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Book Signing

May 22, 2012

Just a quick post to let you all know, we will be in the Southampton Waterstones, West Quay, signing copies of Ignite and generally chilling out with you guys. It’s on the 9th June, starting at 11am.

We would love to see as many of you as possible! If you live in the area, it would be great for you to come along. We’ll hang out and have loads of fun, and you can buy physical copies of the book without waiting for the pre-order/ebook release!

We have a limited number of books right now, because this is still our first print run. To ensure you get a copy, turn up as early as possible. If you arrive later and we have run out, we’ll be handing out information on preorders and the ebook version. And you’ll still get to see our lovely faces and chat – which is what you really wanted, isn’t it?

Hope to see you there!

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Ignite

May 5, 2012

Oh, wow – is that an amazing new book cover? You bet.

Once upon a time, I was bored in class, so I doodled on my notebook and wrote a little story about a hole in the sky. I wrote a story about how it was dark and warm under the hole in the sky, and the children would play there when they wanted to get away from their parents. It was about two paragraphs long, and it was gibberish. There was a terrible drawing beside it of shattering glass falling down from a huge dome.

And then class ended, and I shut the notebook and completely forgot about it.

Years later, we had to write a short story, and I panicked because my ideas just seemed to have run out. Everything I tried to turn into short fiction just turned into this pulpy horrible mess.

I flicked back through my old notebooks desperately, and one line caught my eye in blobby ink: “No one knew how, or when, the sky had broken.”

And I still didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was something.

So I wrote this weird, twisty story, and it was a bit longer than two paragraphs, but it was still mostly gibberish. And everyone smiled at it politely, because it was the sort of thing that should have been good.

A visiting third-year squinted at it. He was trying to like it, and he just didn’t. He was trying to be polite, and he just wasn’t. It was the first time someone had torn something of mine apart properly, and I totally loved it.

“Make sure it keeps going, though.”

What? It was a nice experiment, but it had just fallen flat over on the page. Which was fine; I was happy to start something else.

“No, there’s a story somewhere. It’s just hidden under all this crap,” he said. (If you ever have a reviewer/editor/beta reader who isn’t prepared to talk to you like that; get a new one. Seriously.) “And there’s just so much crap. But it has to end. I really want it to end.”

I was feeling fairly exhausted by then, so I just nodded, and said I’d give it an end sometime. I’d keep it in a drawer or something, and work on it later.

No. The next thing you have to do is give it an end,” he said. “Because it ends in this sweet but really tragic way, and I think that’s really good, and I think you can write it.”

What. What what. This was a nice story, about kids, and playing, and pesky grown-ups! It’d never seen tragedy in its life!

But he kept frowning at me in this serious way, and I remembered what being a kid had actually been like. It wasn’t happy or unhappy, but it was just as real and intense as being adult. Probably more. Everything mattered so much then, before hormones made you nonsensical and melodramatic. Everything about being a kid had been sweet and tragic, and this story didn’t have either.

I was too nervous to say anything at the time (which is how 90% of my anecdotes end). But I wrote the end. And then I went back, and wrote the beginning and the middle.

So now it’s called THE SKY SHARD. Lots of people like it a little, and a few people like it an awful lot (the old softies). And it’s in this freaking amazing indie-published anthology called Ignite, surrounded by some awesome work by some awesome people who I literally cannot wait to work with again in the future.

So if you think you’d like to read THE SKY SHARD, I think you should pre-order Ignite from Amazon.

But also, if you’re not into my story, I think you should pick up Ignite anyway. Because it’s fresh, and it’s awesome, and it’s wonderfully honest. Which is important.

Also, we have a front cover which is blisteringly cool, and I’ll tell you more about the artist (and everyone involved in this crazy indie endeavour) another time. So, you know. You should buy it for that too.

Yes, it will on ebook. No, I don’t know when. All the details will be on this blog as soon as I know anything. Rest assured that everyone involved is being bugged constantly to make this the coolest thing in the world.

Why I Hate Your Hero

April 21, 2012

This post contains swearing.

 

This will probably be the first of a series. There’s a lot of things I hate about heroes. So this shall be hesitantly titled:

The Teen Edition

This is a list of problems that crop up a lot – in both published and unpublished fiction. Some are just personal bugbears, most are just bad writing; all of them make me lose any sympathy I had for your protagonist, and thus, your story.

