#TeamVenom Synopsis Tips

pitchwars, writing

#TeamVenom is back with synopsis tips! If you missed out and have no idea who Team Venom is, who we are, and what is the meaning of life and queries, peep back to our last post.

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This year’s Pitch Wars submission requires a synopsis, along with a query letter. Writing one for the first time can be overwhelming if you’re unsure of what to include, but they are important to both you as the author and the agent looking at it. The in-depth summary shows if a character isn’t growing, or if they’re too passive in the plot, or if the plot meanders. The very structure of synopses can reveal these things, so it’s important for you to examine it and see if it reveals anything missing in your plot.


TIPS:

  • If you’re stuck on where to even get started (welcome to Kim one year ago), writing chapter summaries can help a lot. It’s even better if your manuscript is split into acts. You can even think of that as a “very long synopsis”. Since agents all have different preferences for synopsis length (we’ve seen as short as a paragraph and as long as 2 pages), we suggest having one longer version that can be shortened depending on requirements. A good standard length is simply one page.
  • Focus on the cause and effect of your story, so “When her sister is chosen for the deadly Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place.” Think of your story as the scenes proceeding with “therefore”s and “but”s between them to show their relation, rather than “and”s (one thing happening after another). Seeing your plot events in this light can reveal to you whether your story’s threads all tie together, rather than just things happening to your character one after another.
  • Focus on turning points in your plot to decide how to organize it; what makes your character switch their objective, their opinion, their desires. Stray away from showing too many subplots or extraneous details in the synopsis; only the plot-lines and details that contribute to the main action and emotional storylines should be shown.
  • Should exhibit your character’s internal arc and how they change with the plot and how the plot challenges them.
  • Use basic descriptions. This isn’t the place to try out new prose. If your character decides to move onto the next plot point because they’re frustrated, simply state the emotion, and keep it focused on the plot. “Frustrated her mother will not let her leave the tower, she forces Flynn Rider to escort her safely to the Festival of Lights.”
  • SPOIL THE ENDING. The synopsis is where you reveal all the major things. Most importantly, the way you present the ending should reveal the protagonist’s growth.
  • Don’t worry if it sounds dry when you read it. You’re summing up your entire manuscript in one or two pages, so you don’t have the space to include all those gorgeous descriptions and heart-wrenching emotions. But you should still try to convey the tone of your novel and you can fit that by being purposeful with your word choice.
  • Ask a few people to read it and see if they can point out anywhere that your protagonist loses agency, or where the plot derails, or if it seems like any major plotlines are left unresolved.

    Good synopsis links:

    1. Marissa Meyer – 6 Step Book Synopsis
    2. Jane Friedman – How to Write a Novel Synopsis
    3. Jericho Writers – Synopsis

    MOCK SYNOPSIS

    We wrote a synopsis example for Mulan at standard length.

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    After a failed and dishonorable attempt with the matchmaker, FA MULAN receives even worse news–her father has been conscripted by the Chinese EMPEROR to fight against the invading Huns. Unwilling to let her elderly father go to war, she steals his old armor and disguises herself as a man to enlist instead, despite the risk that she might die in war or get caught and executed. Upon her departure, Mulan’s ancestors convene and order MUSHU, a small dragon and disgraced former guardian, to awaken the great stone dragon to protect Mulan. When he accidentally destroys it instead, he takes on the role as his own and resolves to protect Mulan himself.

    As Mulan struggles in military training, Mushu attempts to teach her how to behave like a man. She gradually becomes a trained warrior under the command of LI SHANG. In an effort to see Mulan succeed and prove himself as a guardian, Mushu fakes an order from Shang’s commander father, ordering Shang to follow the main imperial army into the mountains. When they arrive, they see the camp has been burned down and learn that the troops were killed by the Huns. As they leave the mountains, they are ambushed by the Huns. Mulan, using her ingenuity and new military training knowledge, fires a cannon to cause an avalanche which buries most of the invaders. The enemy’s captain, SHAN YU, slashes her in the chest, and her deception is revealed when the wound is bandaged. She waits to be executed.

    But Shang, who is grateful for her friendship and witnessed her brave fight against the invaders, spares her life and expels her from the army instead. Alone, Mulan watches the other recruits head to the imperial city to report the destruction. However, she sees that several Hun warriors, including Shan Yu, have survived and are on their way to the city to capture the emperor. When Mulan arrives with the news, Shang is angry to see her and is unconvinced that she’s telling the truth about Shan Yu’s survival. The Huns capture the emperor and seize the palace. Shang finally believes her, but they now stand alone against the Huns.

    Mulan helps disguise a few soldiers as concubines to sneak into the palace. With Shang’s help, they defeat Shan Yu’s men. Shang stops Shan Yu from assassinating the Emperor. Mulan then lures Shan Yu onto the roof and engages him in combat by herself. As the fight turns dire, Mushu fires a large rocket at Shan Yu. It strikes, sending him into a fireworks launching tower, where he dies in the explosion.

