Monday, October 20, 2008

"Write Well, Write Fast"

Missy here. I recently attended the Moonlight & Magnolias conference in Atlanta, held by my local RWA chapter, Georgia Romance Writers. Two of the best workshops I attended were taught by author Stephanie Bond. One was called Write Well, Write Fast. The other, 5 Things About Your Career to Obsess Over. I thought I’d share a couple of the things she said that really spoke to me.

First off, I took the Write Well, Write Fast because, well, I don’t write fast, and when I do try to write anywhere close to fast, it doesn’t turn out very well. LOL

What I learned is that to write fast you have to spend the time to write a good synopsis. You have to plan ahead! (I know the pantsters out there are now throwing rotten tomatoes and are saying “boo hiss.”) Of course, I’ve always planned my characters and had at least scene ideas before starting to write. I usually work through Alicia Rasley’s The Story Within workbook and also fill out Carolyn Greene’s Magic Conflict Chart beforehand. But Stephanie’s workshop reinforced what I’ve been learning (selling on proposal, now), that I have to come up with a good synopsis beforehand, too. Key word: GOOD.

Bleck! I hate writing a synopsis!! I’m terrible at doing it before the book is written. (NO COMMENTS, RUTHY!)

[As a side note, to illustrate how close we Seekers are, I wish you should see the email Ruthy sent telling me, very tactfully, how awful my synopsis was—the one I had just sent to my editor! :)]

Okay, back on topic…Stephanie’s other workshop. 5 Things About Your Career To Obsess Over. (As opposed to all the things you can't control so should not obsess over.) I won’t share all the things she talked about, but I want to mention two that I think are related. 1. You can control who’s in your support system. 2. You can control your attitude.

I think positivity (It’s a word. I looked it up! :)) is important in both. Our support systems should be positive—not full of toxic, draining relationships. And we have to keep positive attitudes. Be the eternal optimist!

A Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote I love is:

In its essence, optimism is not an outlook on the present situation. Rather, it is a life-force, the power of hope when others give up, the power to hold one’s head high when everything appears to be falling apart, the power to endure setbacks, the power that never gives the future over to one’s opponent but lays claim to it.

Of course, we’re not faced with imprisonment and execution like Bonhoeffer. But we are faced with rejection and setbacks in our writing. We're faced with difficult times in our life that affect our writing. And I hope we can be optimists in the way we live our lives and run our writing careers.

Are you an optimist? What do you obsess over? Do you write fast? Do you write a synopsis beforehand?? :)

Stephanie is one of the most generous, business-savvy writers I know. And she's been a huge help to me. Here’s a link to her website page for writers:'_articles.htm


Camy Tang said...

Thanks for the inside peek at those workshops, Missy! You gave us some great pieces of advice!

I am especially conscious of my support group. I can't afford to have people around me who won't support me, encourage me, AND speak the truth in love. That's why I'm grateful to you guys!


Cheryl Wyatt said...

Missy the workshops sound like they were wonderful. Thanks for sharing them with you.

And your synopsis couldn't have been THAT bad...if I'm not mistaken, they bought the book right?



Walt Mussell said...

I attended both classes as well. They were great!

Ann said...

That is so true about our attitudes and who we surround ourselves with. Does not just apply to writing but also other areas of life.

DH, who farms full-time, likes to stay out of coffee shops and tries to avoid farmers who only talk about how we can't get ahead, for instance.

I am a pantser by nature but have seen the power of the synopsis. It's like having four-wheel-drive ... not only can you see where you want go but you see how to get there.

I tell myself that, but do spin my wheels a lot.

I'm blessed to have a writer bud at church, an active ACFW in this area and a cool crit partner. This site, too, has done me a world of good.

Coffee's on. Our cousins made cider last week, so how about some hot spiced cider? Or we can do carmel cider.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Caramel cider?

Ann, baby, I'm totally in on that. Gimme.

And, um, Cheryl????

I read Missy's synopsis. Yeah, um...

'Nuff said, LOL! Luckily I think there was a follow up phone call after certain nameless people offered scathing advice to our sweet Southern Belle.

I have no idea who those people were, of course. Do you, Mary?


Anyway, Missy:

Loved this post. Loved the angle, the positivity quotient, the well-made point that we have a great effect on our own destiny by how we carry ourselves and what we allow ourselves. Super duper, girlfriend. And you are a wonderful example of all the above.