1. The Mirror

Oh, God, the mirror. Thank God for the mirror, huh? How else would I be able to get a list of your character’s facial features? Every single one. As if, just this morning, they have finally noticed their own avatar they’ve been using their whole lives for existing on Planet Earth. Gee, thanks, Mirror.

If it’s a girl, don’t forget to mention how she think she’s not exactly pretty – but she hears other people talking about how sexy she is all the time. Because, of course, if she admits that she does think she’s sexually attractive, that would make her a skank. You don’t want her to be a skank, do you?

Don’t stop at her raven locks, though. I need to know what she’s wearing! If this were the early 2000s, I’d be expecting Hot Topic – but luckily, time has moved on. It’s all corsets now! Some people say she’s a goth, but she doesn’t think so. Because labelling is dumb. And this pushes her boobs out. Which is awesome. But not too much because then she’d be a skank.

Speaking of her boobs – they’re pretty big. Which is amazing, considering she’s skinny as a rake. But also curvy. Yeah – curves in the right places, skinny, boobilicious. Totally like a real human being, and nothing at all like Barbie. Except those girls with huge tits. They are skanks.

Guys – you’re largely free of this step. Count yourselves lucky. However, even you can’t escape the next part…

2. Birthmarks – The Mirror Strikes Back

Also, tattoos, weird symbols, scars, etc…

Firstly, I get this. I do. This step is not bad of itself. It’s just handled horribly.

The hero is branded (no, not that kind of branded…). It’s a mythic thing, part of the hero’s journey. I can go with that. The hero is special. That’s why there’s a whole book about them.

Oddly-shaped scars a la Harry Potter, I can deal. Birth-marks in the shape of a perfect star/moon/fuck-knows-what which no one finds a bit odd? At least Harry’s scar was magical. And everyone kind of dealt with that. Because magic. If your character isn’t the Chosen One, and this is not some scar of an earlier event, stop it. There’s plenty of time later in the adventure to get scars. Heroes get cut up all the time (see: Frodo and That Cave Troll They Brought in Moria). Try something interesting.

More subtle versions of this trope are nice to see, though. For example, Garion, of The Belgariad fame, has a shiny-looking burn scar on one palm which he keeps covered in dirt and grime because hey, he grew up in a kitchen and probably touched something burning hot as a toddler, right? Wrong, this is a huge Chekhov’s Gun that will kick ass later (like, several books later) which at least I didn’t see coming.

Bonus points if they run their finger over said mark whilst examining it in the mirror. Even though they’ve had it all their lives. And have never once questioned it.

3. First-Person Perspective – Return of the Mirror

Of course, this description whilst the character stares gormlessly at themselves is all in first-person. It doesn’t have the side-effect of having them come across as narcissistic douchebags with nothing pressing to do this morning. And it definitely doesn’t look like you modelled the character on yourself- excuse me, your dream self.

Even with the best of intentions, it’s hard to shy away from this implication when using first-person perspective. And some teenagers are genuinely narcissistic, and you’re trying to get that across. I know. Just be self-aware, and you should get the balance right.

If you were looking for advice instead of a sarcastic rant; I tend to use another character’s perspective to describe my protagonist – using their impressions to help the reader form their own, before diving into the hero’s mind and learning about them from the inside too. This is decidedly shaky, as opening your novel with a character who is not your protagonist Does Not Always Work. Patience, grasshopper.

4. Look At All This Stuff!

Wow. Your character has loads of nice clothes (which, hopefully, you have lovingly described previously in front of that mirror). And that new phone they IM people on. And their own TV. And loads of games for the Xbox.

What’s that? Those are souvenirs from a trip to Disneyland?

Damn, and their house is so modern and spacious too. And the garden. They must love it here. I bet their parents have a pretty good income.

“No, shut up – my parents totally suck! They don’t do anything but invite snobby friends over and get drunk and have lots of sex, and they never do anything for me.”

Huh. My mistake.

5. “It’s not just my parents; everyone sucks!”

This is not Teen Angst. Teen Angst is totally acceptable (in, you know, measured doses) for this genre. Parents don’t understand them. They hate being the unpopular kid at school. Little siblings are the manifestation of the Devil. This is fine.

If your character bad-mouths people for, essentially, not being them – this becomes a problem. Something horrible happens to a guy at school? They don’t care because “He’s a jock who plays on the football team, so he’s probably a total jerk.” Um.

People try to be friends with them? “No. No one understands. How could they want to be my friend? I bet they’re just using me. I. What? Bonus points if your character is just paranoid; but none at all if they turn out to be right. Either way, I’m bored of this protagonist.

