Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Live Tapestry

Recently, I remembered a large tapestry I saw in Normandy, France when I visited in 1992. I kept thinking about the immense size and wonderfully hand crafted piece of art that was supposedly created by a queen and her handmaids while the king was out conquering. To refresh my dry rotted memory I did an Internet search and rediscovered the Bayeux Tapestry.

My trip to France was one of those student tours, twenty castles in 14 days. I was an adult chaperon for my son's sixth grade class, and my recollections are hazy at best. I remember a simple museum in a contemporary building that, I think, only housed this one enormous tapestry. Mounted on the wall it snaked for 230 feet (according to my sources). I remembered it wider than it's actual 20 inches, probably because it was encased in something and for good reason. The tapestry is actually an embroidered cloth handcrafted in the eleventh century (possibly by monks) to depict the 1066 Norman Invasion of England. Its age and size alone make it fascinating, but the spectacular stitching, which I do remember, tells the story complete with horses, noblemen, spears, armor, and Latin subtitles, definitely worth a look if you're ever in Bayeux, France, if not check out Wikipedia.  Of course this doesn't do the magnificent artifact justice, but you get an idea.

My point to all this is my musings. I've been thinking about my life like a thread in Creations Tapestry. A single strand woven with millions of others, but together it produces a story. Sometimes my thread strings along the underside in the lower Story where the jumble of string and knots look messy, but once-in-awhile, I'm in the right place. My thread loops through to the top and shines gold (I hope), reflecting the magnificence it was meant to produce in the upper Story.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Passing on a Nice Thing

It's Lent. In the Christian tradition followers of Christ take forty days to reflect on the gift (or suffering, depending on your glass' fill-line) of Christ and what it means to each disciple. As a Christian subscriber and member of the human race, I'd like to pass on an interesting website that I think makes the big man proud.  Debbie Tenzer published a book in 2009 revolving around the phenomena. It's an uplifting website and food for thought.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Constructing The Query Letter

OK, I promised a quick review of query letters according to John Pipkin, author of Woodsburner. This is what I brought away from his class a few weeks ago.

Like the synopsis, this is business and not a test of my creative writing. A ONE PAGE letter, business format, introducing myself and my book to an agent. Simple and to the point, Mr. Pipkin does not subscribe to the theory that I must scour the Internet for agent details, personalizing each query letter. (Yea! And he got 'discovered' and published.) His thought is that everyone involved knows why I'm sending an agent a query--just get to the meat in the first paragraph. (I love it!)

       1st Paragraph: the hook (that same summary sentence used in the synopsis, but reworked.)
                                          Be sure to state the title and genre. 
       2nd Paragraph: summarize the characters and plot.
       Optional Paragraph: historical background (optional according to the story), relevance 
                                                  (if not stated earlier), and the potential audience.

       3th Paragraph: the writer's bio. Tell why I am qualified to write on this subject, why I'm

        4th Paragrapha formal closing, thank you, and length of manuscript.

For more info on the hook, check out my post on 'Writing That Synopsis'.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tag -- You're It!

Wow, I haven't played tag since 1962, But ouch Jan Rider Newman just punched me in the arm. 
I'm new at blog tag.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing That Synopsis

Nothing solicits groans faster in a group of seasoned writers than the word synopsis. After years of reading and attending different seminars and workshops devoted to the process, my most recent composition still didn't inspire confidence. BUT there is hope.

This past Saturday, it was my good fortune to attend a Writers' League of Texas workshop focusing on writing a synopsis and query letter worthy of submission. I thought  I'd share some of the high points of composing the dreaded one page synopsis as outlined by our terrific instructor, John Pipkin. John is the author of Woodsburner, a historical novel that I can't wait to read. Check out his website - .

I knew already a synopsis must be like a book report that hits the major points, but where John caught my attention, he said it's not a summery--but a sales pitch. No one had ever explained this so clearly. We all know we have few words to catch the proverbial attention of those over queried agents and publishers, but its not about my manuscript, its about how, why, and to whom would a potential agent SELL my story.

That in mind, here are John's five elements that must be stated in the hook--that first sentence or two:
Title + Genre + Character + Conflict + Consequences/Relevance = Opening Sentence or HOOK.

This sounds daunting, but I started by simply writing each element, then I constructed sentences begining with the ONE element that makes my story unique. In my case the protagonist (character) is bipolar, what she has to overcome (conflict) in my story (title, genre) in order to find (consequences/relevance). Not a dust jacket logline, but just the facts developed in a grammatically correct sentence. It isn't easy, but doable. After the hook paragraph, I must develop 3 to 4 concise paragraphs and the conclusion. This is how my single spaced, 12 pt. font, synopsis, sales pitch would break down.
  1. Opening hook
  2. Summarize the story, intro main character
  3. 1st character description (typically protagonist) 
  4. 2nd character description (antagonist)
  5. 3rd character description (important to plot development)
  6. Conclusion, stating story resolution and relevance
This model works for both my Women's Lit fiction and my Mystery novel with some slight modifications. The Plot-driven, Mystery/Action synopsis would read -- 1. Hook, 2. Summary, including three major characters, 3. Intro with initial conflict or what launches the story, 4. First twist, 5. Second twist, and 6. Conclusion including resolution and relevance.

Next week, my post will feature some of John's suggestions on the illusive (at least to me) query letter.