The Two Scariest Words in Publishing – Synopsis and Outline

Emily Dickinson. She lived quietly. Wrote a few things between the beginning and the end.  Died. Had her brother and his lover publish her poems. Then became famous.  Personally I’d like to get published while I’m still alive. Fortune and glory isn’t really my goal. Telling a good story that people enjoy reading is. So, unlike Emily Dickinson, I’m putting what I have to offer out there.

I’m playing it safe and leaving no stone unturned. To that end I’ve self-published the first of a twelve part series –  Memoirs of a Gigolo, I’m signed with two small publishers – The Wild Rose Press and Liquid Silver Books, and I’m going to take a stab at once again trying to court an agent. This isn’t my first voyage of the damned – I’ve tried traveling this road before – I usually get hit by a couple of cars (big American made cars, not tiny little Japanese hybrids) then give up.

After a bit of email repartee with a friend that has not only an agent and a publisher, but also a couple of best sellers racked up on his score card and very little tolerance for my “incessant pissing and moaning” about the injustice of the publishing world when I refuse to “suck it up and play the game”, I’m going to try to tackle a synopsis and outline that might get me some airtime with an agent.

I’ve finished a manuscript that ticks every box for me. It’s topical. It’s well written. I’m passionate about the characters. It has commercial appeal. I love it. It’s YA dystopian with a Hunger Games meets 1984 vibe. I’m too paranoid to give up any details. I get like that when I really like something I’ve produced. I clutch my manuscript to my chest and start looking over my shoulder. I will say I’ve drawn extensively from my knowledge of ancient Persia and modern day Islamic nations, found a character that turns from a lump of coal into a diamond under pressure, and then added a healthy dose of the more things change the more they stay the same.  I think it’s worthy of publication. More than that. I think I have a break-out novel on my laptop. I’ve read what a lot of the publishers that deal strictly in YA have to offer and it stands up compared to other works.

So what next? I must confront the blank page and write a synopsis & outline. Then it’s time to open the proverbial kimono to the world to be told either yes, I have nice boobies or no, my bottom is flabby. Because that’s what it’s like.  As marvelous as I know my manuscript is, unfortunately I can’t walk into Simon & Schuster or Scholastic and hold a gun to the receptionists head until she calls an editor to disarm me. Even if she did call an editor and got them to come down to the lobby, I’d have to turn the gun on the editor and then I’d have to wait while they read my brilliant manuscript, my arm going numb from holding up the gun for so long… let’s just say it’s not done.

So I need to write a synopsis & outline. I really really really don’t want to. I never know what to write. How to condense 100k words into a couple of pages? It’s not like I haven’t tried. I even have a file filled with rejection letters from agents on my laptop. My famous writer friend that has no tolerance for my “whinging and f***ing moaning” doesn’t mind letting me know that he “sucked it up and f***ing did it”, so I have to too. He hated it. Everyone hates it. I have yet to find the writer, published or not, that finds either of these tasks less than daunting. But it has to be done. There is no way around it unless you’ve already proven yourself and the dynamic has shifted.

I’m no quitter, and I don’t really take rejection on the nose, but I’m not great at selling myself. If there was another way, I’d grab it. But I don’t think there is. So I’m off to write a synopsis and outline.

Leap of Faith: I’ve Self-Published

I never thought I’d self-publish. But I did. This week I stretched beyond my perceived technical limit, and figured it all out. My pet project has been rejected for the last time. I don’t know how many publishers I’ve submitted it to. They all love it. But they want it as a complete work and not in the twelve volumes I’ve divided it into. I don’t want it divided.I want it distributed in twelve different parts. Possibly more. Who knows? I love this story. I love the characters, how they develop, and the world they inhabit. By serializing it I have the ability to add as many volumes as I want. Especially now.

Each of my friends that has self-published promised me I wouldn’t regret it. Despite their encouragement, I did have a moments panic and a bit of hesitation as I worked at it this week. What am I most afraid of? That I’m too much of a perfectionist and there would be mistakes that I could only blame on myself. That no one would buy my book. That I’m really a rotten writer and there are a dozen people out there ready to give me one-star reviews. That I’ll have to put myself out there to market my book. It’s paralyzing the fear.

I own my lovely story. The only one that has any say is me. Talk about liberating.

So what do I do now? Please buy my book. It’s called Memoirs of a Gigolo. The story is about a young man that has come to the end of the party, he is on the edge of growing up, figuring out who he really is, and what truly matters to him.

Why I Love Jude Deveraux

I write romance for a few reasons. Mostly because I like watching two people fall in love before my eyes. I’m a bit of a voyeur in that way. I read my first romance back when I was about ten maybe eleven. It was discovered at the library where I spent a lot of my time. When I was too young to work, I went library after school for refuge. My love for books already existed. What I gained was an appreciation for quiet and the love of solitary pursuits. I read sci-fi, fantasy and romance.

During an on-line writing workshop I took a few years back, one of the participants jumped upon her ass-cheek-chaffing high horse when another participant asked her if her novel counted as romance. The shock! The outrage! The sycophantic falling over herself when I called her out, let her know I was (and quite proudly) a romance writer and that in fact it was a billion dollar business. Unbelievable. Coward was willing to trash the genre writer and her craft when she thought she was immune from criticism, but the second she’s asked to add a little of the proverbial shack to her yack, she’s got nuttin’.