Hey, how 'bout some cider fry cakes to go with the hot caramel cider Ann brought? These little treats are then glazed in apple glaze...

Wonderful fall treat.

Enjoy. Sit back. Kick your shoes off. Talk with us.

Blessings to all,


Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Missy,

I sure do need to learn to write fast, too! I don't do a synopsis beforehand, but I do write up a pretty extensive outline. It really does help a lot, although I still end up floundering about two-thirds through. Hopefully I'll find a way over that hump!

Thanks for the info.


Mary Connealy said...

Hi, I've been gallavanting last week. I stopped by to comment but a wave of exhaustion has driven sensibleness from my nead.

Need to sneak in a nap.

Uncomfortable chair at work preventing that, shucks!

I too offered...uh...constructive criticism of Missy's synopsis. As if I know how to write one.

First they tell you...HEY the book needs to be at least 50 thousand words, or 100 thousand words or whatever, THEN they say, give me two double spaced pages summarizing it.


that's hard.

If you can write 100k on a subject then it figures not only is the subject're a wordy chatterbox. So the two skills are at odds with each other and failure is assured.

But we keep at it, keep trying to cut 50k or 100k to 500 words. Then they also ask you to give them a two sentences or maybe 30 words.

The mind boggles.

I want to be in that point in my career when I can just say, "Trust me, I've got a good book in mind."

And they'll say, "Great, send it whenever you feel ready, and let me wash your dishes while I'm here."

I won't be holding my breath awaiting that day.

Also, I'm hungry. Cider Fry Cakes? Okay, I'll try that.

Audra Harders said...

I raise my glass of *blech* to all the pantsers (like me) who detest writing a synopsis before the finished product!

But, you do speak wisdom, dear sister : ) I need to track out my book before I run into brick walls, before I realize I need more/less characters, before I say to my self *why should I care about this story?* Maybe we just need to find a kinder, gentler title for the synopsis--

Comprehensive guideline?
Idea outline?

I don't know how to fix my synopsis hang up, but you're absolutely right about the write well,write fast concept. Good, good point to bring up!

I couldn't ask for a better support group! I'm not hindered from lack of encouragement!! The Seekers offer some awesome butt-kicking!!

I see Ruthy is talking snack again : ) and Mary is boggling unsuspecting minds.

Ah, what a wonderful world : )

You're great, Missy! Thanks for the positivity insight : )

Missy Tippens said...

I'm finally here! Sorry to check in so late.

Now to catch up on comments... :)

Missy Tippens said...

Camy, I've honestly never had any negativity to deal with (thank you, Lord!). But I've heard all kinds of stories from others about toxic people. And sadly, sometimes it's family members who are the worst. So I'm thankful for all of you, for my critique groups through the years, for my family...

I've been blessed!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Cheryl. Well, yes, they did buy it. So I guess it held enough promise. But as I looked back at the synopsis once I'd been away from it a short time, I could see the problems.

I'm working on a revised proposal now. I hope to mail it late this week. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Walt! It's great to see you here.

Walt's in my local RWA chapter and is one of a couple of men who brave attending the mostly women meetings. :)


Missy Tippens said...

Ann, I like the idea of a synopsis being 4-wheel drive. :)

I like to think of it as finding my way beforehand, like a map, so that I don't get on all kinds of detours that take forever to fix on re-writes.

But I do spin my wheels, too! I'm learning, though. Even though I've been writing forever, I think I'll always be learning.

I don't think I've ever had homemade cider. Yum! Of course, with caramel, anything would be yum! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Ruthy! I wondered if you'd stop by and see that I yelled at you in all caps. :)

Actually, I think maybe Ruthy commented before I sent the official proposal but after I emailed one to her to see what she thought. So at least I was able to work on it some before sending the official proposal. So I was able to improve it some.

Thanks for always being honest, Ruthy baby! :) And thanks for all the other Seekers for tossing in ideas and being willing to help out at all stages along the way.


Missy Tippens said...

Sue, I think a chapter outline is a great idea. Probably easier than having too summarize for a synopsis. Also, it's great for having the book laid out ahead of time.

