The Dreaded Synopsis

You know that manuscript I’ve been blathering about, featuring Bai Hsu, the intrepid CIA spy from Blood Money? I’m entering it into the PNWA literary contest soon. Real soon.

I’ve had friends and family critiquing and revising my submission for me for weeks, and thought I was basically just about ready to submit my entry when I realized what I was forgetting.

The

Synopsis.

Dun dun DUNNNN!!!

Those of you who are fiction writers who’ve survived writing a synopsis will know why I punctuated this like that.

Oh my GOSH, was there ever a more crucial, pain in the butt piece of writing than the synopsis? For those not in the know, a synopsis is a summary of your whole book, plot start to finish, preferably kept to one page.

Seems simple, right?

WRONG.

How-to-Write-a-Novel-SynopsisNot only do you need to hit all the major plot points in the story, you also need to convey some of who the characters are and what makes them special. Oh, and don’t forget to avoid cliches, keep it in the present tense, and make sure you lend the flavor of the book to the synopsis so the story doesn’t come across as boring.

Oh, and in case that wasn’t intimidating enough, most of the time your synopsis will determine whether the agent/publisher/whoever even bothers to read your story, so it has to really pack a punch. If it doesn’t? Your manuscript will never see the light of day.

So, you know, no pressure. The fate of your whole book rests squarely on your synopsis’s shoulders, which is kind of funny when you realize that writing the synopsis may just be harder than writing the whole frigging book in the first place.

Now, if you’re a real pro, you’ll procrastinate on writing the synopsis and just write a splenetic blog post about writing synopses instead.

Because that’ll help.

Happy Boxing Day, From the World’s Laziest Blogger!

You might think I fell off a cliff or perished in some kind of freak child’s-toy-underfoot accident, but alas. No. I live. I don’t blog, but I live.

Christmas just kind of walloped me this year. Well, hold on. To be fair, it’s not all Christmas’s fault. It’s December’s fault. Between Wes’s surgery, our anniversary, Christmas, a second MRI (what? That’s right! Another MRI! Just one more until I get a free pair of scrubs to take home!), and some disappointing medical news, I’ve spent my free time trying to keep my head from exploding, rather than typing about trying to keep my head from exploding.

December is winding down, though, and I have faith things will slow back down to a manageable pace here for a little while. That is, until summer hits and suddenly I’m pitching my book at conferences and such and (hopefully) landing a fancy book agent.

As for the disappointing medical news, it’s nothing too exciting. My pesky knee is being pesky. I apparently have the most friable meniscus in the world. It’ll tear on a whim, even if I’m doing something as banal and tame as carrying a basket of laundry up the stairs. I know, I’m such a daredevil!

The bummer of it is, it’s not advisable to remove the meniscus that tore if it can possibly be prevented. It’s in a problematic place that will hopefully just leave me alone so long as I don’t do anything crazy like pivoting, changing directions quickly, dancing, wearing high heeled shoes, etc.

That’s right, you read that correctly: I’m a 28 year old woman who can never wear high heeled shoes again.

I’m 5′ 10″, mind you, so this isn’t exactly a death sentence. It is, however, a major bummer for lo, I do love to get all fancied up for dates sometimes. Oh, well. I’ll live. Not very nimbly, I suppose, but I’ll live.

Now I suppose I should stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to planning out what I’m going to say at the realistic fiction workshop I’m leading soon for a local youth writing club. I should probably make a point to not say the word “meniscus” a single time during that workshop. I think that’d be a GREAT start.

In Sickness and in Health

1148904_10152132338809392_1379764411_nWes and I have been married eight years now. Well, technically, seven years fifty one weeks. Our eighth wedding anniversary is next week and I’ve had much occasion to think about the vows we took that day in 2005.

You see, Wes had minor surgery last week. As I’ve learned from my own brushes with surgery, however, even surgery that’s preceded by the word “minor” means pain and limitations for a good long while.

It was difficult for me to watch Wes get prepped for surgery. Part of the reason, I think, is that there was a strange reversal of roles. Well, there tried to be. Rather, I tried to let there be but it didn’t work out. You see, Wes is the emotionally steady, unshakeable, indefatigable rock of our marriage. He’s confident, he’s calm, he’s rational. I’m a bit more excitable. You can measure my emotional highs and lows with a Richter scale, and because of my inexhaustible imagination I am quite good at conjuring worries where there needn’t be.

Prior to his surgery, I kept asking Wes how he was doing, prepared to comfort him if he needed it. He was fine and in no need of pep talks. Despite his stoic calm, I told myself it would not be permissible to worry. In no universe is it ok to make my husband comfort me before he goes in to surgery.

And then the nurse told him it was time to go back to the OR and my treasonous eyes cried a little, despite my sternest warnings that they were to remain steadfast and dry. Wes laughed at me.

During the surgery, I fretted. I gnawed my lip, I picked at my cuticles, I looked up every time someone walked by, I all but paced the tiny waiting room. When two hours had gone by on what was supposed to be a 60-90 minute surgery, I started feeling a bit frantic. I just wanted to see him with my own eyes to make sure he was ok.

The nurses took pity on me and let me come back to the recovery area a little early, and then something interesting happened.

Wes was in a lot of pain and extremely groggy, but I was fine. It wasn’t until I was bringing the car around to come get him that I started feeling rattled, but then as soon as he was in the car next to me I was a rock. I finally got the chance to be the steadfast one!

The next few days passed in a blur of the hundreds of menial little tasks you do when you’re taking care of someone post-op, and it seemed to me the perfect way to spend the weeks leading up to our anniversary. Because a relationship untested is a relationship unreliable.

It’s been nice to meditate on the “In sickness and in health” part of our marriage vows this last week, to be there for Wes the way he’s been there for me so many times before.

Of course, everything is almost back to normal now. Wes is still required to take it easy (ha!) and not allowed to lift anything heavier than ten pounds (so no kids), but he’s back to being Super Man and I’m back to being…Well, me.

Here’s hoping 2014 involves a lot fewer trips to the O.R.

Poor Library Patron Guy

At the recommendation of a well-read friend, I’m reading “On Killing.” It’s an examination of the psychological cost of learning to kill on people and society, how it affects soldiers and laymen alike. Very interesting stuff. I’m hoping it’ll give me insight into what happens when someone has to go through with something like that. That could make for some compelling reading, methinks.

Sad faceAnyway, I was reading through the book the other night when I came across this footnote. It turns the last sentence (“It is interesting to note that spending months of continuous exposure to the stresses of combat is a phenomenon found only on the battlefields of this century.”) into something that reads:

It is interesting to note that spending months of continuous exposure to the stresses of combat is a phenomenon found only on the battlefields of this century and in families.

Isn’t that just so very sad?!?! Who knows what kind of horrible familial landscape this guy (it looks like a guy’s handwriting) comes from that would make him feel like this applied to his life?

I always find it a little jarring to see someone else’s handwriting in a book I’ve checked out from the library. It feels a little like looking out the windows of your house and being surprised to see someone standing out there staring at you.

So now I feel bad for this person, this mysterious person with the stressful home life. I want to tell him that life does get better, that eventually you get to create your own family where you’re able to set the rules for what acceptable behavior looks like. Maybe he’ll end up a psychology major, given his interest in psychology (as evidenced by his checking out a psychology book from the library). There’s a joke among psychology majors that they enter that field of study in a bid to figure themselves out.

Whatever he does, I sure hope thing got better for him.