. Then I brushed that off and got busy.

After creating a synopsis file, I opened the latest version of Four on Kyrios and began reading it. After refreshing myself with the chapter, I wrote one or two sentences about what it was about. I did so chapter after chapter. One paragraph typically captured a flow of events about what the characters were doing, where they were doing it, and results. I resisted doubts and over-thinking it while I was doing it.

I won’t lie, working intensely, it took me most of a week to write. Did I do it right? I don’t know. As with everything, I learned what I could and applied the knowledge and tried to do the best that I could. As with everything else in life, that’s all that I can ever do.

Got my coffee in hand. Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

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April Showers 1921

I wrote about a new novel that came to me in a dream the other night (“Spinning Up”). One unmentioned aspect was the newly conceived novel’s cover. I saw it in the dream. The cover felt and looked so real and substantial to me that I was nonplussed. The title, April Showers 1921, was embossed gold letters on a silver cover. It seemed so real that I looked up the title to determine if that book already existed. Without surprise, I found songs, books, and short stories called April Showers, but none had the 1921 addition, and none featured silver and gold covers. I seem safe with it.

I’ve worked on April Showers 1921 some since dreaming about it, fleshing out characters, setting, and writing some scenes, but I didn’t throw myself into it. After two days of that, I wondered, why not? I realized that indecision caused by my greatest weakness, over-analysis, was paralyzing me once again.

It’s a familiar scenario. I overthink something. That drains my resources, and I stop making progress until I resolve what I’m overthinking.

Naturally, this paralysis is all founded on a writing issue, specifically — this time — finding an agent for the Incomplete States series. I think I’ve identified several potential agents. I narrowed my search to one lucky agent. I’ve written a synopsis and query letter. That’s where I stopped.

The Incomplete States series employs several styles. In terms of recent books, it reminds me of Cloud Atlas. My series science-fiction infused, but its mostly literary, except the first novel has a science-fiction military noir feel to it. Fantasy flares strong in another book, while yet another has the sensibility of historic fiction.

Yes, I enjoy genre B&B – bending and blending – whether I’m reading or writing it.

On a side note, the great and all-knowing Internet says, don’t mention any of the rest of the series when seeking representation and publication of the first book.

For grins, I hunted down the rejection records for successful writers. I’ve followed this path before, so it’s very familiar to me.

J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter series was rejected twelve times, you know. Dr. Suess was rejected twenty-seven times before he found a publisher willing to take a chance on his Cat in the Hat book. The author of  The Martian, Andy Weir, had given up on being published, but kept writing and self-published. When The Martian found success, publishers came running. Kathryn Stockett, The Help, was rejected over sixty times. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, had twenty-six rejections. Catch-22, Joseph Heller, twenty-two rejections. Twenty for William Goldberg, The Lord of the Flies. Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. Pretty amazing was that Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, experienced over one hundred rejections. After she self-published and had success, publishers came calling, and her novel was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore, who won an Oscar for her performance.

There was also Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, over five times, and Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, rejected one hundred twenty-one times.

Reading about these rejections is invigorating and inspiring. You gotta have hope, optimism, belief, and determination. You gotta keep writing for the love of writing.

Writing about my paralysis cleared matters up and broke the log jam. (I now have a featured image of logs floating through my mind.) I’m ready to submit. (Ha, ha, I love how that can have multiple meanings.) All they can do is say no, right?

The day is full of promise. I got my coffee. Time to submit, and then write and edit like crazy, at least one more time.

Erica Also Said

Today’s quote resonates with me. Agents say they want read your book and feel like they did when they watched Game of Thrones or something on Netflix. Reading descriptions of what they want, they sound like they’re issuing specs for me to use to write my book.

It’s a depressing and destructive exercise, reading what they want, and comparing it to what I’ve written. It reduces the search to exactly this process, thinking about what the audience — the agents — need.

But, as an exercise, it’s helpful for defining my #AWL.

#AWL

Time for a rant. Are you ready, boys and girls? Point of order, sir, but this is as much a whine as it is a rant.

Okay, point accepted. I’m full of complaints and do a lot of poor, poor, pity poor me first-world blues rants. This is another. That aside, let’s rant.

I’ve written fifteen novels. 

People say, “Fifteen? Really?”

Yes, sure, but that’s a number. There’s a story behind the number. There’s an asterisk beside it.

The first novel, as with many writers, was five-star crap. In the crap world, five-stars means it’s the worse possible crap. There’s no crap that exceeds its crappiness. It was an experience, though, that helped me understand more about my writing process.

Knowing that it needed more attention and focus than I was willing to give it, I printed out the stack, along with editing notes, and put it on disks, and set it aside. Someday, I’ll return to you, I promised it.