But that middle section is sooo hard! Maybe when you hit that hard spot you can stop and do some fresh brainstorming of ideas to see where the story should go.


Lisa Jordan said...

Thanks for sharing your take-away thoughts from the workshops, Missy. I love love love Carolyn Greene's Prescription for Plotting notebook. I use it for every novel. I was such a groupie when I met her at the 2006 ACFW conference.

You're so right about surrounding ourselves with supportive people. We need people who love us, encourage us, and tell us when something stinks, but done in a positive way.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I'm sorry you've had all sensibleness driven from your "nead" (yes, another fun Mary typo! LOL)

I'm cracking up at your description of chatterbox writers having to use a totally different talent to write a synop. :) So true!

And what about that one-sentence elevator pitch? Impossible!


Missy Tippens said...

Aha! See, Audra, we are really twins. We did the great minds thing again.

You mentioned roadmap. And I mentioned map in my comment. :) I like that: a kinder, gentler name for a synopis. Maybe we can psych ourselves out. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Lisa! I truly think Carolyn's and Alicia's workbooks are what helped me to sell. The first time I used those to plot was the first story to finally sell. Of course, it's a lot of pre-work. I spent nearly a month working through them! But that book nearly wrote itself.

Glad you stopped by!

Missy Tippens said...

Okay, everybody. I think it's time to eat. It's nearly 1 pm here.

What's for lunch?

By the way, it finally feels like fall here! I about froze last night. It got down in the 40's!! Brrrrr.

NOw it's only 56 degrees. But it is sunny and gorgeous.

Jessica said...

Camy's synopsis class was the first time I ever wrote a synopsis before my story.
Though thinking it up was hard, afterwards I used it as a roadmap, which was really helpful.

Not sure I'm an optimist, but neither am I a pessimist.
A realist???
Great post Missy!

Mary Connealy said...

A kinder gentler name for synopsis.

How about Follow the Yellow Brick Road of the story.

Keeping with maps and roads.

Here is my books Primrose Lane.

Or maybe, "I'm casing flower petals on the aisle of my story."

No....Um "Map Quest of my story."
"Story Quest"

"Journey of Discovery"

I need real food.

Patricia W. said...

Even with a synopsis, it's possible to get off course.

As with driving, even with a map. That sign for a store just off the main road catches your eye. THIS EXIT!!! You swerve, only to discover that the exit is actually a long winding road that puts you on another highway going in a different direction with no off ramps anytime soon to get back to where you were.

But, when you finally do find an exit, you work your way backward, figure out where you went off course and jump back on, hopefully ignoring the next secondary character, subplot, or whatever catches your writer's eye.

I'm trying it. It's hard. But isn't all writing?

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Jessica!

I'm using Camy's synopsis worksheet right now (you can buy it on her website). I bet that's what you used in her class. It's excellent!


Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Mary. I think roadmap is sufficient. But of course we don't want to be generic, do we? We're writers. We're creative!

Wish I could mapquest my story right about now. Or maybe had a Fiction GPS. :)


Missy Tippens said...

You're right, Patricia! :) It is still possible to get off track with a map. Especially when nice little shops with cute designer purses call our names. :)

I think that's one reason doing one for a proposal is so scary for me. What if something changes along the way?

I've gotta get over the fear!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I like the roadmap analogy. I 'see' it better that way than the word synopsis which makes me feel like I have to 'sum up' something undone. No can do.

But roadmap...

That opens lots of possibilities in my brain, pathways diverging (sorry Ralph Waldo), then re-connecting.

Now THAT makes perfect sense, LOL!

So I jot down ideas, thoughts, a loose outline, but synopsis?


Can't wrap my brain around it. What there is left of my brain, LOL!

But maybe it is just two (or 18) different ways of saying the same thing. Kind of like gathering your thoughts before confession or an important meeting. Go in with a plan then follow where your heart leads.

Speaking of confession, I was mean to Mary TWICE this week.

Oh, man.


Lorna said...

An author friend challenged me to write a chapter by chapter outline and synopsis before I began writing on my latest manuscript. I tried it, and to my utter surprise, I found I liked it. Missy, you're right. I did write the story much faster. However, more than once characters chose a new path to follow so I had to make some changes as I went.

For me the synopsis (which should be spelled sin-opsis) was like my krptonite. It was easier to write it before I had all the other "good stuff" I thought should be in it.