    The Emperor and the citizens praise Mulan. She accepts the crest of the Emperor and the sword of Shan Yu as gifts, but she declines the Emperor’s offer to be his advisor and asks to return to her family. Her father is thrilled to have her back and safe. Shang, who’s fallen in love with Mulan, comes to the house and is invited to stay for dinner. Mushu is reinstated as a Fa family guardian by the ancestors for his valiant efforts to help Mulan and protect the imperial city.


    We hope our tips were helpful. Be sure to peep in for our next post where we will be revealing our mentor wishlist!

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    Tackling a Multi-POV Query Letter

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    Developing an effective query letter is a necessary skill in the publishing world, but that doesn’t mean we all feel like we’re good at it. I am here to tell you that for me, writing a query letter is more difficult than writing the actual book.

    Me: How can I possibly sum up everything that happens in this book?
    Rational Me: You just need to focus on the main plot of the book, of course.
    Me: But you see… the way the plot’s set up… with these three main characters…
    Rational Me: No excuses! Make it happen. Stare at the blank document for three hours if you have to!

    And that’s typically what happens any time that I try to summarize anything I write. Maybe this is because I still feel so new to writing even though I’ve been writing since I can remember. If you write a book, you should certainly be able to sum it up and pitch it easily, right?

    Not exactly.

    It does come easy to some people, just as narrative voice and strong world-building come easy to others. We all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses. One of mine is talking/writing about my books. I can squeal to my close writing friends about my finished manuscript or a new idea, but when it comes to breaking down my story into its foundations and developing an enticing pitch with strategic diction and just the right amount of information, I fall flat on my face.

    Don’t even get me started on writing a synopsis. We’re not on speaking terms right now.

    While a query letter includes personalization to an appropriate agent and an author bio of sorts (more of that another time), I’m only going to be talking about the pitch portion. More specifically, a query pitch that involves multiple POVs.

    When I was querying, I scoured threads and blogs about how to write a multiple POV query, and the advice ranged, but A LOT OF PEOPLE said that even a story with ten POVs has one main character and you should choose the most prominent MC, then work your pitch around that character’s story and their connection to the plot.

    I thought long about this, even mocked up a few query letters revolving around just one character, while still mentioning that the story was a multi-POV. But if your plot is told through two or three equal viewpoints, how is a one-sided pitch going to display that revolving POV aspect that brings your plot together as a whole?

    My answer as a Slytherin: break the rules.

    I included all three POVS of my main characters in my query letter. This was helpful, yet made it more difficult in a way, because now not only did I have to struggle with summarizing one character… I had to tackle three. And I did so in three steps.

    Step 1:

    I asked myself three simple, yet important questions about each character.

    1. Who is the character?
    2. What do they want?
    3. What is stopping them from getting what they want?

    Step 2:

    I wrote it ugly. Literally typed it out like I would to my friends.

    Csilla is a badass captain who wants to be the first Pirate Queen, but she has to beat a bunch of dudes, including her ex-lover, in a treasure hunt. Stabby-stab.

    Kane is the ultimate brood-master who wants to be the next Pirate King so that he can live up to the legacy of his asshole dad, but his chance at winning the crown gets screwed up by a stowaway who changes basically everything.

    Lorelei is a cool chick who is on a hunt for revenge, but when she starts hearing creepy ass whispers in her head, she learns she’s someone else’s target for revenge. CUE THE DRAMA FOR YOUR MAMA.

    Thennnnnnnn one I got it all out, I made it prettier.

    Step 3:

    Lastly, I did one final bit to bring together all three characters’ stories and why they’re all equally important to the plot. Also, I had to be sure to not rattle on because I was already going to make my query a little teensy bit on the longer side because of the way I set up my muti-POV pitch, but I kept each section relatively short to make up for it. Each character got 2-3 sentences each, Csilla’s a bit more lengthy to bring in the world aspect.

    Now, I am not saying my query letter was perfect because it wasn’t. But somehow it, paired with my first pages (equally important), garnered many full requests, which lead to an offer of representation within a day of sending out the manuscript.

    Here is the final pitch portion of my query letter:

    After barely escaping her execution with a shattered ankle, and losing an eye in a barter with a witch, seventeen-year-old Csilla Abado yearns to prove her strength to the seasoned pirates who balk at her youth. When the Pirate King dies without an heir, she gets her chance to compete in the Trials—a bloody competition where the winner takes the island throne. Csilla could become the first Pirate Queen, but she’ll have to conquer the crooked swords of the greatest pirates of her time.

    Kane Blackwater comes from a long line of pirate captains and he’s ready to prove once and for all he doesn’t need dirty gold or shady deals made on innocent blood to win the crown. But he doesn’t expect his chance to appear in the form of a surprisingly attractive stowaway that could flip the Trials, and the island kingdom, on its head.