As you may have suspected from above, this trope in its worst incarnation falls on lady characters. That’s right – The Skank. A girl at school is popular. She has a boyfriend. Maybe several. She’s outwardly sexually attractive, and she knows it. Hey, even…promiscous.

Not only does our cleavage-touting corset not-goth of a main character find this repulsive in the female specimen; she finds it justification for said girl’s life getting screwed up. In pretty much every way. Including rape. I wish I was joking.

Usually, the Skank doesn’t even need to be a bully to our heroine (but it helps). Also, she’s stupid. Must be all the space in her brain getting squashed out by her massive skank breasts. Women who are loud, attractive and confident are Evil; girls who are quiet, monogamous, and less busty are Good (both Heroine and Best Friend, usually) but still attractive, just in a less ‘showy’ way. Girls who are flat-chested, plain, or fat don’t exist, or else they’re basically boys. Or rather, they’re basically unattractive boys – so why pay attention?

Bonus points if your hero and your skank act almost identically re: sexual activity; but one is considered great and empowering, and the other is considered slutty and lacking any dignity.

Wait…did I say points? I meant, bonus smacks around the head.

If Skank is skanky purely because she’s chasing hero’s Love Interest with her breasty, sexy ways, and hero knows she’d be right for him (and chases him with the same conviction, but without all that dirty, promiscuous business), then congratulations, you get all the bonus points and can NEVER WRITE AGAIN.

6. Kick the Dog / Save the Cat

Another thing the screenwriters will doubtless explain better in the comments below. Save the Cat is the moment early on when your protagonist does something nice. Or at least, something not douchey. Gives a homeless guy some money. Sticks up for the geeky kid at school. Helps his sister with his homework. Whatever.

It’s pretty well telegraphed – even people who don’t ‘know’ this part, know this part. They’ll feel it coming.

If your character misses this, if he strolls on by, he’s dead to me.

I am not exaggerating. This is where we go ‘Huh, he may be a jerk, but he’s good somewhere. I can relate to him long enough to keep going.’

Doesn’t matter how reprehensible he is before or after. Give us one moment.

Even worse than walking past saving the cat, is Kicking the Dog. Making your hero do something douchey straight off. Laughs at the fat kid. Trips someone up. harasses a young women. Whatever.

This is fine if he’s Jerk Hero who learns to change his ways. But be careful.

7. Orphan / Everyone Leaves In The End

Yeah, being an orphan probably sucks. Being orphaned since childhood probably sucks really, really hard. And it’s a forgivable trope. It’s not so much overused as just a staple food by now. It fixes problems: the hero can go have adventures with no limitations, less characters to flesh out, automatic woobie, no drive for hero to want to Go Back To How It Was Before. OK.

First off – the Dickensian Orphanage. I don’t know what they tell you about England – but it is not full of stern grey mansions waiting to deliver children into rainy misery. It is full of grey, mansions, and rain, though, so you’re half-right. To my knowledge, orphanages (or their modern-day equivalents) are no longer run by nasty ancient women who use the cane, they do not serve broth, and this is not Jane Eyre. Stop it.

Similarly, I don’t think they let you become a foster parent if you’re a neglectful fuckface who drinks a lot and beats kids and has several nasty fuckface children who are likely to bully Orphan. I’m sorry. Cinderella was a long time ago.

This stuff may well happen, but probably only occasionally, and definitely not enough to warrant every hero ever coming from this broken foster home, ‘nobody wants me’ background. It’s not a pet shop where the one drabby-looking kitten is left behind whilst its cute brothers and sisters get sold to nice couples.

If you’re writing historical fiction, of course, go right ahead. That shit was brutal.

“But wait – there was this one person who was the only foster parent to ever be nice to me. And I called them Mum/Dad, and they were so cool and gave me loads of stuff and taught me everything I know, but they died horribly and now I have to go back to the orphanage and…”

Urgggggggh…

“And because of this previous hurt, I have decided to trust no one! Even when it would make this story significantly easier. Because the plot demands it! And I’m wounded!

URGGGGGGGGH…

Also, as a side-note: Harry Potter. Dead parents, sucks. Nasty aunt and uncle, bullying cousins, cupboard under the stairs…yeah. He fulfills your poor little orphan.

Remember how he grew up to be a misanthropic little bitch and never let people help him and was so standoffish and cool?

Yeah. Me neither.

8. “Also, I can sing.”

Oh, fuck off. Unless this story is all about singing, and your character is a singer.

