Wednesday, 30 November 2016

How to Write a Synopsis

Most writers would gladly write another novel instead of a synopsis. But like flossing and dinner with the in-laws, it is unavoidable and essential.

First of all, keep it simple. It's like a query, but with an ending.

Compare it to making soup; throw all the stuff in, let it simmer, reduce and keep reducing until it's done.

Step 1. Start by organizing your story in fifteen sentences. I like to use Blake Snyder's beat sheet.

Step 2. Trim it down. Be ruthless. Subplots can go. Focus on the main character's journey. They should learn something by the end of the novel. 

Step 3. Have someone who hasn't read your book go over the synopsis. It should make sense to them with a clear idea of the story. Surprisingly, a theme you never intended, will usually become obvious once you draw up your synopsis. 

As an example, here's a synopsis of
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which I trimmed down from the Plot Like a Pro post.

Ten-year-old Harry Potter lives with his spiteful Aunt and Uncle, and abusive cousin. He is repeatedly reminded how lucky he is to have a roof over his head, despite the fact his parents had the audacity to get killed in a car accident when he was an infant.

But when mysterious letters keep arriving for Harry, his Uncle isn't upset, he's downright terrified. One night, a massive man with a woolly coat and beard arrives to announce that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy is waiting for Harry's reply.

Harry is stunned to learn the true nature of his parent's death at the hands of an evil wizard named Lord Voldemort, and as a young wizard, he's due to start his magical education at Hogwarts.

Harry fears that he will not fit in, having never been exposed to magic. He is befriended by a stuttering, Professor Quirrell. During the sorting ceremony, Harry chooses to be in Gryffindor as opposed to Slytherin—the house which Lord Voldemort was placed as a student.

Harry learns a magical item that grants immortality, The Philosopher's Stone, has gone missing. After a Slytherin student tricks Harry into a midnight duel, he discovers a trap door guarded by a three headed dog and he speculates what's being protected.

Harry is pleased to discover he's a natural at Quidditch, a football style game played on broomsticks, and he enjoys the admiration from his classmates.

Having never been given presents, Harry has the best Christmas at Hogwarts with his new friends. He anonymously receives an invisibility cloak, which enables him to sneak around looking for clues about the trapdoor. Instead, he finds 'the mirror of erised'. In the reflection of the magical glass, Harry sees himself with his parents. He forgets about his real friends, choosing to spend all his time looking into the mirror.

While serving detention in the forbidden forest, Harry witnesses the murder of a unicorn and is saved by Firenze, one of the centaurs, who foretells that Lord Voldemort will once again rise to power. Harry realizes the man who murdered his parents will be coming for him next.

Fearing Snape, the head of Sytherin and the mean spirited potions master, is going to steal the Philosophers Stone to make the elixir of life for Lord Voldemort, Harry and his two best friends go down the trapdoor, hoping to grab it first.

After passing harrowing tests of skill through a series of chambers, Harry is the last one left to find the stone. With only a first year's knowledge of magic, he must face Snape alone. But Harry discovers Professor Quirrell is the real villain at Hogwarts who has been helping Lord Voldemort.

Knowing his parents died saving him, Harry feels overwhelming courage and finally believes in the power of their love. Harry defeats Quirrell (and Lord Voldemort) by using the mirror of erised.

Harry recuperates and accepts magic as his true destiny. The friends he's made at Hogwarts are his real family, and that he will never be alone again.

What are some of your tips to writing a synopsis?

Congratulations, you made it to the end of the post. Enjoy this link to a fabulous recipe for
chicken stew with butternut squash.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Novel Spotlight AN ANGEL'S SONG

AN ANGEL'S SONG (The Earth Bound Series #4)
 by Sharon Saracino

Passion is easy, love is harder.

After ten years of separation, Tessa and Alec are called to the deathbed of Tessa’s father and tasked with solving a mystery that points to WWII, the Nazi r├ęgime, and the shadowy world of the Djinn. Although their passion still burns, forgiveness requires more than desire.

Alec, the Riddle King to the Defensori, is used to shutting out the world and working on his puzzles alone. But this time, he can’t shut Tessa out. This time, he needs his estranged wife's help. Tessa and her gift hold the key, and failure could cost her sanity…or her life.

