Nancy's Books

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Writing a Synopsis

Another way to look at writing a synopsis is a take on writing a newspaper article—

Who (protagonist), What (main conflict), Where (setting), and Why should I care? Make the editor CARE. Make the editor want to read more. Make the editor want to turn your manuscript into a book.
What is the emotional toll on the protagonist? Does the character fear something? If so, make that know in the synopsis. Play up the emotion aspects of the story because that is the heart of the story and what sets it apart from other books. Focus on the conflict, that which drives the plot and forces the character into action.
Just like your manuscript, your synopsis needs time to breathe, to percolate, to marinate. Put it aside for three or four weeks. When you read it again with fresh eyes, you are more likely to see gaps or figure out ways to make the editor salivate.
Since you have a lot to say in a few words, choose your words carefully. Use action verbs. Play with the word and sentences to make them lively and reflective of the manuscript.
At this point, pat yourself on the back, because you have finished the manuscript. That’s an achievement and a dream come true. If you can write a manuscript, you can certainly tackle a synopsis, head-on.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
We are a YA lit/comics magazine fascinated with the lyric and strange and committed to work that speaks to teens’ truths. We publish poetry, realistic and genre fic, essay, and comics by adults and teens. Nonfiction up to 5,000 words and fiction up to 9,000 words. Stories and articles
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Writing a Synopsis

This blog is continuing with information on writing a synopsis.

If you’re writing a one-page synopsis, write one paragraph on each of the characteristics listed in the previous blog post. If it’s one-paragraph summary, briefly incorporate all of them in a few sentences.
Stay focused on the main problem and don’t deal with sub-plots and minor characters. After you’ve written the main points, revise to add voice and tone that matches the story. Consider the necessity of each word and cut out those that don’t expand the meaning or add voice.
Here’s a synopsis of my children's novel, AMAZING GRACE, I wrote for a query letter that garnered a contract:
Eleven-year-old Grace Ann Brewer’s comfortable life is torn apart when her father joins the Army in 1944 during WWII. Her family moves from Hazard to Ashland, Kentucky, to live with her grandmother. Grace enrolls in a new school and is immediately forced to deal with a bully, but the greatest challenge is to keep a positive outlook as she fears that her father has been injured—or worse—when his letters stop arriving in the mail. Gumption, that’s what Grace’s grandmother tells her she must have, but gumption isn’t easy to grasp when she listens to the wireless, a radio, that keeps the home front updated with the frightening events of the war. Grace finds solace in writing letters to her father and even more comfort in talking with her dog, Spot. With amazing strength Grace fights her own battles on the home front.
Next week, I’ll look at another way to write a synopsis.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Blue Mountain Arts Announces Its Twenty-sixth Biannual Poetry Card Contest
1st prize: $300 * 2nd prize: $150 * 3rd prize: $50

In addition, the winning poems will be displayed on our website
Please read the following, then scroll down to submit your poem.

Poetry Contest Guidelines:
  1. Poems can be rhyming or non-rhyming, although we find that non-rhyming poetry reads better.
  2. We suggest that you write about real emotions and feelings and that you have some special person or occasion in mind as you write.
  3. Poems are judged on the basis of originality and uniqueness.
  4. English-language entries only, please.
  5. Enter as often as you like!
Deadline: June 30, 2015
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Dreaded Synopsis

Writers need a one-paragraph synopsis of the manuscript for the cover/query letter and a one-page (or more, check guidelines for each publisher) synopsis for chapter books and novels. I find a synopsis anything but easy to write. Condensing the entire book into one paragraph or one page and retain the tone and voice of the manuscript is simply difficult. That’s not all. The summary should be intriguing, tantalizing, and irresistible in such a way the editor/agent wants to read the manuscript. A tall order, I must say.

