Last night, I wrapped up and turned in the synopsis I've been struggling to write for a month. The contracted deadline was yesterday. I had permission to email it and I did so at 11:30 pm. I got it in before midnight so that counts as turning it in on March 30, right?
As I madly typed I thought, why do I always end up writing right down to the wire? I had a month to write this synopsis and yet I ended up cramming two days before the contracted deadline. It's not like I slacked off. I started this synopsis the day after I turned in my last book. But I couldn't get past the first page which was basically a summery of what had happened in the preceding story. Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention, this is the synopsis for book two in a running series for HQN--working title: The Chameleon Chronicles. Anyway, I had a premise in mind, but I couldn't connect the dots. I didn't even have any dots. Random scenes usually come to me, along with an opening and closing, but not this time. Nada. Total block.
So I worried, and obsessed, and stressed for almost a month. Last week, while in London, I remembered something I'd heard agent Donald Maas say in a workshop. It revolved around raising the stakes. I realized that my premise (Using that term loosely. It was more like a half-baked notion.) was lukewarm. What would make it hotter? Initially, a friend of Evie's mom was going to fall prey to a scam, a scam that Evie and the Chameleon team would bust. That's what Chameleon, a covert agency, does--bust grifts and scams. Sure, Evie knew this woman, but there was still emotional distance. I realized suddenly that Evie's mom needed to be the mark. Raising the stakes. Even better, the scam she's fallen prey to is known as the Sweetheart Scam. This is where a con artist charms/romances a woman (or man), usually older, widowed or divorced, winning thier trust, and conning them out of their life savings. Mrs. Parish is particularly vulnerable as she's currently seperated from her husband. More to it, but the thing is, I could have picked any one of a dozens scams, but the Sweetheart Scam, in this instance, is most devastating to this woman and my central character, Evie. Raising the stakes.
Okay. So now I had a dot. One dot. Then another epiphany about a day later (still in London). I was focusing on plot. One story. This story. But this story is a continuation of the last story as well as a set up for the next story. The series is character driven. I've already established these characters. They're alive and kicking. As soon as I put myself in their shoes, more dots (scenes) occured. It snowballed from there. Two days before deadline I started connecting dots. I kept two things in mind. Character driven and raising the stakes. Still, something felt a little off. I was missing something. The comedic angle. Night before last, I woke up out of a restless sleep thinking about a particular movie. That's it! Evie and one of the leading men are movie fanatics. Again. Character driven. It was there all along. That angle, that movie, was the last missing element. Ducks in a row. Dots connected.
Are you getting anything from this? In a nutshell, writing is hard. For me anyway. Frustrating when it doesn't click. Electrifying when you're in the zone. Always, always fascinating. For me anyway. I envy any writer who has a routine, a system, whatever. It never works the same for me. Ever. Every synopsis poses a different challenge as does every story. My only routine is chaos. I whine about it, stress about it, but my best work happens close to the wire. Something about the pressure to deliver on time zaps my creativity. All that time before, the part that feels uncomfortable or foriegn, that's my Period of Adjustment. Thanks, Mr. Williams. At least I now have a name for what plagues me.
“Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it... Success is shy - it won't come out while you're watching.” ~~Tennessee Williams, Author