Tag Archives: synopsis

From Writer’s Block to Creative Outpouring

Hi everyone,

On release day of The Sword of Dragons, I began telling the tale of how this epic story came into existence.  This is part 2 of that tale, the first part can be read here.

Four Years of Writer’s Block

The path to writing the first 12 chapters of what was still called Sword of the Dragon was a slow but eventful one.  I rewrote the first chapter about 3 times before I was satisfied, and then moved on from there.  At the time, my system was to write a chapter, and then go back and proofread it before moving on to the next chapter.

Little did I know at the time that this was a mistake for me.  It slowed down the flow of the story, and stifled my creative outflow.  Wow, it sounds so technical when I put it that way…

College-GraduationIt was right around the time that I graduated from college in 2007 that the dreaded writer’s block hit.  And it hit hard.  From 2007 until 2011 I wrote two chapters of the novel, and maybe only 2 short stories.  It was the least productive time of my entire writing life.

What caused it?  A multitude of things.  But a big part of it was uncertainty in my life.  I was graduating with a Bachelor’s of English, but I was dissatisfied with it at that time.  I was already on course for switching to IT for a career, but was unable to secure a job right after graduation.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.
Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

My life became chaos.  I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, and my writing suffered for it immensely.  I did eventually find a part time job that then led to a full time job, but even as I changed jobs and began to make incredible progress in my IT career, my writing continued to suffer.

Breaking the Chains – Inspiration Strikes

I’ve been told that pulling out of writer’s block is one of the hardest things to do for any writer, and until this had happened, I had no idea just how hard.  But I did.

It wasn’t instantaneously, though.  I began writing short stories again, but didn’t complete any of them.  I had some false-starts on chapter 14 of Sword of the Dragon, and I went back and rewrote chapters 12 and 13 a couple of times.

What finally seemed to do it?  I moved to Colorado.  And my inspiration soared!aspen_colorado

In many ways, my move to Colorado was the best thing I could have ever done.  I was unhappy where I was in New Mexico, I was unhappy in my job, and I had a lot of painful memories there.  I was stuck in the past.

So I found a better job in Colorado and ran away from New Mexico.  There was more to do where I moved to, better quality of life, and a job that didn’t require me to work 12 hour shifts.  Massive improvements.

Within months, it started.  I finished chapter 15.  Then 16.  Then 17.  On and on it went.  And before I knew it, Sword of the Dragon was completed in 2012!!

Changing the Title

So why did I change Sword of the Dragon to The Sword of Dragons?  Because it’s such a cooler title?  Actually I think I lucked out on it, because I was dead-set on the original title.  I like The Sword of Dragons better :)

But the reason behind was simple: The day I decided to start querying for an agent, I did a search on amazon, and found a novel subtitled “The Sword of the Dragon.

Image Source - http://www.authorappleton.com/
Image Source – http://www.authorappleton.com/

While published long after I first came up with Sword of the Dragon, I am not despondent nor do I believe the author knew about my novels, how could he?  And the description of Scott Appleton’s novel sounds really cool, I fully intend to buy it and read it :)

Never-the-less, this required me to change the title of my series.  It took me about 5 minutes of thinking (the first 3 of which was me getting over the fact that I couldn’t use my title) to come up with the revised The Sword of Dragons.

Rejections, Redirects, and Self Publishing

With the title changed and all references in the manuscript changed, I began the arduous process of writing query letters and synopses.  After each rejected query letter, I reworked it.  Checked out some awesome helpful websites (Agent Query Connect is the best!  :D)

But no hits.  This didn’t deter me.  While I worked on finding an agent, I completed book 2 of the series, Burning Skies.  Compared to book 1’s six-year development, book 2’s year-long development was insanely fast!

I took a break from the series when I came up with Chronicles of the Sentinels, but that was yet another incredible outpour of creativity: I developed, wrote, and completed 2 rounds of proofreading on the novel in 3 months!!!!  It is safe to say that my writer’s block is really over, heheh.

But when a potential agent for Chronicles fell through, something sparked in me.  I realized how annoyed I was at the whole process.  And I kept thinking about Lindsey Stirling, who was rejected (quite brusquely) by the panel of “America’s Got Talent”, but through social media, was able to make a name for herself!

lindsey-stirling-celebrity

The key was when I asked my girlfriend one question: “Do you think I should self-publish?  Do you think I can even do it?  Can I make it as a self-published writer?”