    After witnessing an evil pirate captain murder her mother, Lorelei Storm joins a crew and enters the Trials in search of revenge. But when she starts hearing the whispers that caused her mother’s madness, Lorelei learns that she’s a target too…because the Pirate King didn’t die without an heir after all.

    While battling their own demons, Csilla and Kane must decide if they’re willing to give up their chance at the crown to help Lorelei, and how much they’re willing to sacrifice for power. Facing battles at sea, a vengeful land god, and dirty deals made amidst a deadly treasure hunt, they must remember the most important rule of all — never trust a pirate.

    YOU CAN DO IT

    If you’re struggling with a multi-POV pitch, or with writing queries in general, I hope I could be of some help. And if like me, you have severe trouble articulating the possible awesomeness of your book, I truly hope my experience can be of some encouragement. You’re not alone. We all struggle. Especially me who stress eats hot cheetos.

     

     

     

    #PitchWars 2017 – Pimp My Bio

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    Oh boy.  I’ve done it.  I’ve officially decided to enter Pitch Wars, which then made me decide to create a blog, which then made me decide to perform the pimpage of the bio.  Breathe.  We will get through this together.

    (I have no professional headshots, so here is an amazing Snapchat filtered version of myself.)

    Who Am I?

    I am an avid YA fiction reader in all genres, but most specifically fantasy. There’s just something about young people facing dire circumstances with brave faces. I live vicariously through them because I’m an adult that is still afraid of the dark. I see you smiling. Don’t laugh! The night is dark and full of terrors.

    I’m a student, an educator, a wife and a mother of two children who don’t look like me.

    My first story was a zombie book that I posted on Wattpad. The writing is absolutely atrocious. But I have decided to keep it posted for aspiring writers to see because I’ve come a long way, like galaxies long, and I’m proud of it. I hope my experience can inspire others to keep writing because practice is everything.

    When I finish my middle school education degree, I want to open an elective course for students to explore creative writing as an expressive outlet.  Middle school is a rough time and I want to give kids a healthy way to express themselves and dive into an imagination they might have never thought they had.

    MY BOOK

    I’ll be entering my YA fantasy, A CROWN OF BONES.  It is PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN meets THE HUNGER GAMES with a diverse cast of characters, romance and kickass heroines.

    Because I love aesthetics:

    Show him you’re not a damsel to be trifled with.”

    Illustrations by AgataFiszer can be found on the art page.  Here is a delicious taste:

    A CROWN OF BONES EQUATION

    Pirates of the Caribbean + The Hunger Games + Six of Crows + Moana + girls who kick ass + girls who save themselves + romance + hot kissing scenes + an asshole named Pudge + angry land gods + sea sister goddesses + witty banter + betrayal + a pig on a leash + epic action scenes + love/hate relationship + best friends + island witchcraft + crafty metaphors

    Feels Soundtrack Includes:


    ME, THE MENTEE

    What I offer as a mentee:

    • Never-ending gratitude
    • Fierce determination.  I am a Slytherin after all.
    • An open mind to critiques
    • Gif magic
    • Game of Thrones references

    ALL THE FAVS

    MOVIES

    • Armageddon.  ALWAYS. BRUCE GETS ME EVERY DAMN TIME.
    • Kill Bill 1 & 2.  The Bride is my dream level of badass.
    • Everything Marvel.
    • Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews).  That movie is everything a musical should be.

    TV SHOWS

    • Game of Thrones.  Team Jon for the crown.  But I would still be happy if somehow he and D somehow split it.
    • The Walking Dead.  Richonne for life.  Carl needs to die already.
    • True Blood up to season 4.  I refuse to acknowledge the rest of the mess of that show.  YOU RUINED IT HBO.
    • My Little Pony.  After watching with my daughter, I’ve become addicted.  I’m a Pegasister and proud.
    • Stranger Things.  If I were a little boy, I would be Dustin.  He channels me.

    BOOKS

    • Harry Potter, obviously.  Slytherin in the house.
    • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
    • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
    • Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
    • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Mayer
    • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
    • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
    • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
    • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

    EXTRAS

    • Pinapple/Canadian bacon pizza
    • Bacon burgers
    • Maple bacon donuts (I’m noticing a theme here…)
    • Football.  Arkansas Razorbacks. Green Bay Packers.  MY BOYS BETTER KILL THIS SEASON.
    • Moana is the best Disney Princess.
    • I can bend my pointer finger all the way back.
    • I grew up with a lisp and was bullied throughout school for it.
    • Video game wise: love the Sims, Assassin’s Creed, and beating my husband’s ass at UFC.

    I have done it!  I have finally created my first website and blog post.  Good luck to everyone in Pitch Wars!  Thank you to all the mentors for dedicating their time to help others and to Brenda Drake for her brilliance.