“I can sing so well it brings people to tears.

No. No. Off you fuck.

9. “My life has always sucked. But TODAY, I will change it.”

Rule of Plot: Your opening sets up the situation your character is in. If things do not significantly change, your character will die, physically or spiritually. The story opens at a critical moment, even if your protagonist does not know it.

If your protagonist’s life has always been shitty, and today is equally shitty, and they’re the kind of person who does nothing to combat the shittiness, I find it hard to believe that this day, of all the others, they suddenly sit up and go “You know what? Now I will take life into my own hands!”

Wha? Where did that motivation come from? It takes a certain kind of person to be a hero. And that kind of person does not sit around for months/years before thinking ‘Gee, if only I changed my situation, I’d be a fulfilled human being.” Heroes can’t stand that. They have to fix things, they have to be active. They have a motive.

That sounds like a nasty chunk of re-writing, but never fear. This is simpler than you think. Today just has to be the shittiest day so far. They can snap. They can say ‘You know what? I just cannot fucking take this.’ The last thing they were holding onto crumbles underneath them. That’s all it takes for them to rise from Everyman to Your Hero.

But it has to be something. Today has to be different.

Don’t think all these above examples are limited to fan fiction; I have seen this stuff published. Published.

As always with these kinds of things – everything above has been done successfully, rules are made to be broken, these things aren’t bad themselves, yadda yadda. Just be aware before you stomp all over them.

When I get the chapter two, I want to be invested. I want to care. Make me love them.

What’s an early turn-off for you character-wise? Specifically teeny would be nice, but any genre.

Dear Brits, You’re Embarrassing Me

April 14, 2012

Language is one of the most impressive human inventions. It communicates abstract ideas, it varies from place to place (and even person to person) and it, arguably, allows us to think imaginatively and creatively.

Another important feature, though, is that it changes.

I use British English. I mostly prefer it. ‘Whilst’ instead of ‘while’; ‘torch’ instead of ‘flashlight’; basic stuff.

That doesn’t mean I can’t use American English, and it doesn’t mean it’s wrong (!). I know what a sidewalk is; I can throw something in the trash.

But for some reason, these words are supposed to upset people. I’m politely reminded (and sometimes not so politely) that ‘awesome’ should be reserved for the divine power of God; ‘epic’ should only be applied to long forms of poetry; and ‘memes’ are part of genetic mutation and have nothing to do with cats or cheeseburgers.

And they say this with an air of never using an Americanism or ‘Internetism’ in their lives, and that if they ever saw one sneaking up on them they’d boot it off old Blighty in a jiffy.

Please, as if people don’t use lift and elevator interchangeably. As if this matters. As if they can tell other people how to speak.

That might sound odd out of the mouth of a wannabe-editor – surely my job is to correct everything into ‘proper’ English. Yes and no. Editing is to make work make sense. Language is for communication, and I do think putting commas in the right place or rewriting a clunky sentence makes communication clearer.

But I don’t wail about split infinitives, or deplore the use of the singular ‘they’, or any other of the long list of outdated grammar rules. Those were invented by snobs and do nothing to aid communication. It was an upper class attempt to make English sound more refined by using Latin grammar. And, pro tip: English is not like Latin. Even a little bit. It’s all this business that made English so convoluted to begin with. It’s not cute, it’s archaic*.

When you insist on these rules, you do a disservice to the language you apparently have so much pride in. If you loved English, you’d let it do its thing. End a sentence on a preposition. Start a sentence with ‘and’. Go nuts.

And it is down to snobbery. Because if these rules were decided upon here in Dorset, ‘lover’ would be a standard mode of address, and ending a question without a preposition would be a sin. It may sound ridiculous, but no more so than insisting we talk like Oxford university professors.

But people do lost sleep over it. They exclaim that ‘All our children will talk like Americans!’ Oh, so what, it’s hardly the Apocalypse. I was brought up on American TV and the Internet, I turned out fine. Fine-ish. You only have to look at the heated debates held in fan fiction circles (I mean, fan fiction, people) to see that British English isn’t dying out anytime soon.

 

*All right, it’s a little bit cute.

Review: Ping Pong and Pussy Popping by Sandra Cain

April 3, 2012
tags: ,

Today I bought my lecturer’s newly-released ebook, Ping Pong and Pussy Popping: an anecdotal history of the vagina, for just 77p at the Kindle Store.

Wait, I thought this blog was for geeky sci-fi stuff, and now you’re mentioning vaginas, and I think I’m going to go stand somewhere else…

No, no, stop that. I’m mentioning it because it’s a little bit feminist, and a lot awesome.