Her unequivocal “yes” was that last boost I needed.  :)

The result of that decision so many months ago?  Well, you’ve all seen it.  The Sword of Dragons :D

Cover by Christian Michael
Cover by Christian Michael

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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Writing Critique Groups

Hi everyone!

First I want to apologize for how long it has been since I wrote a blog entry.  Two weeks to the day!  :-\  It has been a very busy couple of weeks, and a bit of a roller coaster.  Okay more than just a bit!

But, on the bright side of things, I have completed the revisions to Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, and only need to finish up a query letter and synopsis, and then I’m ready to send my pages to Ms. Diver!  I’ll post the manuscript’s stats at the bottom of this article :)

On to the subject matter for today’s article!  And this has a lot to do with becoming published and/or finding an agent.

The Other Half of the Job

Now before anyone says anything, no, I am not down-playing the importance of writing skill.  No matter what, you must have a quality piece of writing in order to have a chance at either mainstream publication or making your self-published work sell.

Having said that, I have learned this year just how important it is for a writer to get out from behind the pen and actively work on getting your name out there, or going out and meeting other writers, meeting publishers and agents face to face.

In general, writers are by nature introverted to some extent.  (This is not a universal truth, however!)  And I used to have the naive impression that all writers had to do was write, and then leave the rest up to the ‘professionals.’

I was wrong.  I’ve been learning all about what a writer should do beyond writing this year, and honestly is part of the reason I started this blog, and started my facebook page.  Whether you’re self-publishing or going main-stream, it is chiefly the writer’s responsibility to promote themselves and their work, to get their name out there.

Image Source - RMFW.org
Image Source – RMFW.org

Beyond even that, however, is the ‘mingling’ part.  And yes, RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference and my experiences there is a big reason behind tonight’s blog!

If you haven’t read it yet, read my blog that details my experiences there!  I met so many different writers, which in and of itself was incredible!  More than that, I got to meet editors and agents, and pitch to one, which led directly to finding an agent interested in my work!

The lesson learned there was that my one weekend at the conference was far, far more productive than cold-mailing query letters out.  Now of course, there is no guarantee that you’ll have any success going to such conferences.  You really must have a good product to sell, be a person an agent or editor wants to work with, and have a good pitch!!

There’s also something else that I am going to highly recommend all writers do…

Writing Critique Groups

kevin-wolfWhile I was at the conference, I was encouraged by Kevin Wolf to join a local critique group hosted by RMFW.  I’ve now been to two sessions, and I have to say that it is an incredibly helpful resource!

Not only do you get to meet and collaborate with other writers regularly, but you get multiple eyes on pieces of your work, which allows for a wide range of view points, opinions, and suggestions!  Plus if you’re lucky, you’ll have published writers in your group that could potentially give you advice in other aspects of the industry!

Having said that, I should caution that not all critique groups are alike.  I was lucky to have found a great group my first time out, but I’ve heard horror stories.  So I would recommend checking around, and if your first venture into a critique group doesn’t go well, look for another one, but don’t give up!

I know that those of you who live in a small town might not have such a group.  I have two recommendations.  First, there are online critique groups, so just do a search on the internet!  Second, try to create one in your area!  I would be willing to bet that there are at least a few writers even in the small towns :)  And even if that’s not the case, it can’t hurt to try!

So what do you all think?  Are there other resources ‘out there’ that you would recommend on top of this?  And if you do go out and find a critique group, or are already part of one, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them!  So please leave a comment below :)

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy Revision

So as promised, here are the stats for the revised version of Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, now marketed as an Adult Modern Fantasy novel :)

Word Count: 75,237
Page Count: 231

Photo Source - http://mainlineoptix.com
Photo Source – http://mainlineoptix.com

It’s a marginal increase, not the 80,000 words I was wanting, but I was grateful for the opportunity to flesh it out without worrying about making it too long.  I feel like anything extra added to the story would be arbitrary at this point.  This increase doesn’t come from big chunks tacked on here and there, either, every single chapter has been modified to some extent, little modifications here and there.

This includes fleshing out Alycia’s character more, so I am very pleased with that :)

I’ll be sure to let everyone know when I finish my query and synopsis and send it out!  Thanks for reading.

-Jon Wasik

Query Woes – How Do You Describe Your Story?

There is one thing I struggle with consistently when it comes to the world of writing: how to describe my stories.

When someone asks me “What is your novel about?” my mind immediately turns blank.  It is one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had, and it happens to me almost daily!  Someone recently reminded me of a Doctor Who quote that applies: “You know when someone asks you what your favorite movie is, and suddenly you forget every single movie that’s ever been made?”