One way to get an idea of what to write is to read blurbs on the jackets of books in a bookstore or library. Read lots of them. On-line, search publishers' websites and read book blurbs.
Let’s analyse a synopsis.
The goal is to introduce the characters and explain the basic overall plot in a few sentences. Begin with the main character. Who is s/he before the story begins? (If you don’t know this, interview your character to get to know him/her better).
What happened to create a problem for the character (inciting incident)?
What is preventing the character from attaining the goal? What made the plans fall apart?
What is the darkest moment, the time when it seems the character cannot possible achieve the goal?
What is the resolution? How does the character overcome the odds and prevail?
Next week, I’ll continue with information about writing a synopsis.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
I will resume providing this information in September.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Diverse Books Contest If you write MG and have a diverse background, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities, you may be interested in submitting a short story to We Need Diverse Books. They are putting together an anthology of children’s literature to be published in January 2107.

Phoebe Yeh, VP/Publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House, has acquired publication rights to this Middle Grade WNDB Anthology, working title “Stories For All Of Us.”

The anthology will be in memory of Walter Dean Myers and it will be inspired by his quote: “Once I began to read, I began to exist.” Every new story contribution to this anthology will be by a diverse author.

WNDB is proud to announce that the anthology will have one story reserved for a previously unpublished diverse author. WNDB will fill that slot via a short story contest. The winner will be included in the anthology and will receive a payment of $1000 US.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The submission window is narrow, so if you want to submit you should start writing and polishing, but you can not send it in until April 27th 2015 when they start accepting submissions. The window for submissions is only open for 12 days (until 5:00PM EST on May 8th, 2015).
Short Story Rules

§ All submissions (short story or illustrated story) must be in English and never before published in any medium, print or digital.
§ Submissions must be no longer than 5000 words.
§ All submissions must be electronic and sent to the following email address:
§ All submissions must also be appropriate for a middle grade audience, ages 8 to 12.
§ If your submission is illustrated, it must be in a graphic novel format, but no longer than 10 pages.
§ Illustrations must be submitted electronically. Do NOT mail hard copy submissions to WNDB. They will not be reviewed, nor will they be returned.
§ First prize winner will receive an award of $1000 plus their entry will be published as part of the WNDB Anthology to be released by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books in January 2017.
§ Two runner-up winners will receive honorable mentions and awards of $250 each.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Value of a Critique Partner

Recently my critique buddy and I have been writing one-paragraph and one-page synopses of our manuscripts. We ship each synopsis back and forth for comments and suggestions. Trusted feedback from a reliable source is invaluable. A new set of eyes sees what I have missed and questions sentences that were not clearly stated or whether my choice of words/phrases/ideas actually works.

We writers are often bonded like glue to our words. Our feelings and sweat pour into the work, along with hours of research, dreams, desires, and sometimes tears. Emotionally, we are close to the words we write, sometimes too close. Days, weeks, months later, the words are printed and we hold the “baby” in our hands. It feels so right, so perfect, so ready to send out into the publishing world. Unfortunately, it probably is far from ready if your work is anything like mine. At that phase, the manuscript is ready for another set of eyes to read and evaluate. Constructive criticism is your secret weapon to write a more compelling and powerful story.
Before you write the first word, you may want to run your story idea by other writers to get feedback. Will it work better for a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult novel? Early feedback can help guide you in developing the plot and characters. So, if you don’t have a critique partner, do yourself a gigantic favor and find one.
Next week, I’ll discuss writing a synopsis.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
(I’m discontinuing Call for Submissions for Young Writers until September.)
Hanging Loose magazine welcomes high school submissions. As with other writers, we reply within three months, and high school authors whose work we publish receive the same small fee and two copies of the issue in which their work appears. We feel a special responsibility to those young writers who look to us not only for possible publication but sometimes also for editorial advice, which we are always happy to give when asked.
Our work as editors is of course time-consuming, but we feel a strong commitment to give as
much time and attention as possible to the work we receive from high school age writers. We urge writers of high school age to follow these guidelines, in order to help us respond to their work.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
BALLOONS Lit. Journal (BLJ), an independent biannual online journal for children and young adults readers, invites well-crafted and mind-blowing submissions for our audience (12+). We would love to have new poems, fictions, artworks, etc. for our Issue 2. Typical pieces for kids will be unlikely to get through. Deadline info Deadline: June 15, 2015
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Word FrequencyTrivia

Writers enjoy words, individually or strung together in phrases and sentences. Words paint images, draw on memories, and transport us to different places and times. Recently, a fellow writer sent me a word frequency list based on commonly used words in American English texts and pointed out interesting characteristics.