“Point of order, sir, but, despite that quantity, maybe you’re not a very good writer.”

Thank you for pointing that out. You’re right. That might be the case. I’m trying to do the best that I can. I keep trying to improve.

“Another point, sir.”

What now?

“Isn’t this really about your laziness and unwillingness to learn?”

Excuse me, but who are you? How did you get in here? Out, out, damn you.

Being obstinate, I proceeded to write five more novels. They were probably three-star and four-star crap. I knew where they had problems and what needed to be fixed. I didn’t want to fix them, because I wanted to write more and I didn’t want to bother with editing and revising. I liked writing, not editing and revising. I promised, someday I’ll edit them, but I knew that model a novel and setting it aside for editing and revising at a date TBA was unsustainable.

The next novel that I wrote, I said, “I must edit and revise this one. I need to learn that discipline.”

So, I did it. Yea, me! Sure. I then sought agents. I followed all of their parameters for submitting to them in hopes of persuading them to represent me, find a publisher, and get the novel published.

After almost a year of dealing with that, going through five agents, I hated that process. Maybe, I convinced myself (without too much difficulty), self-publishing is the way to go.

So I did that.

It was another process to learn, with as many obstacles and challenges as Ninja Warrior. Yes, the book was published. Yes, I sold some copies, but not nearly as many as hoped. I knew that I would need to market the book.

Oh, boy, more to learn.

I wanted to write; I didn’t want to learn how to market myself and my wares.

I told myself, someday I will. Then I wrote and self-published three more books, with just as little notice and sales, reminding me again and again, you need to market these books.

But…but…but…

Yeah.

Here I am again, this time with a complete series of five novels. Here I am again at the crossroads. Find an agent? Self-publish? Screw it all and just keep writing?

Not wanting to, first, hunt down a cover designer, copy-editor, acquiring an agent drew me. That’s the original dream, to write a novel, find an agent, have the novel published. In a sense, I’m returning home by taking that route.

Yes, I was again easily persuaded because that self-publishing journey had been less than rewarding and satisfying. I’m hoping that this journey will be more so.

I began with the standard search process. Who is out there? What do they want?

Lo, Jane Friedman had a decent article about finding an agent, and pointed toward #MSWL – Manuscript Wish List. That’s helpful, I thought with new gleams of hope.

Hah.

I have such rose-colored glasses, they should be illegal so that we can all save time and energy.

#MSWL has a search engine. What genre do you want? Put it in. Here’s the results. Wow, pages of results. How exciting.

Not after reading a bit more.

I searched for science-fiction. #MSWL’s search results include whenever science-fiction is mentioned. This includes when agents say, “I don’t want to see any science-fiction.” Ah. That was certainly fucking useful.

I spent hours searching #MSWL and PublishersMarketPlace, seeking someone interested in someone like me. I found some promising folks.

Well, it’s the year’s end. Many of those agents aren’t accepting right now. Check back in a few days, weeks, or months, and then they’ll be happy to see your work.

What agents say they want on their website, in their Twitter blurts, in articles and interviews, and in #MSWL do not align. One will say that they’re looking for SFF or some science-fiction variant while the other locations won’t mention it. Yes, and I understand from my efforts that it’s hard updating everything and every place.

YA seems to remain the hot market, judging from the number of agents hunting for YA manuscripts.

Also clear is that most agents will reply to you if they’re interested. They’ll usually respond in two weeks. However, if they’re not interested, you’re not going to hear back from them. Do not, of course, submit multiple submissions or simultaneous submissions, or anything like that, because that’s not far to them, and please don’t follow-up to see what’s going on with your query. They’re busy, you know.

That was the stake through my heart last time, that one-sided dimension to this whole business. Sipping a glass of medicating wine last night, I reflected that I needed to start #AWL – Author’s Wish Lists. But hell, that’s a short list. We want an agent. We want published. We want a painless process. Who doesn’t? Well, I could stipulate that I want an agent who wants me, that I want an agent who will respond to me to tell me, no, thanks.

Yes, before anyone notifies me of the obvious, that this is a competitive business, and yes, I know how many struggling writers are out there trying to find agents and get published, and, yep, I’m aware that others have gone through this, and that agents have limited resources, so they’re very sorry, but that’s what the situation dictates.

Yes, I know.

My muses are awake. They want to write. Do you see how many stories are out there, waiting to be written?

Rant over. Back to whatever.

 

 

 

 

 

J’accuse Dream

First, this has nothing to do with Zola’s letter, except the title. This is about my dream, aspirations, and doubts.

As background, I finished writing and editing a series of novels called Incomplete States. With that finished, I was moving into the next steps of what to do when you’re written a novel and want to get it published. Options are available.

