Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson

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Love Now More Than Ever

Photo by @judebeck on Unsplash

The world is a frightening place these days. I’ve been alternately watching the news and occupying my time focusing on other things. Creativity hasn’t been a problem; I can find plenty of creative things to do. Most of them haven’t been writing this winter. Like a lot of people, my motivation has been low. Mine was pegged on a couple of hopeful things that didn’t pan out, but between being caregiver for my injured partner and the sole driver in this house, keeping everything going, making sure we’ve had enough supplies, taking care of the cats, and watching the eternal Seattle winterscape change slowly from gray to blue, my days have been pretty full. I’ve had a regular weekly Zoom writing date with a fellow writer, and during my burrowing in have finally finished a revision pass on an older book.

It’s a romance. Reworking it makes me happy right now. Rereading it makes me happy right now. Thinking about people being happy makes me happy right now. In these contentious times, it’s my firm belief that we need love more than ever.

I write more than romance. The last romance novel I finished was a year ago in December. I’m sure I have more of them in me, but I also have other genres I’m having fun exploring. Everything I write has love in it, though. Why? Because it’s a fundamental part of the human condition, something we recognize. Whether it’s love for a parent or a child or a partner or a pet, we’ve all experienced it to some degree, and we’ve also experienced its loss. Love is relatable. Maybe fairytale romance love less so, but we can all appreciate the pattern of it.

So I will keep on writing, and keep pouring romance into my work. Every time we send love out into the world these days, that’s a good thing. We could all stand to have more of it.

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Attention Romance Writers!

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

2019 Pitch Wars managing director Sarah Nicolas has organized a fairly massive romance writing critique giveaway for queries and/or pages over on Twitter. I’m signal boosting here, not just because I’m offering critiques but because giving back to the romance writing community is one of my favorite things to do.

You can find all the info on Sarah’s Twitter. Be sure to read the whole thread. Lots of Pitch Wars mentors are offering critiques. Best of luck if you decide to enter!


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Review: Kind of Famous by Mary Ann Marlowe

What would you do if you had the opportunity to meet the rock stars of your dream but for very good reasons decided they could never know you ran a huge online fansite for them? That’s the dilemma met by midwesterner Layla Beckett when she moves to New York City to work for the industry darling Rock Paper. Starting on day one she comes face to face with fame, and must decide how to deal with it.

Layla’s journey is both exhilarating and one she has to think about every step of the way, especially after she meets–and falls for–drummer Shane. He’s not with the band for which she’s a superfan, but he’s close enough, sexy enough, witty enough, and kind-hearted enough. The two fall for each other hard, and things move a little too quickly for Layla’s comfort. When Shane’s jealousy and lack of faith in himself kick in, the fragile web they’ve started to build fractures.

Deeper than it seems on the surface, Kind of Famous explores the treacherous natures of fandom, friendship, and love–and the explosions that can result when those three things collide. Author Mary Ann Marlowe‘s book is a sweet coda of a love song to the rocker universe she created in Some Kind of Magic and developed further in A Crazy Kind of Love. If you loved those books, you’ll cherish this one as well.

Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Writing Romance & the RWA (my thoughts on it all)

RWA (Romance Writers of America) is a mess right now. It’s hard to take a turn without hearing more about what a shambles the organization is in. So naturally, I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

I’m not here to rehash the scandal. You can Google it, or read any syndicated newsletter, or check out Twitter. But there are a few things, personally, I want to say.

