Nancy's Notes From Florida

Writing the One Page Synopsis

May 17, 2022

Your publisher requests a one-page synopsis, or you’re required to submit a short synopsis to enter a contest. How do you condense an entire story into a single page?

One Page Synopsis

First give the book title, author name, and series number a few lines down from the top and centered. Then offer a tag line that sums up the plot. Here’s an example from SHEAR MURDER:

A wedding turns deadly when hairstylist Marla Shore discovers a dead body under the cake table.

The Setup
This initial paragraph presents the setup for the story.

Hairstylist Marla Shore is playing bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s wedding when she discovers the bride’s sister stabbed to death under the cake table. Torrie had plenty of people who might have wanted her dead, including her own sister who threatened her just before the ceremony.

The Personal Motive
Why does your sleuth get involved?

At Jill’s request, Marla agrees to help solve the case. With her own wedding four weeks away, her salon expanding into day spa services, and her relatives bickering over nuptial details, she has enough to do. But when Jill is arrested for Torrie’s murder, Marla has no choice except to unmask the killer.

The Suspects
Give a brief profile of the suspects along with possible motives.

Jill and Torrie owned a piece of commercial property together. Their cousin Kevin, a Realtor, has been trying to find them a new tenant. Meanwhile, Jill’s uncle Eddy, a shady attorney, has been urging them to sell. Now Torrie’s husband, Scott, will inherit his wife’s share. Scott has another motive besides greed. Torrie had announced her plan to leave him for another man, Griff Beasley. Griff was Torrie’s colleague at the magazine where she worked as well as the photographer at Jill’s wedding. Griff implicates Hally, another coworker. Hally and Torrie were competing for a promotion. Then [Suspect X] turns up dead.

The Big Reveal
The final paragraph is where the clues lead to the killer, and the protagonist has an insight about what she’s learned. This last is important for emotional resonance so readers will be eager for the sequel to see what happens next to your heroine.

It appears Suspect Y did [Evil Deed]. Snooping into his background, Torrie learned that Suspect Alpha helped him [Do Something Bad]. Suspect Alpha murdered Torrie because she found out about [His Illegal Business], and then Suspect X because she’d discovered [fill in blank]. Marla reveals the killer and is free to enjoy her own wedding ceremony.

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RONE Award Nomination

May 2, 2022

May 2–8, RONE Voting – Urgent!

Styled for Murder has been nominated for a RONE Award by InD’Tale Magazine. Voting for the Mystery genre takes place MAY 2 – 8 so PLEASE VOTE NOW!!!

Vote Now

Go here to create a free account: https://indtale.com/user?current=node/1 and then cast your vote for STYLED FOR MURDER at https://indtale.com/2022-rone-award-reader-voting

RONE Voting

Summary
Hairstylist Marla Vail gets a call from her mother that there’s a dead body in her shower. The victim is the project foreman for their bathroom remodeling job. With her stepdad being the lead suspect, Marla realizes it’s up to her to hammer down the clues and nail the culprit.

Hi Res Styled for Murder

Get Your Copy Here – https://books2read.com/StyledforMurder

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Writers Who Kill Guest Post

April 30, 2022

Hi, I have a guest post today over at the Writers Who Kill blog on the “Elements of a Cozy Mystery.” If you’re a writer with an interest in this genre, these tips will be helpful. Or if you’re a reader who wants to know more about the writing process, this will give you a glimpse behind the scenes.

Go to: https://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2022/04/elements-of-cozy-mystery-by-nancy-j.html



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Plotter or Pantser

April 26, 2022

As a novelist, we’re often asked if we are a plotter or a pantser. These refer to your technique in plotting a story. Do you outline ahead of time, knowing each plot point that will occur? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants as you write, unaware of what will come next in your novel?

Plotter or Pantser

It’s possible to be a bit of both. For example, as you approach each chapter, you may know what is supposed to happen. But how do you get from Point A to Point B? That’s where creative magic comes into play. It’s exciting to discover things about your characters that weren’t in your original notes.

I got into the habit of writing a synopsis for each Bad Hair Day mystery. These ran fifteen or so pages long and acted as a daily writing guide. I always knew where I was going if not how to get there. If the story changed along the way, I’d revise the synopsis accordingly.

A synopsis may be required by traditional publishers. As in indie published author, it’s a choice. You may need a short synopsis to enter your book in a writing contest, or to send to a blurb writer or cover designer upon request. It’s still a good thing to have and can point out any flaws in your story that aren’t readily evident.

Despite my preference for plotting ahead, I found myself unable to get past the first few pages in writing a synopsis for my current Work in Progress. I had done rough sketches of the suspects but still wasn’t clear on all their motives. And so I began writing to get a feel for the story. Now I’m 75 pages into the tale and still winging it. I’m learning things about my characters I didn’t expect. Nor do I have any idea whodunit at this point. My only fear is writing myself into a corner and getting stuck.

