Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, February 17, 2013


For Part 1 of Dictionary for Writers, please see my blog of February 4, 2013.

A Few More Words Every Author Needs to Understand
Synopsis.  “Synopsis” is frequently preceded by “That dreaded.” It’s the narrative summary of your opus, written in present tense. Most editors prefer 3-5 double-spaced pages. A few editors want long, detailed synopses, with as many as 15-20 pages. (If I personally had to write a synopsis of that length, I would consider that I’d finished the book, I knew what was going to happen, and forgetaboutit! I'd lost all incentive to actually sit down and write it.) 

    Character Briefs.  Although not necessarily a part of a synopsis - if you have room, a few brief words on your major characters (and perhaps a couple of the most important secondary characters) are a good way to introduce your story.

Caution: do not make the mistake of thinking a reader is ever going to see your synopsis. An editor, agent, marketing personnel, possibly a cover artist, might see your synopsis. But that’s it. Everything you want the reader to know must be in the manuscript itself. Do not put information you want the reader to know in the synopsis, then fail to put it in your book.

Logline.  This is the TV guide version of your book. Two, possibly three sentences, which I would advise putting at the beginning of your synopsis, single-spaced. Preferably words with a hook to grab an editor/agent’s attention right up front. Learning to compress your book into a Logline is also an excellent exercise for any author. A revealing discipline. It also gives you something you can zip out of your head on a moment’s notice and “pitch” with intelligence to anyone willing to listen.

Outline.  “Outline” is what the name implies. Rather than a narrative summary of your book (as a synopsis is), an Outline contains a list of chapters with notes about what happens in each chapter.  Some mystery writers prefer this method of planning their books, but a Synopsis is more common in Romance.

Character List.  Strictly for author use. A “Who’s Who” of your book (which I consider a “must” for every book). You should include every single character (except perhaps the “tweeny” mentioned once in Chapter 14). I also list place names - houses, taverns, boats, etc. - any name that is used more than once, so I get it right each time.

Plotter.  So-called “plotters” tend to think they are the only ones who “plot” their books. It just ain’t so. Some of us simply do it in our heads rather than require storyboards, photos, cards, detailed synopses, outlines, etc., in order to write a book. Plotters feel the need to know exactly where their story is going before they begin. Other writers, like myself, would be bored to death if we knew in advance what was going to happen. This, obviously, is a matter of personality rather than a case of “right” or “wrong.” Some people work better one way; some, another. For the other side of the coin, please see “Pantser” below.

Pantser.  First of all, I absolutely hate this term for people who are not detailed plotters. The origin, however, makes sense. “Pantser” comes from the expression, “fly by the seat of your pants.” And, yes, that describes how we create our books rather well, but the word is ugly, ugly, ugly! I much prefer to be an “out of the mist” author. Yes, we invent main characters before we begin to write - but we might not have more than their names down on paper. (Maybe not even that.) We know how we want them to act, but we don’t put it down in black and white. After all, as we get to know him/her, we might find them saying things that don’t fit our original ideas at all. And since their character traits aren’t staring at us from some nicely typed outline, we feel freer to chuck our initial ideas and just let our characters run with their startling transformations. Makes for a more interesting manuscipt, I believe. But, again, to each his own.

However . . . please, call us something less ugly than “pantsers”!

Keywords.  These are the words various book distributors ask us to use to describe our books. Keywords also make good Twitter hashtags. There is supposedly a whole science of Keywords - an attempt to narrow a category until your book might actually have a chance of being in the Top Ten or Hundred in that group. For example: Instead of “Regency” or “Regency Historical,” you might use “Regency Historical Romance,” or “Historical Regency Romance” or Regency Romantic Mystery.” Note: Print authors don’t have to worry about this, but e-authors frequently do, and indie authors must deal Keywords for every book.

Sweet.  If there is a word I hate more than “Pantsers,” it’s “Sweet” as a description for romances that do not contain more than kisses and an occasional chaste bedroom scene between husband and wife. The reason I dislike having “sweet” applied to the traditional Regency romances I write is that so few of this sub-genre are “sweet.” They are “clever,” “witty,” “humorous,” “intelligent,” and often filled with action. In a proper Regency “sweet, starry-eyed heroines” appear only as “second bananas.” It also annoys me that authors can write completely sexless mysteries and never have their books called "sweet."  Aargh!

Please! Somebody find a better word for the less graphic romances than  “Sweet”!

Hot.  I doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t know this definition as applied to a book, but since I wanted to include “Sweet,” “Hot” has to be here as well.  Frankly, I consider it grossly unfair that everyone understands “hot” while allowing “sweet” to be applied to books where sex happens behind closed doors. Sigh. I know some authors who write incredible scenes of sexual tension, which to me are far stronger than graphic descriptions of what part goes where.

Hot, however, comes in different levels, from the magnificently done love scenes written by authors such as Nora Roberts to the much more hard-hitting, super-hot sexual details of authors like Beatrice Small.

Erotica.  You could say that “Erotica” is super-hot sexual content carried to the extreme. The best books of erotica have a plot, but the emphasis is always on sexual details and can include almost every sexual aberration known to mankind, including Ménage à Trois, Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Transgender activities.

Romantica.  A name coined by Ellora’s Cave Publishing to describe its brand of erotica, which emphasizes romance and happy endings, along with graphic sexual details, and does not include some of the more aberrant sexual behaviors, such as bestiality. EC is sensitive about the use of "Romantica" for books other than their own.
[To be continued]

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UPDATES on the Weird & Wonderful:

Python Challenge. The Python Challenge in the Everglades ended February 16, 2013. The total count was 68, the longest python caught, 14' 3". [When their website has been updated, I will post a link so you can see the photos and videos from this month-long event.]

My international thriller, LIMBO MAN, one of my personal favorites, will be free on Amazon Kindle on Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

My Romantic Suspense, FLORIDA WILD, has just been accepted by Ellora’s Cave (Blush line). No pub date as yet. This one has an Orlando area setting, as opposed to my five suspense/mystery books set in the not-so-fictional Gulf Coast town of Golden Beach, Florida (see my blog of February 11, 2013).

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Brevard County (on the Space Coast) has just tied New Smyrna Beach for the dubious honor of “Shark Bite Capital of the World.” The only saving grace, the shark bites on Central Florida’s Atlantic beaches tend to be more like dog bites, and easily mended. Lifeguards are so accustomed to shark fin sightings that they simply close the affected beach for half an hour until the shark has moved off in search of better pickings.

Grace note: when my parents first moved to the Florida Gulf Coast in 1963, they were warned not to swim after four o’clock in the afternoon. A warning that soon succumbed to the great influx of snowbirds and tourists (mustn’t scare the paying customers!) That doesn’t keep it from being advice as sensible in 2013 as it was in 1963.

A Jaundiced View of Romance, as seen by a sports writer for The Orlando Sentinel (2/15/13):

Click here for "Romance meets NASCAR"

Lounging on the Suwanee - too cold to play outside!

Thanks for stopping by.


Coming soon: Legoland photos & Part 3 of Dictionary for Writers

Click here for a list of Grace's books as Blair Bancroft


  1. It's so wonderful that you're doing this. One word that has my dander up is "clean." Really? Clean? So everything else is dirty?

  2. Ella, you are SO right. I had an earnest young man (19-22) come up to me at a booksigning featuring nearly 20 local romance authors and ask, "Are any of your books safe?" I nearly choked, before managing to ask what he meant by "safe"? I wondered what he was doing there if he thought he was about to be contaminated. Later, I realized it was sad that he equated "romance" with "unsafe."