Synopses: The New Hell

Before attending Viable Paradise, I would finish a novel, realize it was bad, and trunk it.  I did that four or five times.  Most of them have long since been lost to the vicissitudes of changing formats and the modern lack of floppy drives, and that is more than likely a good thing.

Now, I’ve finished The Widening Gyre, and rather than trunk it, I’m actually going to send it out.  I’m sure I could dither about with one or two more beta cycles, but the truth is, I don’t see a whole lot changing at this point.  I had six people take a look at it, and I utilized the vast majority of their feedback–I think there was one thing from a couple of readers where I said “Meh, that’s not something I agree with,” but most of the feedback I got was incredibly helpful and made me sit up and say “Oh, wow, she’s right.  I better deal with that.”  I’m sure that if an agent bites, I’ll need to do more, and if an editor bites down the road, still more–but for now, it’s done.

Which means I have to write the synopsis for agent queries.  And I’ve never actually had to do this before.  All the agents in my first round want 1 to 2 pages of synopsis, then a variable number of pages.  I did not like my first attempt at a synopsis, so I did it again and I like that one a little better, but now I’m paralyzed with fear that all the agents in the world will read the synopsis, roll their eyes, and reject it out of hand.  Which is probably silly, but what can I do?  Self doubt is my busiest demon.

Anyway, I’m currently on a ten-minute break from cleaning my office, and my time is about up.  So I’m going to go finish that job, and then come back to getting this thing ready for submission.  The sooner I do it, the sooner the rejections will come, right?


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How I use Scrivener — A Step-By-Step Guide.

Scrivener is a great tool I’ve been using for a few years now.  While no writing tool will ever be the magic bullet that makes writing a snap, Scrivener has helped me in several ways. Most of the things I love about it are adequately covered on the information page for the program, so I won’t go into it here, except to say that Scrivener makes it easy to move around your manuscript in ways that would make Word or most other business-oriented word processors choke.

However, as useful as Scrivener is, it can also be somewhat difficult to set up.  I’ve also seen over the years that there are almost as many ways to use Scrivener as there are users. I thought I’d do a post on how I use it, for the curious.

First thing I do is divide the screen.  To do that, you click on the button indicated by the arrow in the picture below. Now, normally, Scrivener divides the screen horizontally, but if you hold Option while clicking, it will split vertically, which is what I do.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.41.50

Okay, I hear you.  So you’ve got two screens.  Now what?  Well, what I do is click in the left pane.  Then I click the little clipboard icon in the top middle of the screen, so I end up with this:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 21.31.31

Next, I click on View -> Corkboard Options -> Cards Across -> 1.  This sets the cards in the clipboard view to resize no matter how big or small the window is.  It’s not a vital step, but it helps me.  Then I resize the window by putting the mouse in the divider and moving it to the left, like you do.  I put it as far to the left as it will go.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.46.08    Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.46.14

Next, I click on View -> Binder Affects -> Left editor only.  This means that when I click on a chapter folder in the binder (that’s the area to the left of the screen), it will open the chapter’s index cards in the left binder.  Then I click on this little button down here:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 Button

THIS little button makes it so that anything you click on in the LEFT editor window will open in the RIGHT editor window.  This makes it so that I click on the chapter I’m working in, which opens the cards describing the scenes in that chapter, and when I click on one of those scenes, it opens in the right editor window.  Like this:

Screenshot 2015-08-06 20.18.13

It may not work for all people, but it helps me keep my workflow straight.  One added benefit is that if I use the search window in the upper right to look for a particular text string, it shows up in the LEFT pane, leaving the section I’m working on at the moment alone.  Then, when I click the X on the search pane to clear the search, it’s all back to normal.

You’ll notice in that last picture that my scenes are “described” on the cards as short phrases.  I used to write detailed summations of each scene, but now I do this, which I learned from Jason M. Hough in this series of posts. 

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The End is in Sight

I have finished the beta-informed revision of Book 1, which included some structural changes, mostly in the end of the book, and a few insertions where more of Character A was needed, or Character B’s arc needed some tightening.

Of course, I still have a bunch of comments in the Scrivener file.  Some are from me to remind myself to check or fix little niggling things that I didn’t want to waste time on during the major revision, such as “Make sure this word is consistent” because I changed the way I spelled it halfway through the manuscript.

My next step is going to be working my way through all of those comments, using the “View all Scrivenings” feature of Scrivener with the comments showing in the right hand pane.  I click on a comment, it takes me to where that comment is anchored, and I deal with it.

When all of those are done, then I’m going to go through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure I’ve got as many of the typos and such as I can.  I’m undecided on whether I’ll do another beta pass, or if I’ll just start sending it out into the world and move on to the next project for a while.

And I still don’t have a great title for this thing.  As I’ve no doubt said before, the original working title is shared with a bona fide classic of the Literary Canon, so I’m not sticking with it.  I’ve been idling around The Widening Gyre, as it sort of works, but I’m not married to it.  But I need to figure that out before I can send it out.

Anyway, I’ve got some blog posts upcoming; then the school year is starting soon (WHY ME?).  School year notwithstanding, the next project will be an unrelated space opera.  If Book 1 here sells, then I’ll set that other book aside to work on the sequel–it’s plotted, but not yet written, and I need a break from these characters for a little bit.

What are you working on?

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In Beta, almost done

So, The Widening Gyre is currently still in beta.  I’ve heard back from all but one of the beta readers, and that one gave me some basic feedback, so I’ve been going through all the beta reports.  I thought my process might interest one or two people.

