Monday, November 14, 2016

T is for Tweaks

Ana muses about the tweaks she making to her unfinished story while writing the synopsis

My plan after winning a request for a full + synopsis from a big name (to me) agent is to submit the synopsis and beg for time to finish the story. I have six chapters written out of what's sure to be twenty or twenty-five.

So I've been revising the plot outline I wrote two years ago, when I took a Deep Story plotting class and wanted a fresh story line for the homework exercises. The backdrop I chose was familiar, since I wrestle with it in my daily life: choosing between alternative medicine and codified medicine.

Since I believe there's value in both approaches to healing (and look forward to a day when the best aspects of both systems merge), I made my heroine an herbalist and my hero a newly certified Physician's Assistant. Through their mutual attraction, they learn to appreciate the value in each others' views on healing.

But a successful story is not made by grand themes or personal social agenda. Stories are made by rigorous attention to characters and plot. I'm converting my plot outline into a synopsis with my eye on the basics:

1. Scenes start with a goal. Then the POV character collides with an unexpected mini-disaster and has to regroup. This sets up the next scene.

2. Both main characters have diametrically opposing opening goals. He intends to hop from this first job into a job in pro baseball by adhering strictly to the requirements of his job as a prison medic. She believes if her convicted father is let off his mandated anti-psychotic drugs protocol, he'll remember what happened to her mother the night she disappeared forever.

3. Both main characters think they need to resist their attraction to each other, that if they indulge in the attraction, they will sabotage their original goals.

4. Once H&H come together, the forces opposing them become even more powerful.

5. H&H can prevail only if they are willing to sacrifice their original goals.

6. The plot twists are not readily predictable. The Black Moment is very dark, so the ultimate reunion is satisfying.

I've had to make tweaks in details. The hero is now not committed to four year service stint to repay student loans. He's free to go as soon as he gets job offer from the MN Twins.
I'm deleting paragraphs in the opening chapters that won the request because the agent pointed out I'd hinted too overtly who the villain is and what he wants.

When I finish the synopsis, I should have a good road map to write the rest of the story. I'm sure I'll find more details to tweak, but the plot arc should be one I can stick to. Fingers crossed.


  1. This is definitely an area where I'm weakest. I have a really hard time coming up with a detailed synopsis BEFORE I write a story. I can do a general outline, but I would have a really hard time if I had to sell on a synopsis alone. I usually write mine after the story is done when I'm ready to submit. I'm lucky in the sense that is how my publisher works.

    1. It's a challenge, to be sure. I had the original outline when I started writing the first five chapters. Now, with this unexpected request, and the lack of a completed story, I need to write a cohesive synopsis--one so solid that it stands on all fours without too much wobbling. It will make the story easier to write.

  2. I work the way Debra does, but I admire you, Ana, for being able to do this. Good luck!

  3. I'm like Deb and Jen - couldn't write a detailed synopsis in advance. I may have a vague idea where the story is going but, for example, I only 'discovered' my hero's back story when I got to about Chap. 18 of my current WIP!

    1. Plotting before writing is hard, but I'm actually glad to be forced into trying it. Many successful writers do it. Maybe I'll become one!

    2. If I plotted in detail before I wrote the story (as I know some writers do), I'd probably get bored with the story part way through. I'm a pantser, not a plotter, and enjoy getting to know my characters as I wrote their story. Maybe my first draft is my plotting exercise! All I know is that if I tried to plot in advance, the end story would be very different from the original plot!

    3. I agree! Working through Act 2 of my synopsis this morning, I just discovered a different path to the Black moment.