Number 1 on the list is the. Not surprising, but the following might be:
He (#15) is used more often than she (#31) or me (#61).
I (#11) ranks higher than you (#14) or we (#24).
Can (#37) leads will (#48).
Know (#47); think (#56)
In (#6); out (#64)
            Just for fun here is more trivia.
The two longest one-syllable words in English are screeched and strengths.
Longest word with no repeated letters is uncopyrightable.
Synonyms which are antonyms: flammable and inflammable.
Often considered the longest word in English (45 letters), pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis refers to a lung disease.
Therein contains only seven letters, but it contains 10 words that can be formed using consecutive letters: the, there, I, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, herein.
            Play with words. Have fun writing.
Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
Rattle seeks submissions from poets age 15 or younger for our annual RYPA anthology. Our goal is to produce a book every year that both children and adults can learn from and enjoy. Young people are natural poets, and have important stories to share—they deserve a voice! Submitting is free, and all poets chosen receive two copies of the print anthology. Parents or teachers must submit on the child’s behalf.
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Fairy Tale Review seeks contemporary tales, realist to fabulist. Submissions are now being accepted for our twelfth annual issue, The Ochre Issue, of Fairy Tale Review, which will be published in 2016. The Ochre Issue has no particular theme—simply send your best fairy-tale work along the spectrum of mainstream to experimental, fabulist to realist. For fiction or nonfiction, send up to 8,000 words or three flash pieces less than 1,000 words each, and for poetry, send up to 5 poems totaling no more than 10 pages. Visit for more information—we will close for submissions in early summer.
Deadline info Deadline: May 15, 2015
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I’m continuing with tips to trim excess words from manuscripts.

Beware adverbs and adjectives because they don’t paint vivid pictures. Talked loudly is not as specific as yelled or boomed or screeched. A better choice is to use a more precise noun or verb. Rather than modify every noun with an adjective and each verb with an adverb, choose a more precise noun or verb that is strong enough to stand alone and needs no modification. Remember the three-R rule: reduce, refine, or remove.
Limit detail. Is the shape of the character’s nose or the color of his hair relevant to the story? If not, cut it (the description, not the nose or hair). Readers enjoy creating their own mental pictures of the characters. In picture books, illustrations provide character details.

Is your dialog saying more than is needed? Dialog should promote the plot, reveal backstory or add character traits. If it’s doing more than that, the words are mere fluff and should be trimmed. Is the dialog providing information the reader already knows? Cut redundancy. Repeating information dulls the reading experience.

Deleting excess words as I am writing a scene is difficult for me. The trimming comes with revision, where removing the litter cleans the manuscript.

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:

Parallel Ink is your friendly international e-magazine for students, by students between the ages of 12- to 18-years-old. Besides sci-fi serials and fantasy fables, we welcome poignant poetry, quirky rants, discarded love letters, and offbeat text exchanges with open arms (among many other countless gems of literature teens write). We also accept art. Honestly, anything goes if it's creative, captivating, and ready for sending out into the world wide web!
Submission guidelines at
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Third Flatiron Anthologies. "Ain't Superstitious" - Theme involving superstition, e.g., luck, prophecy, magic, rational and irrational thinking, Spinoza, dark times, black cats, Orpheus, the Flying Dutchman, Sleepy Hollow, Tam O'Shanter, astrology, witchcraft, etc.

Reading Period: May 1 - June 30, 2015
Writer Deadline: June 30, 2015
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Submission guidelines at

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Contest for You, So Hurry!

