Friday, July 30, 2010

The Headache of a Synopsis

Sipping afternoon tea I ponder the current projects I have on the go and the post Cow Girl in New England had on her blog this morning. It was by guest author David Bridger, whose just had his book "Beauty and the Bastard" published. Now, although his book is not something I would be interested in as it's totally not my style, his post was interesting. It was all about writing a synopsis and how he writes it as he goes rather than trying to condense the whole novel into something manageable at the end.

A synopsis is what a writer sends to an editor along with a cover letter and the first 3 chapters of their novel (depending on the publishers submission requirements). It shows the editor what the story arc is, where it's going and how it ends. An important piece all things considered.

I've always found synopsis writing to be an interesting and daunting task. Interesting because everyone has a different idea of how to write one and what the outcome should look like. Daunting because it is pure hell to try and condense a 67,000 word story into 2 pages. Attempting to figure out what details to put in and what to cut, especially when the story has 4 main characters and 3 narrators! AND, of course, it's supposed to be written in the same style as the novel.

Despite those difficulties, I have written a synopsis for my novel and I am fairly happy with it. I wrote it between February and March 2009. Actually, I drafted 3 different synopsis and wound up doing something similar to the process Bridger describes. My first, the long synopsis, was 10 pages single spaced. The second, the short synopsis, was 4 pages. finally paring it to 1.5 pages after that. Of course, each editor's view is subjective so there is still no guarantees and I know I will be rewriting it yet again as I revise my work (or at least tweaking it).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What's in a Name?

Barely awake, the coffees deep brown flavour hugs my tongue briefly and slides down my throat, reminding me of “Koffee,” Mira’s dog from my novel, “The Trade Off.” 

Koffee, has always been Koffee and I've always known that was her name. At 6 weeks old, her silky white coat was decorated in golden brown splashes much the colour of a Latté, the spots starting on her nose, dripping down her back and encompassing her tail; not to mention, she’s since developed a decided preference for the beverage and a tendency to sneak sips when Mira isn’t paying attention.  
Finding the right name, like finding the perfect word or term to describe something, doesn’t always happen right away. Sometimes names come more easily, intuitively appearing in the text as I type, while at other times as with Mira ( and Tristan, assigning a name results in a mini case of mistaken identity. On both occasions I forced the name, rather than allowing it to come to me in it’s own time, by naming the character before I began writing the story, thinking it was about one character only to find out I “got the name wrong" and discovering the story was about a different character entirely. 
So how does one come up with a name? In the case of my postcard story, “Shattered,” about man drowning in his heartbreak after discovering his girlfriend sleeping with his now ex-best friend. I had originally used Simon, a character in my short story “Memory Files,” when I first started writing the piece because I thought a bar would be a good place for a scene in the story. Once I was done I realized that the scene was instead a complete 250 word story about someone else and I needed a name. I began by looking baby names and their meanings, finally coming up with Tristan.

I always know when I’ve discovered the right name because it rolls off my tongue like a savory treat with the perfect blend of sounds to describe an essence of character not found any other way; it perfectly fits the character. It sounds like them. Sometimes finding the right time involves more thought, research or learning more about the character, providing moments of discovery that are both elating and satisfying as I begin my day.

About the photo: Taken late June 2010 at the headwaters of the Takhini River where it flows out of Kusawa Lake. The name, Kusawa means "long windy water." The glacier fed lake is approximately 37 miles long is frequently white-caped by winds.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Sitting behind a row of dyes I see the festival through a hidden window. The town is full of tourists, Yukoners and Dawsonites and I wonder what their vastly differing opinions might be as I explore the town, taking a collection of photographs for a project I’m working on. For myself, I love the architecture, the signs, and the beauty of surroundings haunted by the presence of history.
My impression is only slightly marred by my thoughts on the dredge tailings. The rugged stony piles left by the dredges as they rode up and down the valley in search of gold are tinted with sadness and sparse vegetation, roots isolated from the fertile earth buried meters below the rocky surface. It’s hard to imagine that this valley once fed upwards of 40,000 during it’s peak in 1898 ( 

Gazing through my camera I realize again the limitations of a lens. What is majestic can be reduced to ordinary when framed within a 4x6 frame and yet given the same perspective the mundane can become a beautiful story with the capturing of a moment, a thought or a look. I pause; my finger on the shutter, I consider. If the subject is intriguing to me, would interest others and what it is I’m trying to capture? And I’m struck by how much the same considerations apply to writing. What is the best angle to approach a story? What would interest the reader? Is the point of view that of the character in the story or my own?