Insecurity, immaturity, and misunderstanding drove them apart. Can they rebuild their shattered trust and work together to rescue a captive Djinni, stay one step ahead of the servants of the Fallen, and save their marriage along with Tessa’s life?

Now available!
Barnes & Noble
Wild Rose Press

About the Author

Award winning author, Sharon Saracino, was born and  raised in beautiful  Northeastern Pennsylvania. Always the girl with her nose in a book,  and frequently announced that someday she was going to write a one. One milestone birthday ( we won't discuss which one!) she decided someday would be here and gone if she didn't get her butt in gear.  Sharon is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter, and the Maryland Romance Writers.  She plans to win the lottery just as soon as she  remembers to purchase a ticket,  fantasizes about moving to Italy, brews limoncello, and believes there's always magic to be found if you only take the time to look for it!

Connect with Sharon!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Give Your Drab Scene the Norman Rockwell Treatment

When I was a little girl, my family and I would spend every Easter holiday on Prince Edward Island at my Grandmother's little bungalow on Willow Avenue.

Aside from the marshmallow-coconut squares and Froot Loops she'd have waiting for me, she also gave me all the pennies she'd collected since I'd last seen her—these were quickly spent at the candy store, one block up, past the blue house with the barking dog.

However, my fondest memories of those visits were looking through her collection of coffee table books. In particular she had a phone book thick edition of Norman Rockwell prints.

I spent hours sitting crossed legged on her living room floor, with that massive book open on my lap. I studied each image, amazed at the detail and sometimes suspiciously wondered if it was really a photograph instead.

Marriage License
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But it wasn't only the technique I admired, it was the character in each picture that was so charming; the bride standing up on tip toe to sign the bridal registry, or the plastic flowers in the old woman's hat, intent on saying grace in a smoky and crowded diner.

Saying Grace
photo credit,

These touches of personality hinted at something more, something bigger...something alive. To me, each picture was a snap shot of someone's life, and I had the feeling the story kept going, long after I closed the cover.

Sadly, Granny passed away many years ago, but I still have that book, and when I flip through it's pages these days, I look at it with my writer's eye.

Normal Rockwell once said that if he hadn't become a painter he would have liked to have been a movie director. This makes perfect sense because after all, movie directors tell us a story.

Happy Birthday, Miss Jones
photo credit,
Steven Spielberg, who is no stranger to story telling, has this picture in his hallway.

He says out of all the art work in his home, Happy Birthday, Miss Jones, causes most people to pause for a few minutes.

What do you notice first?

The teacher? The girl with the pretty yellow bow? The boy with the eraser on his head?

Look at the expression on Miss Jones' face, she seems genuinely warmed by the surprise. The teacher is neither young or pretty and my writer's mind wonders if this is the only birthday greeting she'll receive.

Perhaps later, after a supper of toast and tea in her little apartment, she'll blow out one candle on a cupcake she bought herself. What would her wish be? Or maybe this is her happy ending—the unruly class that she struggled with all year, finally show some gratitude. 

And what about the little girl with the big expensive looking bow in her hair? Was it her idea to surprise Miss Jones, or was she the one to step on the piece of chalk, crushing it into the floor?

I'm guessing the boy sitting up straight and tall with the eraser on his head, is the one who impishly wrote the curly 'y' making her last name spell 'Jonesy'.

I wonder whose story this is and if it's the beginning, the middle, or the end.

It's the small details that bring this scene to life. There are so many possible stories taking place in this one picture, it's simply brilliant.

I try to remember Norman Rockwell when I'm writing. I step back and look at the big picture (pardon the pun) and try to imagine the little elements of personality I can add to help make the scene come alive.

photo credit,
Let's play a game. Consider this piece entitled, The Homecoming.

Who do you focus on? What catches your attention? Whose story do you want to know?

Break this scene down into one sentence and leave it in my comment section. It's amazing how many different ways writers can look at the same thing.

And since no one ever wants to be first up to the buffet, I'll dive in and get the party started.

She leaned against the wall, feeling the heat of the bricks through her thin dress, please let him think I'm still pretty, she wished.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Ten Commandments for Writers

Have you lost sight of your plot? Are your characters being oppositional? Is the blank page mocking you?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it's time to regroup and rejuvenate those writerly cells of yours. I know writerly isn't a word, but it's cute.