Ping Pong is a short fun-fact book (we sometimes call them ‘coffee table books’) packed with weird funny snippets of info about the history of the vagina and how different cultures treat it. It’s great to see a book so open, fun, and not at all intimidating on this subject. And boys, I’m serious about the ‘not intimidating’, this is a great read for you too.

As a personal side-note, it was especially good to see a book addressing vaginismus – a serious problem which is frequently misunderstood even in the medical profession and can leave women miserable. It’s a cause I’m really into, and it was nice to see it highlighted properly for once.

It also dedicated some time to discussing the very real issue of female circumcision, something else I feel pretty strongly about. Fellow uni student Nora Wallaya has a fantastic blog about it, which you should go read now. I’ll wait.

The book really only suffers from a few glitches in typesetting, which comes with the territory when setting up new ebooks. Hopefully this will be fixed as it moves from Kindle and iPad onto other ebook formats and gets wider distribution.

I really enjoyed this, (not just because she’s my lecturer) and would recommend it. It’s unique, fun, and did I mention it’s 77 freaking pence, right now? I also reviewed it on Goodreads, if you’re on there (if you’re not, then this is a problem you must swiftly address, book-geeks).

You can buy Ping Pong and Pussy Popping at the Kindle Store, or it’s available for the iPad.

You can contact Sandra Cain on twitter at @SandraCain3

In other news, I now write article-blog-things on Squidoo.Com, a co-operative site which pays its contributors royalties from the combined advertising revenue. Which is, you know, totally damn sweet.

Right now, it’s just old essays – so I’d appreciate it if you take a look, but they’re not really top-notch like later articles will (hopefully) be after I graduate. But watch this space. Watch it.

Oh. So, what, you’re going to blog over there now? Because your recent track record here is pretty shocking.

No, I will be on both and blog about different things – the set-up of Squidoo articles isn’t the same as the blog. Chill out. Also, I will blog loads more after graduation. You know, when I just have a full-time job to worry about. Or something.

Adverbs, and Other Words To Run Away From Fast

February 11, 2012

Adverbs

It’s not that they’re worse than other words. I’m not bullying them. It’s just how you use them.

Adverbs are a short-cut, but that can quickly turn into laziness. You get ‘ran quickly’ instead of ‘raced’ or ‘rushed’ (what is ‘running slowly’, anyway?). It’s easier to pick an adverb than to find a more descriptive, fitting verb; but in the end it stifles the writing.

Vague Words

Words like ‘quite’, ‘rather’, ‘sort of’, ‘kind of’ and ‘a little bit’ make descriptions seem vague and like you don’t know what you mean. Conversely, words like ‘very’ and ‘really’ rely on you emphasising your description without just writing better.

I also bet that 99% of the time, the word ‘suddenly’ does not need to be there. Go on. Check. I’ll wait.

Character Tics

When I got my dissertation draft back, my tutor had scribbled all over it ‘Please no one roll their eyes again. Please.’

All those little pauses between dialogue when characters are really just talking but you want to give them time to react can add up. You don’t notice them, but readers will. A particularly prevalent one is looking into each other’s eyes, meeting their gaze, or searching their face. It reads like everyone can’t stop staring at each other, gormless. Try more interesting, realistic reactions in conversation.

Dialogue

At school we’re taught to avoid ‘said’. Any word but ‘said’. ‘Ejaculated’ is better than ‘said’ (and guaranteed to get a snigger, too). So you experiment, and soon characters are exclaiming, growling, whispering, and extolling all over the place.

But published fiction doesn’t look like that. Open up your favourite books, and 80-90% of the time they only use ‘said’ or ‘asked’ (‘replied’ is a less common one). Does that ever bug you? Are you ever left wishing you knew how a character delivered a line of dialogue?

If the book is good enough, the answer is usually no. Well-written speech advertises itself – characters sound unique, and their tone is clear from the situation and the language they use.Try working on voice, or write a whole piece using only dialogue to practice.

Taking a Meat-Axe to the Plot (Pitches, Synopses, and Treatments)

February 8, 2012

I know you don’t like them. It’s OK. Nobody likes them. Not your editor, your agent, your publisher. Everyone knows the synopsis is a washed-out, lifeless version of the story that’s become your baby. It’s OK. Breathe.

Screenwriters amongst you have probably dealt with treatments enough times by now to skip over this, (although, if those still scare you, maybe you should listen in). But novelists. Oh, novelists.