First, I read the overall feedback I was given, and made notes of things more than one individual said or that struck me.  In one case, one of the readers said something about the end of the book that sounded capital-R Right to me, so I asked the others what they thought.  All of them agreed, so I’m reworking the last two chapters.

Second, I went through the in-line comments.  I essentially reviewed each comment, and if I liked it outright or thought it had merit and should be considered, I would copy it, then move over to Scrivener and place the comment into the text where the reader would put it. When I’m done reworking the final chapters, I’ll then go through the manuscript comment by comment, making sure I address each one, and then I’ll do a final pass, with or without final readers if I can find some, to make sure their are no typos or bad grammatical constructions that shouldn’t be there.

Then it’s time to search for an agent.  Gulp.

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The Work Never Ends

As I’ve said, the Damned Book, now tentatively titled The Widening Gyre (and that will probably have to change), is in Beta.

And yet, the solution to something that bugged me in the final chapter finally percolated through the grey matter.  Now, I swore I wasn’t going to touch the book until I heard back from the beta readers, but I wrote down some notes on how to fix that scene.

Then I sat down with my reference materials and plotted Book 2 out.  I’m not planning to start writing it until and unless Book 1 sells (or I decide to just do it anyway, maybe), but having it plotted out makes me feel better.  Book 2’s tentative title is Only Earth’s Rivers Run Free.

Then, because I need something else to work on, I conceived of my next space opera.  The setting is embryonic, and the book isn’t anywhere near even the plot stage, but the essential elements of that plot are in place.  We’ll see how it goes.  But the MC has a name, and a job, and a crisis to get through.  So that’s a good start.  Oh, and it has a tentative title, too: A Rage Across the Stars

In the meantime, I’ve got a critique to finish before I head off to Scotland. So that’s next on my plate, along with some home repairs/modifications I want to make next week, cleaning the place so we don’t come home to a mess, and packing for the trip.

8 days to Scotland.  Good grief.

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The Book, it is in Beta

So.  Two years after Viable Paradise 17, my submission novel is in beta.

Yesterday, I got a compliment re: the book from one of the beta readers.  I haven’t got her full feedback yet (I told my beta readers that I wouldn’t be returning to the book until after I return from Scotland in late June, so there’s plenty of time).  But her immediate gut feedback was quite encouraging.  And unlike at VP when I got compliments from two writers I admire and a Tor editor, I didn’t feel a need to maintain a poker face, so I grinned from ear to ear.  It was a great feeling.

Unfortunately, I then got an email that sent me into a towering rage.  It passed, but the adrenaline surge of the anger, along with the blood pressure spike, left me feeling pretty awful for several hours.  But I’m OK again.

While I patiently, yet eagerly, wait for returns from the betas, I’m focussing my work time on getting all my grading done, and my leisure time on video games and a critique or two I said I’d do.

But still feeling pretty good about this whole writing thing.

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On Raising My Daughter in a Sexist World

When my daughter was born, my wife and I decided to raise her to be proud of who and what she is.  She’s beautiful–and this isn’t just parental opinion–and she’s smart, and we began, from a very early age, praising her intelligence as much, if not more than, her beauty.  We want her to know she’s smart, and we want her to know she’s beautiful, but we want her to prize the smarts more.

When she was four, I asked for a kiss.  She said no.  Like a lot of dads, I pressed the issue.  She got angry, and I realized what I was doing and, horrified at myself, put her down.  She thought she’d done something wrong.  I explained to her that, no, she has every right to say “no,” and nobody, not me, not her mom, not her grandparents or aunts or cousins or even the President–she was fixated on Obama at the time–had the right to make her do anything she didn’t want to.  Ever since then, I’ve respected her boundaries.  If she says no, that’s it.

I do this because I don’t want to have a child who feels pressured, ever, to show affection in any way.  I want her to be herself, and I want her to be strong.  Since she was four, we’ve let her choose her clothing (most of the time).  We let her decide what’s in her daily snack pack, and if she wants a home lunch instead of what her school provides, we do it.*

I worry probably more than I should about the mixed messages our society is going to send her.  We try very hard to make sure she doesn’t grow up thinking she has to be some kind of chaste sex goddess, and we’re honest with her–as much as is wise with someone so young–about the world she’s going to be dealing with.

At the same time, we’re doing what we can to make the world better for her.  My wife models what being a strong woman is.  I model respecting that woman, and all others.  And we make sure she sees other models of womanhood, from housewives to career-oriented women, from families with more kids than we have to families who’ve chosen to have no children.  We’ve placed choosing her clothes in her control, with only occasional parental overrides if she chooses something inappropriate (and my wife and I have to sometimes negotiate, because sometimes our standards differ–and we let her see how that works).

In short, we try to model for her a marriage based on respect.  When we argue, we try not to do it in front of her, but if we must, we’re honest about it, and work very hard to keep her from taking any sides.

Though it’s not entirely because of my child, my novel includes not one but two strong, intelligent female characters at least partly because I want her to see these things in fiction.

She loves superheroes, and I proudly guide her to the best–her favorites are Black Widow and Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel.  She’s happy as hell that when the Captain Marvel movie comes out she’ll be old enough to see it without me having to see it first to judge its suitability.  She’s very upset that there’s still no Black Widow movie, but hopeful there will be one when she’s older.

But at the end of the day, I worry.  I worry none of this will be enough, and she’ll be hit so hard by advertising and the idiotic expectations of others that she’ll be hurt beyond my ability to see or help.  I read stories like this one and I cringe, because it could happen to my baby, too.

We do what we can, I guess.  Bottom line, I will support her, no matter what.

<small>* If you’re drawing breath to tell me how awful it is she eats school lunch: she goes to a private school that serves healthy food.  So don’t go there. </small>

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