  • The RWA needs transparency. So much of its operation is carried out behind closed doors. No, I don’t want to watch a live stream of board meetings, but I do think it’s important that members are kept informed about what happens. As a voting member, I don’t want the redacted version. I don’t want the recap.
  • The RWA needs accountability. The “explanations” they’ve sent out have largely pointed fingers at other members, accusing them of acting inappropriately. Excuse the fuck out of me, but why should any organization that won’t take responsibility for their own actions be listened to when they chastise their members?
  • The RWA needs a total overhaul at the top. There’s a lot being said about current president Damon Suede. I only met him once and he might be a really nice guy or he might not. What I do know is that he’s the one at the top. That means he’s the one who needs to speak on behalf of all RWA and he needs to do it well and eloquently. So far, he’s done neither. Dude, you’re a writer. Take a note from Hamilton and write your way out if you must. But please note that we are also writers, and we’re onto all the tricks. Sometimes, for the greater good, a person has to let go of their own power position. Yes, I did sign the recall petition.
  • Romance writers don’t need to belong to RWA to write, read, or become published. RWA is a professional organization currently acting in a wholly unprofessional manner. As a result, I’ve decided that I don’t need them. I don’t need their annual conference. I don’t need to renew my membership to keep writing my stories. I don’t need their half-assed attempts at explaining their poor behavior. I don’t need their promises to work on stopping the long-standing racist nature of the organization. I don’t need to stand behind them any longer. What I do need is for them to effect change immediately. A new charter, a new board, a new openness.

I realize that not everyone will agree with me here, and that’s fine. But when those accused of harmful behavior decide it’s better to do some tone policing than to admit their faults or complicity, I say the time is up. Would I love to see RWA reinvent itself? You bet your ass I would. But I can no longer support or be part of an organization whose leadership tells us one thing and does the opposite.

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On Giving and Receiving Feedback

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

When I read manuscripts for people, I always offer feedback. I also always hesitate before doing so, because I never know how it’s going to be accepted (or whether it’ll be accepted).

From me, feedback on writing isn’t a declaration or proclamation. Sometimes, it’s the start of a dialog. This is a really good thing—the feedback I give as a reader is just one person’s response to to the words. It should help the writer understand how their story is being seen, at least by one reader. This is a little fraught with peril, because as writers we know exactly what we’re trying to get across. To hear that it didn’t work, or that it only worked in part, can sting. A lot. But I decided a long time ago that as much as it hurts to find out that I didn’t get my point across, or didn’t do it well, or left a completely different impression from the one I intended, or that someone didn’t understand my character or plot point or whatever, the critique will always make me a better writer.

I’m much more accepting of concrit now than I used to be. I still look on my characters and stories as my babies, and to me they are perfect. But I’ve also learned to look on my writing as a skill, and all skills have room for improvement. I’m not perfect by any means. I don’t write a perfect first draft that leaves readers reeling in wonder and excitement. That comes in the revision phase, if it comes at all, and for that, I need reader feedback.

So when I send out feedback to people (especially those I don’t know well), I always hold my breath a little and hope they’ll take the feedback in the spirit it was intended. Not as criticism but as suggestion, ways I think their work can be improved. It’s all just suggestion! It’s all subjective! What I like, another reader might not. What I can’t stand, another reader might love. We can’t please everyone, but we can at least learn to please ourselves with our writing.

I’ve been sending out lots of feedback lately. I love when I get impassioned responses to it on a point-by-point basis, especially when the author disagrees. Why? Because if the author feels strongly enough to debate my concrit, it means I have them thinking about their approach to the story, character, or scene. That’s the kind of thing that for me as a writer, I think about for days and days until I either decide the feedback-giver was absolutely right or absolutely wrong. More often than not, I realize they were right, and then my brain can start solving the puzzle of how to fix that piece.

Yesterday I got a response from someone who (I’m paraphrasing) said they were thankful because the feedback I gave not only fit with what other people had been telling them, but that it made something click and they figured out how best to revise. That made me so happy. Because so often when I send feedback I have my fingers crossed and hope the author will understand where I’m coming from, and so often I never hear a peep. Did they get it? Do they hate me now? Was I at least a little bit helpful?

Hearing back like that made me smile. So for everyone who’s ever bothered to read my work and send feedback, a giant thank you. And for everyone who’s read my feedback and had even a tiny “aha” moment, another giant thank you for taking my thoughts into consideration. No writer could possibly be where they are without their readers and critique partners.

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Choosing is HARD, y’all.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In 2015 I entered my novel in a little contest called Pitch Wars, hoping to be mentored. I didn’t make it. There’s something absolutely devastating about seeing that list go up, scanning for your name, and not finding it listed. I was hurt, but I got some good feedback, let it settle, and kept on writing.

