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Monday, August 30, 2010

How to read a synopsis for problems

In my re-reading of Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies I was reminded of the importance of having an outline or a road map for the novel. It is also useful if you can read a road map for signs of trouble.
Signs of trouble include: no clear emotional hook, no clear internal conflict, a plot that means the hero and heroine will have to spend a long time apart, suddenly they are dating, lots of the turning points are caused by secondaries characters or the romance is not being moved forward.  The last four are evidence of a Sagging Middle Syndrome or SMS. All of the above will lead to revisions.
The thing about an outline is that is merely a map. You can put it to one side and write the ms how you intend but at some point you need to revisit the outline and make sure that everything is there.
So you write the ms and then you look at the synopsis to see problems.
I start with the setting, the internal/external conflicts of the hero and heroine -- these help  give the emotional hooks. Then using the words -- when the novel begins, I dive in. The first paragraph gives a brief summary of the set up (again these are the hooks that are going really grab the reader and keep her turning the pages), next comes the evidence of the growing attraction, the block moment and finally the resolution.
I also do a chapter by chapter outline.
So why have I been having so many revisions lately? The simple answer is that I haven't been reading my outlines carefully enough and I haven't seen the pitfalls -- in particular the SMS pitfalls. It is easily done. Thankfully my editors do seem to see them and tell me to pull up my socks.
So hopefully now I will pay more attention to the pitfalls BEFORE I turn things in.
And yes, I wrote my preliminary outline over the weekend as I knew the characters well enough I thought, but then realised that I had definitely had a few of the Signs of Trouble. So I will attempt to fix those and then write with the road map in the back of my mind. As I write somewhat into the mist, it is helpful to have an idea of where I'm going but not to refer to it constantly.

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