We love words. Sure, some of us excel at brevity, but let’s be honest, a lot of us don’t. We really, really like words. And we really like our epic story of rambling adventure, fantastic settings and memorable characters.

And you hand it over, and they go ‘What is this garbage? Just tell me the story.’

‘That’s the story. It’s all there,’ you say proudly, you naive fool you. ‘Chapter-by-chapter.’

‘No. Just the story.’

Oh. Houston, we have a problem.

It’s a little like the one-sentence-wonder I talked about on Saturday. Getting the basic bones of the plot down onto paper with none of the frills and spices and all those little extras you’ve been saving up.

“Frills?!” I hear you cry. “That’s intense character development! It’s important background knowledge! This isn’t trivial!”

Yeah, I know. But for the purpose of the synopsis (and even more so for the pitch), it’s basically guff. Beautifully written, artistic, plot-relevent, character-revealing guff. Your publisher (or whoever) wants to know: what does the character want, how do they try to get it, how are they thwarted, how is this resolved. If the relevance of the main character’s epic romance with a passing elf maiden, or the backstory of the ongoing seahorse/sea cucumber civil war (no, I am not giving that up) cannot be succinctly described, it does not need to be in your synopsis.

And don’t start that ‘But I have multiple protagonists’ stuff with me. One of them is more relevant to the plot. Really. Honestly. Pick any one you like, but for God’s sake, pick one. (Sorry, your mileage may vary, but I tried this with two main characters, and it Does. Not. Work. I picked one, wrote the synopsis, and saw I’d picked the wrong one. So I chose the other. BAM, all the main issues of my novel solved.)

When what you’ve got left is your work with all the juicy bits taken out, don’t worry. Publishers will want the juicy bits. You just have to prove your understanding of plot progression, and that you can clearly set out Where This Story Is Going. Then they want all those sub-characters, flash backs, romance plots, and whatever else you’ve hidden up your sleeve. They’re not going anywhere.

“But the ‘juicy bits’ are what sells my work! The basic plot isn’t interesting at all. So…”

So, you need a new plot. This is not A Bad Thing. Paring off the extras to see the skeleton this story hangs on can be very helpful. And yes, sometimes you will spot a gaping hole you can stick your arm through and wave to the other side. You will find this so-called ‘plot’ is less bones and more twigs. Hiding it with more fluff will not make the hole go away. I have tried that too. It Really Doesn’t Work. Write a better plot. I promise you, you will end up with a far greater story.

Wait, what’s the difference between these three?

A pitch is your story in a sentence. We covered that on Saturday. When someone at a party goes ‘so what’s your story about?’, this is your concise but interesting answer. In film terms, this is usually called the ‘Elevator Pitch‘ – imaging you have to sell your film script to an executive whilst stood together in the elevator. In can be longer than a sentence; it just can’t be a rambling monologue.

I have never got the hang of these; and I think they are extraordinarily tricky. My usual answer is a drunken ‘um, there’s these aliens and…no, no, wait. OK. So we’re on a space colony. And. Only, it’s not really a colony, more of a…Um.”

And then they ask, “What, is it like Starship Troopers?” To which I always lie that, yes, it is like Starship Troopers.

A synopsis is a summation of the novel/film’s plot, usually in one page (sometimes you can go up to three, it depends). It’s mostly what we’ve been talking about here. If it doesn’t feel like you’ve chopped part of your baby to pieces, then you probably aren’t there yet. Some people use a three-act structure (more so for film), personally I don’t. Just ask those four questions above on getting your character’s goal.

There is also this mysterious thing called a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. I’ve never been asked to write one, but they sound mystical, much more forgiving, and much more fun to write. I imagine they would still help find flaws in your plotting, without throwing too much away. These can be useful for yourself as much as for industry folks, as it cements the idea of a goal for each chapter, instead of arbitrarily splitting the story into parts. It shows the rise and fall of action in micro-scale, and helps pacing in the sometimes drawn-out Act Two (Come on, it’s everyone’s least favourite act, right?).

A treatment is something I don’t entirely get, but I think it’s mostly for screenplays and scripts. Like a synopsis, but longer and more detailed, covering each scene briefly. I only did one of these, and I can’t say I totally enjoyed or understood it. The screenwriters can correct me down in the comments, because they are wise and know these things.

Any woes on the cutting-down process to share? Or do you find the synopsis easy to write and think I should just plot better The First Time Around? Let me know in the comments.