Thanks, Charlton. I'll take it from here.
photo credit
1. Thou shall not use the passive voice. Think action. Don't give the object all the attention, this story is about your characters, damn it!

2. Thou shall not complain about agents/editors on social media like T
witter or Facebook. Seriously, save the spitting for the coffee shop with your friends. All your public whining makes you sound—well whiny.

3. Thou shall not bore the reader to death with unnecessary description. Why spend three paragraphs describing how your character got from the bedroom to the kitchen? Just write, 
She went to the kitchen.  

4. Thou shall not make characters stare in a mirror and narrate what they look like. The use of dialogue and mannerisms conveys more about the character than their eye color.

5. Thou shall not use stereotypes to create one dimensional characters. "The bad guy" could be any of us on a certain day. Like in real life, everyone sees themselves as the star of their own story. Be aware of this motivation for all of your chacaters.

6. Thou shall not make a love triangle purely to move the plot forward. It's more interesting when the reader has no idea who the author wants to hook up.

7. Thou shall not have everything work out for your MC. Stop being so nice. I know you love them, but it's super boring to read about a character who always has a best friend to help her out. Make her suffer! Kick her while she's down, and then make her clean up the mess.

8. Thou shall not be afraid to use the "C" word. Yup, that's right. CONFLICT. See above.

9. Thou shall not GIVE UP. Overnight success is the result of years of hard work. Writing as a serious business, you have to grow a thick skin and learn to be patient, otherwise you'll be disappointed.

10. Go back and read number nine again, it's worth repeating.

 Any other wise sayings to add?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Novel Spotlight THE PIRATE'S LADY

The Pirate’s Lady by Tricia Schneider

Psst...don't forget to scroll down for the giveaway!

Captain Marco Dante was captured and sentenced to hang two years ago, but he escaped before his punishment was carried out. Now he's come back to the woman whose memory kept him alive those long months in prison. Arianne had been his grand passion, but he failed to see how much she meant to him until it was too late. Can he recapture her heart? Or has he lost her forever?

Arianne never imagined she’d see her notorious pirate lover again. Though her heart sings with joy at his return, she knows he hasn't come back for her but for the treasure he left behind. She agrees to help him find it, but can her heart withstand one more adventure with him?


“I have a life here now.”

“There’s nothing for you here. Your place is by my side. In your heart, you know ’tis true.”

She looked away, turning her gaze to the ocean’s waves pounding the beach with hypnotic rhythm. A few moments ago, she sat here, mulling over her life’s misfortunes and attempting to reach a decision about her future. Her fate.

Arianne shook her head. “I no longer travel your path. You sail without me, my friend.”

She pushed her bare toes into the grainy sand and stood, brushing the remaining sand that clung to her petticoats. In the silence of the crashing waves, she turned and walked away.

Inside, her heart bled. Yet, she deserved no better. Her life led to this heartache. That she walked away from this man now, after all this time only confirmed it.

“Arianne, you’re coming with me.”

His serious tone warned her of his intentions. She spun to face him, unsheathing her sword in time to block his attack. The sound of metal striking metal pierced the moonlit darkness. Her ears rang with the sound.

They stood, neither moving. She stared into his eyes. “You would take me by force?”

“Never by force,” his voice lowered to a growl. “You will come willingly.” And he smiled, that knowing one she hated.

She let out a howl of outrage and swung her sword. He easily blocked. They stepped a deadly dance of striking blades, until again they were trapped by heated gazes.

Her breathing was heavy, labored, filled with excitement. She looked at his lips, wanting to taste them but knowing she dared not. Her will was never strong around him. With one touch she might lose herself and want him again for forever. But that dream would never be achievable with Marco.

With him, she’d always be alone.

“Come with me, Arianne.”

“No.” She pushed away and again they danced. Her feet moved lightly as she sprang, her petticoats swirling with each movement though she hoped they would not entangle her legs. Her arm swung with lithe movements as she fought.

She equaled him with skill and grace. Each time their swords clashed, the noise pierced her soul. That she fought him was a testament to her determination to escape his tyranny over her heart. She could not succumb to him again.

As they battled, a sheen of sweat appeared upon his brow. The exposed skin of his chest glistened in the moonlight. His arms flexed as he swung his sword. His grace, his power, his energy seduced her.

