Let’s start at the very beginning…

… a very good place to start.

The other day I was reading Jo Eberhardt’s Blog entitled ‘Begin at the Begining, End at the End’. She spoke alot about being able to define what a story is about and that if you don’t have the ‘beginning’ of your story right it makes the defining part just that much harder.

I have always, and I mean always, had trouble defining what my story, Ankhari, is actually about. I can tell you all the twists and turns, I know the characters inside out, but when is comes to condensing what it is about into three sharp sentences I fail (and I know I fail because I am still unable to produce a query letter that I am 100% happy with).

But Jo helped me to see that it is the beginning of my story that is the problem. As the writer, I know that my protagonist has self-esteem issues; that she would love to travel across the country for college but feels trapped by a requirement to stay close to her single mother; that she has never been kissed; that she would give anything to rise above the throng and be extraordinary – just for one day. I know all these things, but my readers don’t. Because with all the cutting and editing to get into the action of the story faster, I lost all of this somewhere along the way. My story has no beginning. If the readers don’t know who my protagonist is, then how can they appreciate her journey?

Don’t worry I plan to fix it!

While we are speaking of beginnings there is something else I would like to talk about – The Prologue.

I can honestly confess that until a few days ago I had no idea that prologues were such a big no-no. Apparently they are literary C4 (as in put one in your story and watch it spontaneously explode!). In Kristen Lamb’s Blog she details the reasons why prologues are so perilous, so I won’t repeat them here. Save to say that of the three novels I currently have in the works, all three have a prologue!

“Kaboom”

Also, until reading her blog I had no idea that readers tend to skip over the prologue – I have NEVER done this and don’t understand why anyone would. Unlike Kristen I am a big fan of the ‘set the mood’ type of prologue – they help me determine if I am going to bother continuing onto the first chapter.

Let me know your thoughts on beginnings an prologues. Am I just being overly sensitive? (don’t worry, you won’t offend me)

The Exasperated Novelist

p.s. as a side thought I thought I would provide I link to one of the aforementioned Prologues and you can judge for yourselves. Check out my blog Prologue Central.

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Stolen Ideas…

Imagine working on a novel for two years, only to have your project show up under someone elses name, ruining any chance you may have had at getting published. Enough to make you want to cry isn’t it? But it happens… all the time. I am not saying that there are authors out their literally stealing people’s work and publishing it as their own, but there are lots of people out there trying to get published, writing very similar books with very similar concepts, and sometimes they clash. Of course, it doesn’t always stop you from getting published (look at JK Rowling!!). The problem is, it can be the smallest of ideas that really ties you up.

For me, this is what has happened with my novel ‘Ankhari’. When I started writing this book I had never heard of Pittacus Lore’s (AKA James Frey and Jobie Hughes) ‘I am Number Four’, I mean, how could I? the book was still being written. But I have now. I will set the record straight: the protagonist of my book is not an alien, though she does have supernatural powers; obviously she is also a she, not a he; the members of the Ankhari are not being chased by an alien civilisation intent on destroying Earth, though they are being pursued; primarily my book is a romance with a bit of action and fantasy thrown in for good measure, where ‘I am number four’ is an action book with a bit of romance on the side. So no problem right?

Well there is one very similar concept in both books… the idea that when someone loses control of their emotions they also lose control of their supernatural powers. I’ll quote from both books –
‘An emotional imbalance will cause them to come right back on again, if you get overly nervous, or angry, or sad.’ (PITTACUS LORE)
‘It can happen anytime your emotions are out of your control – any emotion… grief… rage… ecstasy.’ (ME) – and yes i wrote that line at least twelve months before I had even heard of ‘I am number four’!

The problem is that this concept is vitally important for my novel… it’s the way I have managed to write a romance novel with two teenagers that are obsessed with each other while still mantaining my PG rating.

My final note is an apology to all the authors I accused of stealing (possibly even JK Rowling included) perhaps, just perhaps, those authors came up with their ‘stolen’ ideas all on their own.

If any of your ideas have inadvertantly appeared in someone else’s work let me know.

The Exasperated Novelist

The Art of Brevity in Synopsizing

Firstly let me say that yes Synopsizing is in fact a word, and while, as an Australian, I feel that the word should probably be spelled Synopsising, a google search confirmed that this was not a word so I will stick with the z!

I honestly believe that writing a synopsis has been my least favourite part of writing a novel, even editing takes preference! How on Earth am I meant to get my 95000 word novel and summarise it down to just 200 words?… Yes that’s right 200 words! And not only does it need to be brief but it needs to sell my story, let the reader know what the story is about, the tone of the book, and be catchy enough that they remember it after having read hundreds of other synopses.

Good Luck!

I currently have about 10 different synopses, of varying length and style – anywhere between the dreaded 200 words up to 2 pages, floating around on my computer and to be honest I am not completely happy with any of them.

So as a consequence, esteemed reader, I am asking for your help. Below is my latest attempt at the 200 word version of a synopsis for my novel ‘THE ANKHARI’. The book is a young adult romantic fantasy, and while I appreciate the fact that none of you have read my novel with hinder the process somewhat, any advise that you may have for me would be greatly appreciated.

Looking forward to your comments – constructive or otherwise.

The Exasperated Novelist.

SYNOPSIS

When Anderson Morgan, a perpetually ordinary 17-year old from small town Minnesota, discovers that she is a member of The Ankhari, a clandestine group distinguished by the possession of supernatural powers, her world, understandably, is turned upside down. It doesn’t help matters that the bearer of this news is the astoundingly handsome Nate Callahan, who is not only a member of this secret society himself but who also, quite inexplicably, seems to be interested in Anderson as more than just a friend. For Anderson this is just the beginning of her problems. Her power of teleportation, which at first seemed so extraordinary, provides an unassailable barrier to the development of a physical relationship with Nate. Then, when her father is kidnapped by a group claiming to be a resurrection of The Sajra, the ancient enemy of The Ankhari, Anderson and Nate must follow a cryptic set of clues that take them on an epic journey to an abandoned mine in Wollongong, Australia. In a final battle of wills Anderson must discover her true inner strength and take the first steps towards the fulfillment of her destiny.