¡FOURTEEN!

New Year

Did last year seem to blast by a little too quickly for anyone else?

I wrote The Amber Ring in 2012, and it is now 2014 – this realization makes me feel…less productive than I should like.  I suppose I did write a screenplay last year, but it still needs another couple rounds of revisions before it could be considered finished.

I’m not really one for resolutions; they’re prone to be a source of either stress or disappointment (or, more likely, both).  But perhaps there’s little harm in simply naming a few things I’d like to accomplish this year.  That way, they’re out there, so I’ll feel properly shamed if I don’t live up to the task, but not so burdened with self-loathing as I would were I to say with definitive ardor that they will be done.

Et sic,

  • I won’t delude myself into thinking I’ll finish the book I started in early 2011, but it’d be nice to make another huge dent in it.
  • I need to complete work on the aforementioned screenplay, and write another – particularly considering they’re already paid for.  I’d also like to see production start in earnest on one of them, but that’s not really under my control.  (>^-‘)>
  • Doing another novella would be fun.  I have a handful of concepts itching at my mind, but I need to focus on one of them and flesh it out.
  • Maybe write a short story in verse, or compile a collection of silly poetry in the vein of Shel Silverstein.  Nothing I can realistically expect interest in, but endeavors that would nonetheless appeal to me for their own sake.
  • Providing more interesting content for Writin’ Fish would be good, so long as I find the time and ideas (and don’t draw the ire of the slog).

 

There you have it, then.  I’d be happy to cross even one or two of these off, really.  So we’ll see what happens.

Here’s hoping for a productive and enjoyable year for everyone!

 

Bene scribete.

Upcoming eBook Services

It’s been a good week for the world of eBooks, with not just one, but two separate announcements – one from someone big, one from someone small – on new ways we’ll soon have to get these things on our devices.

 

MatchBook Logo

Amazon’s MatchBook service, launching next month, is just the sort of thing I’ve been waiting for – buy a physical copy of the book, and get the digital one for free.  Sensible enough, right?  Well, actually, it’s buy the book in print and get the eBook for $2.99 or less, but I’m optimistic that publishers will eventually gravitate toward electing the free option.  The film industry has done this with movies for a while now (DVDs and Blu-rays all seem to come with free digital downloads these days), and Amazon itself gives away free MP3s with CD purchases.  It seems a little odd that books – far more basic than these other media types – are once again last to the party (and not even fully committed to complimentary yet), but as they say, it’s better late than never.

Naturally, the service is limited to Kindle eBooks, but Kindle applications are ubiquitous, and Amazon does have the largest library.  Plus, as is the norm with the industry, B&N and others will likely soon enough follow suit.  So I’d call it a good thing all around, and a smart move on Amazon’s part that will simultaneously support both print and digital media, keeping readers and publishers happy.  I was even excited about the prospect of The Amber Ring being be a free download with the purchase of its paperback, until I quickly remembered that the Kindle version is free anyway…  (>^-‘)>

 

Oyster Books logo

Oyster – a much-anticipated “Netflix for books”, as it were – made its initial launch yesterday as an invite-only iPhone application, with open enrollment and support for other devices to come over time.  For $9.95 a month, Oyster offers unlimited reading of any and all books in its library (100,000 and growing).  HarperCollins is the only big house they’ve got on board to start with, but if they can secure one, and the service takes off, it’s not too hard to imagine that they will score others.  For the meantime, it looks like they’re also happy to work with smaller presses and independent authors.

Again, with services like Netflix and Spotify having existed for years, it’s strange to think that it’s taken this long for anyone to adopt such a model with books, but here’s to hoping that it does as well as its counterparts!

 

Bene scribete.

Synopses

While putting the finishing touches on The Amber Ring these last couple weeks, I figured I’d also better throw together a full synopsis for it.

Synopses are kind of a drag.

Not because they’re hard to write – I’ve had more than my fair share of practice summarizing.  It’s because they’re not always easy to keep exciting.  Maintaining something of the flavor and tone of your work while drying it up to its basic elements can be a frustrating task.  I’m certain there are numerous others who can give better advice on the subject than I can, but since I’m here, and so, ostensibly, are you, I’ll go over some of the things I like to keep in mind.