My dreamscape has been quiet for several days so I didn’t think my decisions would show up in my dreams. But, boom, they came. When I awoke and thought about it, I laughed about what I’d dreamed.

The dream began with a new venture. People were expecting me and had high expectations for what I would do. I was relaxed, going about getting acclimated. As the dream progressed, I learned that I was in the military (again), involved with command and control.

Awakening, I thought, “Of course the military would be included.” I’d spent twenty years in the military. The structure helped me succeed without stretching myself. It was a comfortable existence. I often retreat to it in dreams.

Things quickly began going awry in the dream. I felt constantly behind and a little bit lost. I couldn’t find my uniform. I discovered I was already supposed to be somewhere, and I was late. Scrambling, I rushed to find my uniform, shave, dress, and get to work.

I was naked when my wife came in. “What’s this?” she pointed at my side. I couldn’t see what she referenced.

“Have you seen yourself in the mirror?” she said, and then steered to a mirror. “I think you’d better take a look.”

She pointed out several boils on my side. Horrified, I tried lancing them, and failed. The effort put me behind. Now I really had to scramble.

Awakening, I realized that I was facing my anxieties. “Have you seen yourself in the mirror?” That question seemed like I was trying to pretend to be someone else, and that I wasn’t clearly seeing myself and the situation, that I was misleading myself. And look how I’m blemished and flawed, the things I don’t see about myself, how I’m fooling myself. I took all of that about my publishing ambitions.

Finding shaving cream, I hunted down a mirror and started applying it to shave. The shaving cream was thick and brown. Crude and unfinished, I thought after awakening and reflecting on the dream, just as I worry that others will think about the series. 

Another military member in uniform stuck their head in the window. “What are you doing?” I said.

“Looking at someone using a mirror,” he said. “I’ve never seen that done before. I was wondering what it’s like.”

How absurd, I thought, but, awakening, I realized that I was questioning even the most basic aspects of myself. I remembered reading about experiments involving animals mirrors. Looking in a mirror and realizing that you’re seeing yourself is used to explore animal intelligence and self-awareness. By implying that I (as another entity in the dream) didn’t know how to use a mirror was a question about my self-awareness and intelligence.

A phone rang and I answered it. “We have an inflight emergency,” a male voice said. “We need you here to decide what to do.”

I was appalled. “But I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Then you’re not coming?”

“No.” I hung up.

I didn’t need to think much about that aspect after awakening. The message behind the words seem nakedly clear, as did the next dream segment.

A chief master sergeant that I’d worked for during my first tour called me to him. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but this isn’t working out. To be honest, I expected more of you. It didn’t work out so I’m sending you back home.”

“‘But Chief,” I protested, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

Yes, it was all there, all the doubts, uncertainty, and uncertainty, along with rejection by a person in authority who I admired.

I thought I’d mastered these things, demonstrating again how easily I can fool myself. Yes, those doubts exist. Hell, they exist with the majority of efforts that anyone does. To reach and succeed, failure, ridicule, and exposure must be risked. These doubts are always in me, no matter how many times I’ve succeeded, or how often I’ve been reassured by myself and others. That’s just part of who I am.

While it gave me a good laugh to see how earnestly my subconscious mind (and thus, me) attacked me, it hasn’t changed anything. It’s there, and I know it, but I’m stepping out.

Cheers

 

Battering Dreams…

The last two nights’ dreams have battered me. Tempestuous and often shocking, they uncovered memories, eroding the foundations of my confidence, prompting A.M. shakiness.

In one dream, my wife and neighbors had killed another neighbor. He was married to one of the neighboring females. I didn’t understand why they’d killed him nor why they were unconcerned.

The police rounded them up. My wife and neighbors had skinned the body, though. As I heard it, they planned to eat the man. While I struggled to clarify what I heard, they cheerfully entered the police station. They weren’t being arrested. It turned out the police had already arrested one of the perpetrators for the crime, but now my wife and neighbors were picking him up. He was being released. I didn’t understand how or why.

Another memorable dream had people secretly plotting to kill a wealthy, powerful family. This dream took place in faded green light. Little was clearly seen beyond silhouettes. The powerful family — husband, wife, and three children — was being betrayed. A missile strike was being planned to take them out.

Learning about it, I furtively warned the family. The covertly relayed that they’d been suspicious and thanked me. I kept an eye on them and the man betraying them. I saw him on a telephone, on of those big and corded push-button desk phones that were popular last century. Sneaking up, I overheard him telling the killers to call off the strike because I’d warned the family.

He noticed me spying on them, so he hung up and I left. Coming around later, I heard him on the phone again, telling those on the other end to wait to launch the missiles until he called them. He wanted to kill me at the same time so that I couldn’t cause them trouble. The missiles were launched, but then recalled.

