Story or the Book?

Which is which? I have gotten a few storylines written down, or perhaps they’re synopses. They certainly aren’t outlines. They’re not the terrain, but they aren’t the map. Nevertheless, they guide me as I write–otherwise my book gets threequarteritis.

What’s that, you say? Something no book doctor can fix. (See what I did there?) Threequarteritis seems to strike my work a lot. It’s that point, almost always about three quarters of the way to the end, where I get stuck. REALLY stuck.

Having a storyline already written down to turn to, at that point, allows me to force myself through the yucky part. The part where I know the work is awful and the writing is ghastly.

If I successfully force my way through it, I can get the story to turn into a book.


New Ideas

It’s been just about exactly a month since I finished “Disform.” During that time I’ve done some revision, although more awaits the rest of its critiquing, and I’ve tried and tried to come up with a sequel. I have several ideas for it, but they have failed to come together.

However, a new story has recommended itself to me. It’s a fantasy tale, with strong romantic elements, about the hidden secrets in a woman’s bloodline, the nature of tiny mountain towns, and what happens when life imitates art. It’s called Pocket Gods. Or maybe The Winter People. I’m not sure which yet.

I’m not allowing myself to start the actual text until I have a synopsis of the full story; this is to avoid three-quarter wall syndrome, which is what happens if I start without some idea of what happens through till the end. I have done this many times, and what tends to happen is that three quarters of the way through, I no longer have any idea of what needs to happen, and I get stuck. Frequently that’s when I decide the whole project was a mistake and the writing is terrible and I should scrap the lot. (Apparently this happens to many writers who are published and have a great career, also.)

So, to avoid that problem, I am writing a full synopsis. I might not follow it, but at least it’s somewhere to go if I get stuck. It worked with Disform, so we’ll see how it goes here.

I’ll post an excerpt when I have it. 🙂

Synopsis for Message

Okay, so I did find a few sample synopses online, but they were mostly for romances. Nevertheless, they helped a bit. I finished a tagline, blurb and synopsis for ‘The Message’ which will go out to agents starting probably Tuesday. I have posted them here.

If you’ve never commented before but often thought you might sometime, now is when I could really use your help. One simple question. Does reading the synopsis make you interested in the book?

Tagline: The Message is a story of faith, love and serial killing.

Blurb: Greg and Allie, partners in preaching, are unexpectedly gifted with special powers and a mission to stop a serial killer. But if their gifts come from God, where do the killer’s gifts come from? Will Greg fight his way through a crisis of faith in time to save Allie’s life?


Bluff, opinionated pastor Greg Sanderson has a strong faith, which sustained him through the recent tragic death of his wife Diane. Despite his dislike of his New-Age younger associate pastor Alexandra Morgan, he has a good strong relationship with his church, St. Andrew’s Methodist.

Until he collapses backward mid-sermon, in the grip of a powerful, incomprehensible vision. Shortly after that, he begins seeing the ghost of his wife. Diane cannot speak, but points urgently away. Worried for his sanity, Greg contacts old friend and counselor Dr. Ames. The morning after his single session, Greg finds himself arrested for the brutal torture and murder of Dr. Ames. Details of the crime scene include a bloody handprint deliberately left on the victim’s chest.

Released on lack of evidence, Greg is confronted by his associate pastor Allie, who appears to be losing her mind. She reveals that a miraculous power of healing has come to her, and needs Greg to assure her it is from God, not the Devil. Experimentation convinces Allie that Greg’s ghost is in fact a compass pointer, and that the two of them have been given a mission, although not an explanation. The light they create together seals them as partners—in her mind, at least. Greg, however, is profoundly distressed to find that it’s not really Diane’s ghost communicating with him. He does not want Allie as his partner in any mission, God-given or otherwise.

David Roberts, a special FBI agent of friendly and wry disposition, arrives to question Greg. There has been another killing, also involving the bloody handprint, and he has been sent to investigate it as a serial murder. On the basis of this news, Allie persuades Greg to try again.