There’s no real easy, short-cut way to approach the whole process, but here are a few points to ponder:

 

Tip of a fish

Synopsis Considerations

 

  • A synopsis is typically a two-to-eight page summary of the entire work – the big twists, the ending, everything (important).
  • The editor or agent you’re submitting to might have a specific requirement as to what constitutes a page, but if not, double-spaced 12-point Courier New with one inch margins is a good place to start.
  • The first paragraph is often best utilized in setting up the chief protagonist – who she is, and how she got to where she is when the story begins.  If you already have a pitch line, it might fit nicely in here.  The remaining paragraphs will then recount the events that constitute the story in the order in which they are presented.
  • At least to start with, only include details essential to understanding the main plot; subplots can be added in order of precedence if there is room left in your alloted space and it would make the summary stronger on the whole.
  • The manuscript to synopsis event space ratio can be wildly inconsistent.  Some scenes may take half a sentence, some half a page, depending on how much plot-essential material they contain.  Some scenes can be omitted altogether.
  • Use strong, descriptive, succinct language (because it’s that easy, right?  (>^-‘)> ).  Word economy is paramount.
  • It’s O.K. to be a little conversational; it can help to engage the reader.
  • If you need some ideas on summarizing, look up recaps for TV episodes, or pull up your favorite films on Wikipedia and read the plot sections.  These usually constitute what amounts to synopsis copy.
  • If you’re really stuck on a blank page, you can try zero-drafting (or better yet, dictating if you have speech-to-text software) your initial go by describing the story, stream-of-conscious, from start to finish as you would a good book or movie to a friend.  You can always edit the result up or down as needed, or scrap it and try again.
  • Cheat.  If page format isn’t directly specified, and you’re aiming for a certain length, tweak the margins and line spacing (but preferably not the font) to your advantage.
  • It doesn’t hurt to conclude the synopsis with a poetic statement that encapsulates some important thematic element from the story’s ending.
  • Have someone who has not read your work take a look at the finished synopsis, and ask them if the story when presented thus is easily followable, makes sense, and is free from superfluous material.

 

Ultimately, a synopsis just serves as a quick overview of a story’s plot to ensure that it’s coherent, original, and interesting.  It doesn’t have to be as brilliantly executed as the manuscript, but anything you can do within its limits to show off the promise of your work will surely be a point in your favor.

 

Bene scribete.

Novella Excerpt

The first draft of The Amber Ring is completed, and at 98 pages, I find myself with an intended short story that became a novelette that’s now closer to a novella.

It keeps getting bigger.

Oops?

 

As I work on putting together a presentable second draft for test reading, I thought I would share a short little scene to give a brief glimpse at its protagonist, twelve-year-old Maya Corona.

 

       As Maya half-attentively filled out the answers to her math test, she found her eyes drifting toward the clock above Ms. Patch’s desk, subconsciously counting down the minutes, as she often did, until the tedium of the school day was over.
       Her wandering eyes also noticed Braden Thomas, who sat at the desk to her right, surreptitiously sneaking a glance at her paper in regular intervals. She contemplated calling him out, or even writing down the wrong answers on purpose, but then decided to just let him cheat. If he could get through school without bothering to learn anything for himself, he would be one less person to pose any real competition for an eventual job, which people were always saying was hard to get these days.
       As she shifted to give him a better view of her exam, she felt something grind against her leg. It was Sofia’s ring; she had left it in her pocket.
       Her mind went unwillingly to the previous night. It had been strange to see Cam again. To think of him without Sofia. His charismatic pluck replaced with that crestfallen timidity. Maya wanted to leave the Fairwoods behind her, and had expected them not to not think twice about returning the favor. Her involvement had been limited to the occasional tag-along with her sister, and she had never done anything of importance there. She had been clear on where she stood, though, hadn’t she? Would they leave her alone, now?
       “Two minutes,” Ms. Patch droned.
       At the edge of her vision Maya saw Braden gripping his pencil tightly, throwing nervous glances her way. Quickly, to his obvious relief, she scribbled down the remaining answers to the test.

 

Bene scribete.