Another dream was about powerful rains. Heavy charcoal clouds thickened overhead, and then pouring rain shuttered visibility. Rain sluiced off roofs and overflowed storm drains and gutters. Torrents filled the streets. Pedestrians and drivers were freaked as cars and feet splashed through fast, rising water. The water rose until where I walked was a turbulent lake. The lights dimmed under the rain’s relentless pounding.

However, caught in the rain myself, I tried reassuring everyone. Telling them not to worry, I kept saying, “It’s just rain. Don’t worry. This will pass. We’ll be fine.” I couldn’t find anyone to stop and listen to me.

Then memories were uncovered of things others said about me. It was a miserable version of “This Is Your Life”, asshole. Bitter things I’d heard, things that I hadn’t realized that I learned about later, as people spoke behind my back.

Awakening, I realized how much of this is because I’m on the cusp of achievement and decisions that prompt reflections and fears, all around writing and publishing, sharing my work, baring my efforts to others, and being fearful of exposure as an untalented poseur.

A long walk on the way to write pacified much. Thinking about the dreams, I realized that in each, I was never personally affected. I was witness, observer, and bystander, relatively unscathed by the swirl around me. That took me to conclude, this is about emotions and uncertainty. Writing it out now helped me navigate my fears and struggle free of my negative energy, at least momentarily, make some decisions and take some actions.

Time to write and edit like crazy, at least one more time this year.

The Jewish Things and German Place Dream

I know as part of the dream’s setting that I’d bought a place in Germany. It seemed like a condo or apartment in an older building. The building was a mysterious maze of rooms and halls. Most were not well lit. Rain lashed the windows and could sometimes be heard drumming.

The place I’d purchased was filled with things, which were mine, now. I was exploring, mostly in darkness, to see what these were. Spotlights lit the objects when I came across them.

One object was a black box with raised, golden letters in another language. Someone with me,  a female who was never seen and whose role wasn’t defined to me, said with excitement, “That’s Jewish.” They went on about the language on the thing. The object looked to me like it could be a complicated metal camera or something that stamped other materials to form or shape objects.

Focusing on my guide’s explanation, I heard her say, “The Nazis took things from the Jews.”

I was trying to understand how they’d come to be in this building, which now reminded me of a Nazi building I’d toured when I’d been stationed in Germany. It had apartments inside where government officials lived, along with offices.

“It belongs to you,” my mysterious female guide said.

I was excited to own something like this but also disturbed, because it had been stolen from others. My guide was going on about being able to make money from it.

I left her to explore more on my own and ended up back in my living quarters, which was part of the same building. I discovered more objects. I also discovered my quarters and new building seemed to be poorly maintained. Down in the lowest level was a ill-kept garage area. I discovered squatters had been using it, accessing the area by raising the garage door. I learned this from seeing one squatter open the garage door, revealing pouring rain, slip out, and close the door. Making a note of that, I continued walking about. Most of the flooring was missing from several levels, and animals were coming in via tunnels in some rooms.

Yet, I was excited by what I found left behind by previous tenants. My guide reappeared. Showing me something, she said, “You can sell this and easily make fifty thousand dollars.”

That pleased me, but I told her, “I’m not selling anything that was stolen from anyone.”

She said, “We don’t know if anything is stolen.” She must have known I was recalling what she said before, because she said, “Many of these things were made before world war two, but we don’t know how they got here. They could have been stolen from the Jews, or the Jews may have lived here and left them behind. They belong to you, now. That’s what was agreed when you bought the building.”

I wasn’t mollified, but I became cautiously optimistic that I could sell some things and make some money. Returning to that first black piece with the golden writing, I stood and admired it, framed in white light and surrounded by darkness.

***

As I edit and revise the Incomplete States series, I’d begun to become optimistic. I thought, maybe instead of self-publishing this series, I can find representation and a publisher.

It’s part of my never surrender approach. My hope became stronger this weekend. My wife and I saw Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin. Listening to UKLG recount how difficult it had been to become published, how nobody got her when she sought publication, but how much she believed in herself, reminded me of my writing efforts and suspended publishing efforts. My writing, as she said about her writing, is not easily categorized. Yet, I thought, too, it’s arrogant to compare myself to her, for I’m in no way her measure as a thinker and a writer.

This dream, I think, reflects my doubts and concerns. Every day, as I edit, I enjoy what I’ve written. It excites me. But doubts haunt me.

It reminds me, writing is a lonely business, especially as a struggling novelist. That, I believe accounts for the dream’s darkness and the building’s dilapidated state, and the never ending rain, putting a damper on my hopes.

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