Her heart pounded. Her skin ached to touch his. The heat in her lower regions grew to a fiery inferno. She trembled.

Again, they locked blades.

They stood a moment, staring. His gaze burned into her soul. She licked the salty sweat from her upper lip, and his eyes followed the movement with utter fascination.

He pushed their swords away. With his free hand, he grabbed her shoulder, pulling her tight against his chest. Arianne tilted her head to look into his eyes. The blue depths called to her, like the ocean’s waves licking at her feet. The yearning to go to him was too great.

She hadn’t the will to fight.

About the Author:

Tricia Schneider is an author of historical, paranormal and gothic romance. Before the supernatural took possession of her pen, she worked for several years as Assistant Manager and bookseller at Waldenbooks. After the store closed, she turned to writing fiction full-time. She has written both short stories and full-length novels published by The Wild Rose Press, including her newest book, The Pirate's Lady, and her historical paranormal romance series, The Merriweather Witches. Tricia is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives in the Pennsylvania coal region with her musician husband, their 4 young children and 3 rescued cats.

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$20.00 Amazon eGift Card


a Pirate Treasure Chest Trinket Box

Monday, 7 November 2016

How To Give Your Readers An Unforgettable Ending

A story is more than a sequence of events that lead to a crisis and result in a resolution—it is a journey that should invest us emotionally, so that by the time our hero faces the crisis we're hoping for a happy ending for him.

Earlier, I posted about great
beginnings, building the action through the middle, and how to write a nail biting climax. Now I'd like to focus on making sure your conclusion resonates with the reader in a way that is both rewarding and incendiary.

There are a number of ways to finish a story, but depending on what kind of ending you'd like to write, you'll have to ask yourself these questions.

Will my hero succeed in achieving the story goal?

What do I want my hero to learn?

Do I want him to learn from his mistake or his success?

Whether you want a happy outcome or not, your ending will probably fall into one of the four categories.

Comedy. The protagonist achieves the story goal and his success results in a positive outcome.

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is able to find the true meaning of humanity and vows to change his ways, becoming a charitable person for the rest of his life.

photo credit,

2. Tragedy. The protagonist fails to achieve the story goal, and his failure results in a negative outcome.

The Crucible, John Procter is falsely accused of being a witch and is unable to convince the courts of his former lover's jealousy towards his wife. He is forced to falsely confess, but in the end he is unwilling to lie and is hung to die.

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3. Tragi-comedy. The protagonist fails to achieve the goal, but his failure results in a positive outcome.

The Golden Compass, Lyra is unable to save her best friend, but his death results in her discovery of a bridge between worlds.
photo credit,

4. Comi-tragedy. The protagonist achieves the goal, but his success results in a negative outcome.

The Great Gatsby, Jay uses criminal means to acquire the riches and lifestyle he's sought after in hopes of impressing Daisy, only to lose her and eventually his life.

No matter which ending you create for your hero, make certain you conclude with the same style and voice you've established throughout the story. And remember, even though you may not have a happy ending, the central conflict must be resolved, and loose ends or significant questions should be answered.

I hope you found this helpful. You may want to check out Glen C. Strathy's site. He has excellent tips for plotting, and in particular, nailing your ending.

What are some of your memorable endings?

Saturday, 5 November 2016


A Dinner Club Murder Mystery

Recent widow, Jane Marsh, is determined to recapture a rich, full life. She strives for youthful fun by riding a bicycle downtown on her lunch hour in a suit and heels, smoking cigars, eating at hipster restaurants, and re-entering the dating scene, even if her dates prove to be peculiar. Her most fervent desire, though, is to join an exclusive dinner club. She auditions, but is barred when her housekeeper is found murdered, and she and her guest list become the suspect list. Her, a killer? So what if her two late husbands died under suspicious circumstances. It doesn’t make her a killer. Having passed off a store bought Bundt cake as her own creation, she may have committed a culinary crime, but never murder!

Now available from Wild Rose Press!

About the Author

Karen C. Whalen is the author of the Dinner Club Murder Mystery series. She works as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado. Karen has been a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and participates in a local writing group, the Louisville Writers Workshop.  In addition to hosting dinner club events for a number of years (although, murder was not involved), Karen loves to hike and bike ride under the robin-egg blue skies of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Connect with Karen


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