A picture is a representation of the world captured, composed and shown purposely through the eye of the photographer, a story is a view of the world written or orated by the creator of the piece and told through the eyes of the narrator. And as writer I have to differentiate between the various viewpoints of my characters and my own perspective, picking the narration which best to displays what it is I want the reader to know.

Top - taken from the inside of the Tie Dye booth at Dawson Music Fest 2010, Dawson City, Yukon
Botton - Taken in the train shelter in Dawson City, Yukon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Ideas

Last summer my friend Emilia and I went to Dawson City for the music festival. In my wanderings I was surprised to come across this sign, on a building I can only assume is the festival office, which looked nothing like the logo which had been on all the events advertising or t-shirts. There is something about it's simple honest text which pleased me.

While I was there I was struck by an idea for a photo series. A story in pictures. And so this year as I ready to depart again for the festival to experience the wave of music dancing through the air, composed to bring joy, sadness, and elation and despair to the appreciative audience, I go with a fresh set of film, my camera and a mission.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

High Gear

My creativity peaks and dips, providing a natural balance to my life, and when I'm at my most creative I find strange things happen. I wake up in the middle of the night and begin to write in my head, knowing I have to do something about it; half- asleep, I stumble out with my notebook in hand, curl up in my chair  (after kicking the dog out of it - the plus side is it's always warm) and write. I can't think of anything I've done in the wee hours that has been uninspired.

Sometimes I get up multiple times; thinking I'm done, I crawl back into bed and get settled only to have new ideas for wording, sentence structure or story twists, spring to life and demand my attention.

Other weird things happen too, like my present urge to write horrible poetry (I'm really not that good at it), try strange word combinations (like fireweeds red sky - since went does fireweed have sky?) and risky content.

How is it I get these creative urges and deal with the exhaustion of my mid-night rampages? They come through my immersion into writing, the more I write the more creative I get. Sure, somedays I don't feel like writing as much those are the dips, but I do it anyway; I must. I go for a walks. I let my thoughts wander and soon I must write something down, my being demands it with every breath. I sit type, erase, and type anew. I start with the easy stuff, the things I know. It doesn't matter where I start, it comes. Writing begets more writing and after a midnight binge I often awake early feeling refreshed and energized.

And, as I prepare to begin my busy summer schedule on Monday, I know it will be my writing which helps balance and ground me, keeping me from losing myself in the rush of the everyday.

Adieu for now - poetry is calling (weird).

Rising through Time

Every writer knows, when your not actually writing it doesn't mean your not writing; it simply means your subconscious brain is working on what it is you want to say, putting the puzzle of words and ideas together into some semblance translatable to your conscious brain and the keyboard at hand.

In my case, I know it's time to sit down with pen or keyboard when my brain starts talking to me in phrases which quickly transform into full fledged sentences, begging to be heard. In fact, this phenomenon happens at inconvenient times, like during a meeting or in the middle of the night, with astounding frequency.  Sometimes these words can be put on hold and other times I find myself jotting them down on a piece of scrap paper as fast as I can write, as with this weeks word, before they once more disappear into the ether. 
When the word “floating” was given to me by Heathbird I was immediately intrigued. This was a powerful word, a word of infinite possibilities and many, many thoughts leapt to immediate consideration all vying for space.

I thought of this picture, of a Golden Eagle taking flight on air and how they soar above the land. I thought of the physical sensation of floating - every molecule of my body disconnected and yet whole at the same time, soft, fuzzy, surreal. I thought of wind and blowing leaves, boating and yes, sex.

I wasn't sure which idea I wanted to follow. Lacking the time to ponder, I allowed them to sit and swirl around in my mind along with the projects I'm working on until tonight; as I lay half-asleep, they solidified into one idea. These lines came so clearly that I had to write them down for further exploration. I believe they are the beginning or the end of a story I’m working on and I am eager to discover where they belong. 
"Her presence will always ghost my life, floating just out of sight of my conscious mind. And I will always wonder what would have happened had I chosen to be friends, had I not ran, had I been less shy and more comfortable with myself and how I felt."
I'm saddened for I can see this character is regretful. Will she remember that the future does not have to be dictated by the past as we so often think and be strong enough to rise above it and try and change things in the future? 
It is these very questions and feelings which drive me to write more, to explore, to be surprised and to get excited for and with the characters I create as they begin to come alive.

Note: The photo above was taken at the lake right near the start of the Atlin Road. I got within 20 feet of him before he decided to fly on the air with his huge wings and later perch in a willow to watch me.