Following Greg’s pointer, the two surprise a homeless man in his lair. He flees, leaving behind a videocassette and proof that Greg’s ghost compass can find him. On the video, the killer gloats and demonstrates a special knowledge that drives Greg into a crisis of faith. He sends Allie away, rejecting her violently.

Agent Roberts returns, now with a copy of the videotape found at the scene. The killer attacks, succeeding in cutting off Roberts’ hand. He flees in apparent terror of the helpless Greg and Roberts, both of whom he has immobilized with his own special power.

Allie, with unexpected authority and compelling passion, invades Greg’s home and uses his own sermons against him. Though still trapped in his sorrow and professing hatred for God, Greg is shamed into agreeing to help her. Together they win Roberts over to their cause.

Allie’s estranged father, Dr. Morgan, a Bible-pounding fire and brimstone preacher, turns up on her doorstep. Dying of cancer, he seeks to use his own illness to win her back to the Fundamentalist fold. Allie heals him against his will, only to lose him at once as the killer kidnaps him, leaving another videotape behind.

Under suspicion now and on the run, Greg, Allie and Roberts attempt to track the killer down, finding only more victims. They take refuge with a friend, where the killer contacts them, offering to trade Allie for her father. It’s clear the killer will immediately destroy her.

Although Allie’s father blames her for all this, and remains convinced she’s a tool of Satan, Allie wants to save him. Following the killer’s instructions, she leaves Greg behind. Realizing how much Allie has come to mean to him, Greg is desperate to find her. The killer refuses to tell where they are, but reveals his identity and his connection to Greg’s past. This only pushes Greg further into despair.

Greg’s hatred of God, loss of Diane, love for Allie, fury at himself and the killer, all come to a head. Giving up, giving everything back, he opens himself to God and is given, rather than reassurance that everything will be all right, a blessed helplessness. Falling to his knees a man without hope or help, he rises a paladin, a saint, a man in the hands of God, bearer and steward of a great gift and a great message. This he carries to his congregation, calling on all of them to enter that special state of prayer he knows about, to send their spiritual power to him and Allie to aid them in the coming confrontation.

With new power and new allies, Greg is able to find the killer and his immobilized hostages. Dr. Morgan, released in trade for his daughter, has been redeeming his debt by holding the killer’s attention in a game of cat and mouse, until Greg could get there.

The showdown is deadly. Greg and Allie, despite their combined light, cannot stop the killer from stabbing Agent Roberts. At the last moment before he does the same to Allie, the pair discover how to use his own black light against him and imprison him. Then it becomes a battle of faith, of will and ultimately of love. Greg and Allie pour their mingled light and the power of a churchful of prayer into the healing. The killer’s black fire burns white at last.

In this moment of clarity, the once-insane killer realizes this cannot last. There is only one way to save lives, pay for his crimes, and go to his God. In a moment of redemption, sacrifice and fire, he gives himself away.

The two and their healed companions return to the church. Together Greg and Allie preach their best message ever. Shortly afterward, they are married. Their partnership and their sacred mission will continue for the rest of their lives.

The Dreaded Synopsis

I struggle very much with these, and lately it occurred to me that I’m going about it wrong. There are all sorts of articles about how to write them, and the articles aren’t much help, I feel. Then I realized that neither would how-to-write-fiction articles be any use if I hadn’t read a really, really lot of fiction.

If you need to be a reader to be a good writer (and you do)… and you need to read a lot of the type of fiction you want to write (and you do)… then in order to write a good synopsis, what I need is to read a great many synopses.

But where are they? There don’t seem to be lists of them. You can get a few sample cover letters for submissions here and there. You can get blurbs on the back of any novel–some good, some hideous. But no big collections of synopses posted on the web. It’s the Hidden Step.

Anyone know of any?