Starting Out Write

The New Year is always a great time for fresh starts. I turned in my last book on 1/1/2008, and it’s now scary and exhilarating. When a writer goes out of contract, it’s their responsibility to turn in a new proposal and get a new contract. Sometimes that’s a whole manuscript, sometimes it’s a partial (3 chaps and a synopsis), sometimes it’s a blurb, and sometimes it’s merely a conversation with your editor. This varies from writer to editor to house and back to writer again. In other words, there are no rules.

For me, writing proposals is the hardest part of the entire bookwriting process. It’s like pulling teeth without anesthesia while standing on one foot in sub-zero weather. There are several reasons for this. One, I don’t know who the heck my characters are in the first 25 pages. Is the heroine Steel Magnolias a la Sally Field, or is she a little battier, a la Shirley McClain? Who the heck knows after you’ve only spent four days with a person? It takes week to come to realize the good, the bad, and the ugly in your characters.

I always have to go back and rework after I hit the half-way point, or even better, after I’ve finished book and know how the character’s journey turns out. In a book, hindsight is almost always required. You have to foreshadow and set up the events and internals that will give both the conflict and the ending that extra “oomph.” Some writers concoct elaborate character charts and interviews and histories and turning points, using whiteboards, Post-It notes, and reams of paper filled with little pithy notations. Not me. I have a vague idea of the people in my book, kinda fuzzy, like those foggy mornings when you can’t see your hand in front of your face. But the more words I write from their mouth and their little brains make them come alive to me. There’s actually logic in that, it’s not woo-woo.

But frankly, the chapters aren’t the worst part. I write well enough that I can wing that. However, the synopsis (said in a Joan Rivers kvetching voice)????? Let us ‘discuss’ the synopsis. I hate the synopsis. Hate it with a passion. I usually know the end (unless I come up with a better ending along the way, which has been known to happen approximately 80% of the time). And I’m not good at writing little paragraphs that consolidate forty pages of action, lightly colored with emotional turmoil. Who is? And my question becomes, if you’re really that good at writing little paragraphs that consolidate forty pages of action, lightly colored with emotional turmoil, why the heck are you writing a book? Seems like a short story is where you belong.

People tell me that writing proposals build character and strength. I give them my death-stare in return. Sadly, pathetically, tragically, (and every other ‘-ly’ adverb that we aren’t supposed to use), proposals are a fact of life.

So, enough of my procrastination. Thank you for letting me whine. And now, I have a couple of proposals to write.