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Synopsis Xibalba

My only goal through MayNoWriMo was finishing the Maya#2 synopsis.  That sounds easy — until you realize I haven’t written the book yet.

So really what I had to do was build my characters, plot out the story, and THEN write the synopsis.  I had Tara and Quinn started thanks to an axed subplot from THE BLOODGATE GUARDIAN, but they needed significant work in order to carry an entire 60K+ story. 

Then, the plotting.  My favorite thing to do.  Not.

The problem (for me) in writing this synopsis was I couldn’t pare it down to the bare bones, because I don’t have the book.  If I came up with a cool development or crucial understanding (for me as the author, whether it would end up directly in the story or not), then I had to write it down, for fear I’d forget if I didn’t.  I mean, it might be months before I get back to this book.  I know I’ll never remember all those little details.

I’m thrilled to say that I finished the synopsis tonight.  *angels singing*

On the down side, it’s a MONSTER.  6K!  The absolute longest synopsis I’ve ever written.  *boggles*  I detailed internal and external conflict; character traits; antagonist motivations; Maya mythology details; the romance arc; and of course, the plot.  I used the hero’s journey and mapped out Ordinary World, two major turning points, the Dark Moment, and the final Climax and Resolution. 

There’s absolutely no reason I shouldn’t be able to sit down and write this book straight through without any difficulties or confusion thanks to this outline, yet I’m still worried.  Have I written this detailed synopsis only to kill my excitement for the story?  Nooo, I don’t think so.  I’m still excited about the story…just sick of the synopsis.

Of course a 6K synopsis isn’t something I’m going to torture my editor with.  *evil laugh*  So before the end of the month, I need to revise and strip down to something she might actually want to read instead of all these notes and details for myself.  Once I get something useable, I’ll blog more about how I used notecards to plot and write the synopsis.

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The Best Damned Story I Can Write…Today

This morning, I reached a place in this writing journey that I’ve never been before.

Awhile back there was some blog storm about when a story should be submitted.  Jessica Faust at BookEnds wrote that Good Enough is Never Enough, and obsessive-compulsive writers everywhere panicked.  At the time, I totally agreed with Jessica.  I would never send out less than PERFECT work, but I also realize that perfect today is not what I will be able to write in a year or more. 

Heh, at one time I was perfectly happy with a little story titled “My Beloved Barbarian” and proudly sent it off to an RWA contest, only to be mortified when the judge sheets came back.  Head hopping?  What’s that?  You mean, the horse can’t have its own point of view?  *wails*


Personally, I’m always driven.  I’m in a rush to finish, and submit.  Now, not yesterday.  NOW! Go go GO!  However, I’m also painfully obsessive about making sure the work is my best. 

If you’ve been reading here long, you know that I’ve been struggling with the Maya story.  I’ve already detailed its long painful history, but suffice it to say that I just couldn’t get the blasted thing RIGHT.  Every time I thought it was done, I decided it needed yet another revision pass.  I’ve spent months in Revision Xibalba since the first draft in 2007, toiling over massive, painful revisions or struggling to whip out a synopsis that captured the spirit of the story.  I felt trapped in Xibalba myself — constantly drowning in this imperfect project that I simply couldn’t get off my back. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love this story, absolutely.  It’s a total heart-wrencher and satisfies my personal craving for Story and Mythology; however, even though it’s one of the most complex and rich stories I’ve written, I could not get it to a place where I felt like I could really say I was finished.

After at least four major revision passes and four different attempts at a synopsis, I made my declaration yesterday:  Synopsis or Death!  I wrote out that synopsis in painful, brutal detail, refusing to go to bed until a cohesive draft was prepared.  Nearly two full packs of index cards met their death in the attempt.

Braced for the worst, I re-read my synopsis this morning.  I made a few slight changes.

And then I kicked that blasted submission package out of the nest with the first query.

Yes, friends, I reached a point where I was so sick of a story that I knew it was time to let it fly, or crash and burn.  If I polish the manuscript one more time, I think its obsidian-mirrored shine will simply rub off.  If I dink around with the synopsis again, I’m going to cut out my own heart and offer it as bloody sacrifice at the peak of the pyramid.

It’s the best damned story I can write today, and so, farewell blithe spirit.  I wish thee safe travels out in the scary wilds of Queryland.  May your hunt for Agent be fruitful.

It’s time for me to move on.

Victor, here’s fair warning that Gregar and I are coming.  We’re coming for YOU.

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Synopsis or Death: Update

So here’s how I tackled the synopsis from Xibalba today.

First, I jotted all my misc. notes onto the index cards.  I also read each of the previous synopses and wrote down the key phrases I wanted to keep onto cards.  I had two really shitty drafts completed, and one partial.  Each one I’ve really struggled with, and they’re definitely not fit to send out. 

Even if I ended up with duplicate information, I went ahead and wrote the best pieces down, trying to keep each idea short and sweet so it fit on the card.  With this pass, I ended up with 51 cards in no particular order.

For the second pass, I started going through the cards to consolidate or eliminate as I went.  They naturally began to fall into a semblance of order.  I rewrote the ideas card by card, tossing each attempt until it read almost exactly how I’d want the synopsis to read.  I concentrated on the opening first, and ended up with about 10 cards.  Then I tackled the next chunk and smoothed, revised, etc. until I had about 20 cards.  Repeat.  Until I finally had 52 cards in order.  As I went, the three story threads began weaving together, just as they did in the main story.

Yeah, I added cards at this point, but I decided not to stress about it.  I just wanted a complete and cohesive picture of all three story threads, start to finish, with all the necessary emotion and motivations I wanted to convey.

For the third pass, I concentrated more on elimination and streamlining.  I rewrote most of the cards, fine tuning and working to get down to 42 cards.  That’s still way more than I expected to have, but I felt that each card was pretty important.  I had to open the second pack of index cards because I’d tossed so many.

Finally, about 9:30 PM (after the monsters went to bed) I began typing up all my notes.  It ended up complete at 2,151 words.  Is it just another shitty synopsis that I’ll have to throw out?  Lord, I hope not.  My fingers and hands are KILLING me from all this hand writing and then frantic typing!

But I’m finally done.  At least for now.

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Synopsis or Death!

Give me synopsis, or give me death!  My apologies to Patrick Henry, but one way or the other, I’m going to finish a draft of the Maya synopsis.  TODAY. 

I actually made some decent progress using post-it notes a few days ago, but they’re expensive enough that I didn’t let myself really get in there and mess up–like I need to–in order to find the right words.  With school supplies lining the halls at Wal-Mart — ironically, I still had to make three loops through the store to find everything the monsters needed — I bought a bunch of cheap index cards.  So cheap that I can write down trite crap and wad it up without feeling guilty.

Sometimes you just have to write down the crap to find the good stuff.

I’ll report back in tonight with how I did.

I have two brand new packs of index cards, and I’m not afraid to use them.