To avoid this mishap, I’m writing down every loose end or question that comes to mind from the reader’s viewpoint. If I run into a wall, I can go back and pick up on threads I’d missed. Will being a pantser work for me? Time will tell. So will my critique partners who’ll let me know if the plot doesn’t make sense. Here’s an example of some of these loose ends from the opening chapters:

Loose Ends

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Which one are you – a plotter or a pantser? Or a combination of both? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers other than to use whatever technique works for them?



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Adding Descriptive Details to a Scene

April 4, 2022

How do you avoid turning descriptive details in your novel into an info dump? When writing fiction, you have to be careful how you weave in this information. Add too much prose, and your reader will skip over those passages. You can insert material more enticingly by using dialogue, brief introspections, and short paragraphs.

Descriptive Details

My readers like to learn new “factoids” as they call them, and they’ve come to expect these tidbits in my books. It’s thanks to my editor and critique partners that these don’t become lengthy dissertations on my research findings. It’s tempting to share what you’ve learned, but you need to limit your enthusiasm and save this fascinating material for future blog posts.

Nonetheless, a critique partner recently asked me for more details regarding my story’s historical background. The setting involves a battle reenactment at a living history village. I’d skimmed over the details, but my writer friend wanted more. She even suggested I make the guide’s lectures more touristy.

Okay, I could do this. Here’s an example from a scene that takes place during the skirmish. Be kind in your appraisal. It’s a first draft excerpt.

Original Passage:

A man’s voice on a loudspeaker rang out, welcoming the guests. She recognized the marshal’s gritty tone.

“This battle is representative of the one that occurred on July 3, 1836. Out of one hundred and ten soldiers, only two survived. They made it to Fort King to explain what happened and so a contingent could return to bury the dead.” He continued to narrate as the action unfolded.

A line of blue-coated soldiers moved out at a slow pace, muskets at the ready. They followed a dirt trail among the pines and scrub brush. A small group wheeled a cannon, the only artillery in sight. The officers rode on horseback behind the troop’s drummer. The men looked weary, as though they’d been on the road for days.

Suddenly, shots rang out. The solders scrambled for defensive positions as the officers rode up and down the line, shouting orders.

Rewrite:

A man’s voice on a loudspeaker rang out, welcoming the guests. She recognized the marshal’s gritty tone.

“Today we are commemorating a massacre that occurred on July 3, 1836. One hundred and ten U.S. Army troops were on a mission to deliver a cannon to Fort King in Ocala. Along the way, they were attacked by one hundred and eighty Seminole warriors. Only two soldiers survived. Hungry and wounded, the men made it to the fort and explained what happened so a contingent could return to bury the dead.”

The blue-coated soldiers moved forward in a column. They followed a narrow dirt trail among the pines and scrub brush but still in view from the bleachers. A small group wheeled the cannon, the only artillery in sight. Three officers rode on horseback behind the troop’s drummer. The soldiers looked weary, as though they’d been on the road for days.

“The troops weren’t ready for action,” the marshal continued. “Their muskets were not loaded, and their ammunition was stuffed under their jackets. They’d grown tired and didn’t notice the tribesmen following them.”

Suddenly, shots rang out.

“The captain is hit!” the marshal exclaimed as the other officers shouted orders. The soldiers scrambled for defensive positions. Then the lieutenant toppled from his horse.

“Another officer down! The Seminole chief is a wily fellow. He knows which men are commanding the force, and he’s taking out the leaders one-by-one. Oh, no! There goes the sergeant. Now the rest of the troops will be mowed down like blades of grass.”

Which version is more vivid in your mind? What else should I add?

Another suggestion was that Marla’s husband Dalton should share some of his knowledge during the battle sequence since he’s a history buff. In the original draft, he said nothing.

New Passage:

Dalton nudged Marla. “The army soldiers had muskets that were smooth-bore and more suitable for short-range firing. The Native Americans used Deringer percussion rifles given to them in the Treaty of Paynes Landing of 1832. These had greater accuracy from a distance but took longer to load.”

“Why was that?” Marla asked. Clearly, he’d researched the topic.

“Both were muzzle-loaders, at least until 1850 or so. This means a powder charge and ball had to be inserted into the end of the barrel and pushed down to the firing mechanism. It was easier to do this for a smooth-bore musket with a larger barrel. Pushing the same ball down a tighter-fitting rifle took longer. However, the spiral grooves, termed rifling, inside this barrel meant greater accuracy. For tribesmen shooting at a distance on horseback, it gave them the advantage.”

What do you think? Too much detail or are these revisions just right? You be my critic.

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