However, it goes beyond this.  This isn’t just a “Jonny-on-the-spot” blank moment, this is a struggle that has extended into writing query letters, and is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles I face at the moment to finding an agent.

What is a query letter?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a query letter is a one-page presentation of your story and yourself that you send to literary agents in an attempt to garner interest in your work and, eventually, land an agent to represent you and your work.

Query letters have a basic formula that all writers are encouraged to stick to.  Trying any other format has been described as ‘trying to re-invent the wheel.’  There’s no need, the wheel works fine just as it is, and if you try to sell a reinvented wheel to GM or Mitsubishi, they’re just going to laugh at you and go pay lower prices for regular wheels.  Agents expect a specific format to your letter, and I have read that if you don’t stick to that basic principle, most agents will not even finish reading your query.

The format is simple: Hook, Mini-Synopsis, and Writer’s Bio.

The Hook

No, the Hook isn’t afraid of ticking crocodiles.  The hook is supposed to do just that: hook an agent’s interest and, for that matter, everyone else’s.  In one sentence (some leeway on that, but generally speaking it’s one of those rules you want to try to follow) you have to make your story seem interesting and unique, and give the agent a reason to keep reading.  If the hook doesn’t catch the agent’s interest, most likely he or she is going to stop there and send that dreaded rejection letter.

The Mini-Synopsis

This is exactly what it sounds like, a very short description of your story and the characters.  How short?  One paragraph.  How hard is it to condense your entire story into one paragraph?  Well, for a real challenge, try to describe Lord of the Rings in one paragraph.  Added difficulty: it has to be in such a way that it seems interesting, and isn’t just another fantasy epic that’s like the 50,000 other ones already out there.

Writer’s Bio

For published writers, this area is probably easy.  Describe your writing credentials.  Essentially, you’re trying to tell the agent why you’re worth the risk.  For someone who has nothing professionally published, this is pretty difficult to fill out (but that doesn’t mean you should leave it out of your query letter!)

My Struggle Writing a Query Letter

My first query letter is time stamped July 2013.  I have probably gone through 2 dozen revisions (including a few complete re-writes) and am still struggling to make it work!  I owe a lot of the progress I have made to articles such as this one.

I do realize that part of my struggle is my tendency to over-think and focus in on the details too much, but when you only have a paragraph for your mini-synopsis, focusing on the details is your worst enemy!  I also struggled with writing a 1-page synopsis, which some agents require for submissions on top of the query letter.

Until recently I’ve posted my query letters on my personal facebook page and asked friends and family for critiques, and they have been invaluable with helping me fine-tune it.  And yet I knew it still needed improvement.  The two agents I sent the latest revision to rejected my story, and I had the feeling that the query still needed work.

So I went to the forums I’d been lurking about for some time at Agent Query Connect.  I finally created an account and started responding to other writers’ posts, and then today I finally posted my own query letter for critique and advice.  I braced myself for the worst, knowing they would be brutally honest, and hoping for nothing less than that same brutal honesty!

I was not disappointed :)  Only two writers have critiqued my query letter at the time this article was written, and their critiques all touched on similar points.  My query letter is generic, it describes a story that sounds generic, and leaves the characters as unknowns.

This helped me to realize something.  In my query, I’m focusing on the story too much, and not giving enough attention to the characters.  Naturally I need to talk about the story, specifically the catalyst for the story, which is the titular Sword of Dragons, but for a moment, go back to the example of the Lord of the Rings.  When you think about the novel or the movies, what are the first things that come to mind?  Does the One Ring come to mind first?  Sure, its in the title, but is that all?  For me, it’s the characters that I think about more.  Frodo’s bravery stepping up to take the ring.  Samwise’s undying loyalty.  Gandalf’s fireworks and his love of Hobbits.  Aragorn’s steadfast leadership.  Merry and Pippin’s mischief.  Gimli and Legolas’s friendship.

The characters are what make stories worth reading.  The characters are what stick with us when we walk away from a story.  They are the ones who live in our hearts forever.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Realizing just how important characters really are, I intend to attack my next revision (or rather, rewrite) with the idea that I want to make the characters the focus.  The Sword of Dragons is the catalyst, yes, but the characters are the ones who make things happen, who fail or succeed.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my progress :)  Until then, thanks for reading!  Click “Like” below if you liked this article, and click the “Follow” button if you want to know when I’ve posted more articles!

-Jon