People like to escape. Naughty pirates with billowing shirts help that along tremendously. Chances that you’re going to time-travel to the Scottish Highlands are probably zip. Thank god for the romance writers with enough imagination to help you get there courtesy a four-hundred-page novel. Lot’s of people read for intellectual persuit and entertainment value. They read Booker/Pulitzer/Noble worthy books. I read these books. They’re usually very good and not a little depressing. There is no reason to justify wanting to read for pleasure as there is no reason to justify wanting ot watch reality TV for pure entertainment.

My first romance novel was a Jude Deveraux and I absolutely fell in love with the Montgomery men. I had to have been ten at the time and I was absolutely in love. Probably the reason I’ve always liked the tall, dark and handsome types can be traced back to Jude Deveraux. If I ever get a chance to meet her I will make an ass out of myself. It will be my “I’m not worthy” moment.

Possibly the reason I enjoy writing series with interwoven elements is because of my hero Jude Deveraux. Each of my manuscripts contains extensive family trees and characters which tend to pop up in other peoples stories. I love this about Jude Deveraux’s work. I just love it. I like weaving a braid when writing a story. I love the subtle thread that appears here and then there. That moment when reading and the passing stranger is really that other character from another book.

I am unapologetic about loving writing romance. I love what I do.

Writing Really is a Hard Business, Isn’t It?

The problem with wanting to be a professional writer, is that the writer has to act like a professional. That the process becomes more than about the writing. Writing for pay, doesn’t take the pleasure out of the process, but it makes it a business. The writer becomes the self-employed business person. I’m not much of a business person. Not even a little. In fact, there are many many many people who know me well whom would gladly attest to the fact I am the most incapable business person they’ve ever met. Which is why I find the business of writing so incredibly hard.

If I wanted to write, purely for my love of writing, then I would have all of the joy and none of the grief. But I want to make a career out of this love of mine. I’m not going to say that I’m unemployable, I just spend a little bit too much time in my own head to be of much use to anyone outside of the food service or retail industries. On the plus side, I’m academically gifted and have fallen into that great bastion of unrealized potential; academia.

To make a career out of something means treating it like a business. I suspect there are some writers out there that have tripped into success and the accompanying buckets of money, but I have yet to slip on that particular banana peel. I sort of hoped I would, but it hasn’t happened. At this point, if I do find success, it will be because I’ve worked like a stevedore and clung to my dream like a dragon guarding it’s hoard of gold.

I’ve worked hard to bring the quality of my writing up to a professional level. What I haven’t done is devote even a fraction of the time I’ve spent on my writing career to the business end of the equation. I’m coming to that late. In a sort of vague and disjointed way, I knew there was more to the business of writing than just the writing. But it all just seemed so complicated and boring. Why would I want to get out and tap-dance while singing my praises (two things I lack both the talent and proper clothing to do) when I could be at home with my friend the laptop living vicariously through my characters? I might not have ever come to it if I hadn’t been asked to give an opinion on my life as a writer still trying to make it.

During the course of doing a favor for a friend, an established writer that wanted to know what it was like out there in the trenches, I really had look at my writing career and what I’d done to get published. What was the most eyeopening thing of all, was that I’d done very little to get published. Beyond sending out submission packages and trying to get the attention of agents, I hadn’t done much. I suspect there are a lot of writers out there that could relate to this. I’d done as much as I thought I needed to, but had never really thought about what else I could be doing.

Writing is really only a part of what I need to do. In addition to writing well, I need to write what people want to read, create a brand, and market myself. The writing is the trickiest part. I could write the best story ever written about a dystopian future in which the female main character becomes the leader of a revolution fighting against the tyranny of a male dominated totalitarian regime, but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to want to read it, or, more importantly, that anyone is going to want to take the time to publish it (please do contact me if you’re interested in a story about a woman that takes up arms against the establishment – Everyone that’s read it thinks its brilliant). I should have gotten an MBA. Or, at the minimum, a degree in marketing.

To this end, I’m giving myself a crash course in marketing. I’m going to figure this business of writing out. I’m not certain if there is a secret knock, a whispered password, or I really do need to sleep with the right person (god help us both), but I will figure this out. I am neither a stupid nor an incompetent woman. Then maybe I’ll write a book about how to break into the publishing world.

Do I Want to Self-Publish?

Do I want to self-publish? When I first decided I wanted writing to be my career, I never thought I would consider self-publishing. But here I am a couple of years down the road and not nearly as established as I thought I would be. I one manuscript signed with a small e-publisher, but nothing else. I have about a dozen finished manuscripts. I have about a hundred rejection letters. I don’t think I’m getting rejected because of the quality of my work. I think I’m pretty good. Either my friends are trying to make me feel better, or I’m not what the publishers are looking for.

The publishers demand is significantly less than the pool of available work. There are a lot of writers out there trying to get noticed. Most of them are probably really good. I don’t know if I believe in luck, except for the lottery, but I do believe in hard work and working smart. This is how to generate results. I do understand the position of the publishers. Why take on someone that is unknown without an established following, when there are a lot of authors out there that already have a built in readership?

So I think I’m going to try to self-publish. I’m learning how to market myself. I have extracted promises from a couple of friends that know a thing or two about marketing. I truly do believe I have the ability to make a living out of my writing. I don’t expect to become the next Jude Deveraux or Danielle Steele, but it would be nice to pay the bills and afford my travel habit.

So, I’m going to self-publish. Please wish me luck.