Love the stuff about the support group, too. It's so true!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Missy,
Sorry I missed Stephanie's workshops. She's always great. Her website's packed with wonderful articles for writers so be sure to check that out as well.

I consider myself a slow writer, but I think it's being bogged down with the other details -- blogs, marketing, keeping up with email --that slows me down. When I go offline, my productivity always increases. But then, I don't have as much fun!!!

BTW, did everyone welcome Walk Mussell? He and I were chatting at SAT's GRW meeting and I suggested he stop by Seekerville. He's interested in writing Inspirational Historicals, and I told him he'd find lots of great info on our blogspot.

So, everyone, wave to Walt and tell him how glad we are to have him with us!!!

Hey, Walt, great seeing you in Seekerville!!! Come back often.

Debby Giusti said...

I just saw the SAT blog pictures!!! I'm rolling on the floor and the family is getting worried!!! Too cute!!! Thanks, Tina!

Missy Tippens said...

Lorna, I'm glad to hear it really worked! One of the things I believe Stephanie mentioned was making changes as needed.

I also talked to another author who writes up a working synopsis that covers every chapter and scene. But then she condenses that into a synop to send to her editor in the proposal.

And Stephanie also writes a cover blurb first. Then she comes up with a 2-page single spaced synop. And also has a chapter by chapter outline for working. It reminded me a little of Randy Ingermanson's snowflake plotting method.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Lorna!

Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Debby! Glad to see you. I hated to miss the meeting Saturday, but I had to stay here and get some work done.

Walt, I'm glad you're interested in historicals! I love to read them but have no clue about writing one. :)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Are you an optimist?

No, but I'm more positive than I used to be.

What do you obsess over?

Everything. Especially . . . everything.

Do you write fast?

Sometimes. I finished the first draft of my 90,000 word ms. in five months, then I took a year and a half to write a 75,000 word book. Why? I have no idea. I didn't write a synopsis for either one, but I did have them mapped out in my head.

Do you write a synopsis beforehand?

No. I hate to write it out because then it feels chiseled in stone. I like to be free to let it evolve. I'm just weird that way.

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks for your input, Melanie!

Aren't you glad we do have the computer with the delete button instead of having to chisel in stone! :)

The first book I wrote, I waited til we had our first computer. There was no way I was going to try with a regular typewriter or on paper. I guess I should be thankful I was born when I was. If I'd been born a couple of decades earlier, I may have never enjoyed writing a book.

Janet Dean said...

Missy, great post! The M&M conference sounds fabulous! Someday I'd love to join all you Southern belles and beaux.

Attitude is contagious so hanging with people who exude positive vibes is smart. And as we know here at Seekerville, way more fun!

Hi, Walt. Mary, Julie and I write inspirational historicals. Who are you targeting?


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

As a 100% panster, I hate writing the synopsis too!

I despise negativity and try my best to stay away from it.

Workshops sound wonderful!

Thanks for the post.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, WOW, Missy -- I saw the header, "Write Well, Write Fast," and I just KNEW this was for me!! Writing fast is NOT something I am good it. I just got back from a writer's retreat where one of the writers wrote 120 pages in one day ... and no, it was not Mary, although I am sure she is close!

I hate synopses too, Missy, and actually had my agent suggest I work with a an editor on plotting because she thought my first three synopses were so bad. But, I guess I had to put my nose to the grindstone for this next 3-book series that I just sold because I wrote those suckers like a full-length novel, and I can really feel the difference in writing those books now. I have a path, a plan that as a full-blood pantster, I never had before. Feels good.


Missy Tippens said...

Hi, Janet! I was hoping you'd chime in for Walt. :)

Pamela, the 100% pantsters are who I figured would be throwing the rotten tomatoes. Thanks for being kind and not doing so. LOL


Missy Tippens said...

Good for you, Julie!! I'm so glad it's working better that way. Once I get through revising my synopsis, I'm sure I'll be much happier with the writing part. :)


Pam Hillman said...

Hey, day late, but great post Missy. I probably need to use more templates like Carolyn's and Alicia's, and Camy's. Even Robin mentioned something about a character synopsis plotting thingie.


Which one to use, that is the question?

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Pam. Part of my problem is using too many, so I spin my wheels. :)