I had planned to write about ways to trim excess words from manuscripts in today’s blog; instead, I’m trimming every word from that blog post and writing about a time-sensitive subject—free contests. I stumbled upon one this week that I want to bring to your attention. It’s a contest to win a free critique for a manuscript of any genre. Nice!

Contests are valuable ways to determine if your work has merit. If you win first, second, third, or honorable mention, your work has been validated by a professional. Woohoo! Even if you don’t win, you might get objective feedback. Not winning a contest does not mean your work has no merit. What does not work for one critiquer may work for another.
Judges are often agents and editors. Entering a contest gets your work in front of editors and agents in closed houses, publishers that are not open to unsolicited manuscripts.
Winning a writing contest gives you immediate credibility that can spruce up a resume. Some offer prizes—cash, classes, or critiques. Not bad.
Many contests are free. All that I post on this blog are no-fee. Most can be submitted online so the writer doesn’t even have to pay postage. Even better.
Before you enter a manuscript into competition, gather feedback from different people. Revise your work several times to make it sparkle before you submit it. Give your work the best opportunity to win.
Check out today’s Call for Submissions for Adult Writers for your chance to win a free critique. Good luck!

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Canvas. We are seeking writers ages 13-18 to submit: 
Fiction – Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.
Novel Excerpts - Novel and memoir excerpts are acceptable if self-contained (work as a complete narrative).
Poetry – You may submit more than one poem, but please do not exceed 5 pages worth of poetry.
Plays - Please follow standard play format. Limit to 10 pages.
Nonfiction – Essays, memoir, creative nonfiction. Please limit submissions to 5,000 words.  
New Media – Video, images, etc fine for website. But must be accompanied by written version to be considered for print and eBook.
Cross-genre - Experimental work (prose poems, art and writing, fiction and nonfiction hybrids) are highly encouraged, but please keep to the word limit for fiction.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
Barbara Kyle Critique. Want expert feedback about your manuscript? Then this contest is for you. It’s open to anyone with a work of fiction or narrative non-fiction. All genres are welcome. There is no fee to enter.
And here’s the great thing. If you win, you have up to a year to send your manuscript. If it’s ready now, that’s fine; send it as soon as you hear you’ve won. But if you need more time to complete it, that’s fine too. Winners will have up to a year to send their manuscript. Through Kyle’s mentoring she has launched many writers to published success, including bestselling mystery author Robert Rotenberg, historical novelists Ann Birch, Tom Taylor, and Barbara Wade Rose, award-winner Steven T. Wax, and debut novelist Marissa Campbell.
Now it’s your turn! Enter now for a chance to win an in-depth analysis of your work.
♦ Grand Prize: Kyle's evaluation of a full manuscript – a $1,200 value
♦ Second Prize: Kyle's evaluation of a manuscript’s first 50 pages
♦ Third Prize: Kyle's evaluation of a manuscript’s first 25 pages
The manuscript evaluation will be conducted in a discussion with Barbara Kyle by Skype or by phone. The Grand Prize winner will get a full 2-hour discussion with me. The Second Prize winner and Third Prize winner will each get a half-hour discussion with me.
The evaluation will consist of an in-depth analysis of the manuscript in which Barbara Kyle will pinpoint the story’s strengths and weaknesses with regard to premise, structure, character development, voice, dialogue, setting, prose style, pacing, POV (point of view) and marketability. She’ll also offer suggestions on how any weaknesses might be improved.
1. Send a sample of your writing to Kyle at
2. Maximum length of the sample: 1,500 words. Format: double-spaced, 12-point font.
3. The sample can be from your work-in-progress or a previous work.
4. Send the sample either in the body of your email or as an attachment in Word or PDF.
5. Include in your email your contact info:
  • your full name
  • your address
  • your preferred email address
  • your phone number (optional)
  • where did you hear about the contest?
  • Enter now! Email your sample at
Deadline: April 30, 2015