In 2016, I tried again. This time, my name was on the list of mentees, even though through careful denial and self-preservation instincts, I’d told myself it wouldn’t be there. I was much happier. Little did I know exactly how busy I was about to be.

Pitch Wars went by. I made it to the agent showcase. I got requests. All around me, mentees were excitedly sharing the offers they’d had. I didn’t get one.

A year went by. I still didn’t have an offer. What I did have were some fantastic critique partners, one of whom asked a simple question about one of the secondary characters in my Pitch Wars manuscript. I don’t think she knew at the time that she was going to spawn a dynasty, I mean, a four-book series, but that’s exactly what happened. I wrote the second book, had it edited (yay!), entered it in the Golden Heart contest, and entered it into #KissPitch and the March edition of #PitMad.

I started getting requests.

At the end of March 2018, more than a year and a half after the agent showcase, that Pitch Wars sequel was named a Golden Heart finalist, and I received a number of offers of representation. Also in 2018, I applied to be a Pitch Wars mentor.

I wasn’t accepted.

Rejection in all its forms never really gets easier, but I figured it was not meant to be. I kept writing. I wrote the other two books in my series (just a note for those of you thinking of doing the same: I am all for following our passion when it comes to writing. However, wisdom states that we probably shouldn’t go about trying to write sequels when the first book hasn’t sold. Fair warning, that’s probably right, as I sit here with three years’ worth of unsold series, although your mileage may certainly vary).

In 2019, I initially waffled about applying as a Pitch Wars mentor. Like I said, rejection never gets easier. But finally I shook off the self-doubt and imposter syndrome that follows me around like a bad shadow regardless of the weather, took the plunge, and applied again. This time, I was accepted.

Just like before, when I was a mentee, I had no idea how much work was ahead of me and how busy I’d get. I thought, well, I’m a first-time mentor. I’ll be lucky if I get a few submissions.

Holy cow, y’all. I got snowed under with submissions. It was a veritable avalanche of subs. But I’m nothing if not persistent, so I dug out from under and read them all. I explained my process on Twitter, if you’re interested in reading it.

I didn’t talk numbers there, because my mama and papa always taught me talking numbers was rude. But here, I’ll be confessional. I got 250 submissions. Out of those, I requested 23 manuscripts, either full or partial. I read 8 complete manuscripts, did not quite finish 6 other complete manuscripts, and read the partials on 9 more. That was a lot of reading.

Imagine going trick-or-treating. You come home with 250 unique pieces of candy you like, but you only get to keep ONE. There are so many favorites, so you sort them. You agonize over your favorites. You go back and forth–this one! No, THIS one! No, this–until you just can’t think any more. Yet people are waiting for you to choose, and each of those candies has feelings that you will hurt by not picking it.

That’s what it’s like, being a Pitch Wars mentor and having to choose one manuscript/one mentee out of the whole submission field. It’s daunting. It’s damned near impossible.

All in all, I got a blend of everything I asked for–and more. Here’s the breakdown by numbers, purely in alphabetical order:

Contemporary Fiction – 17
Contemporary Romance – 49
Cyberpunk – 1
Fantasy – 9
Fantasy Romance – 6
Gothic – 4
Historical Fiction – 7
Historical Romance – 12
Horror – 1
Literary Fiction – 15
Mystery – 1
New Adult Contemporary – 5
New Adult Fantasy – 4
New Adult Fantasy Romance – 2
Paranormal – 6
Romantic Comedy – 6
Romantic Suspense – 1
Science Fiction – 8
SciFi Romance – 5
Thriller – 1
Urban Fantasy – 9
Women’s Fiction – 81

Those of you who are mathematically inclined can figure out the percentages! Make sweet pie charts! Color code it!

Once again, thank you ALL for submitting your work to me. It’s been an honor having the opportunity to read, agonizing having to choose, and an all-around wonderful experience.

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My Pitch Wars Wish List

I am a Pitch Wars 2019 Adult Mentor

This is my first year as a Pitch Wars mentor, although I’m not new to mentoring. I’m so happy to be here. Pleased to meet you, and you, and you.

Peter Quill (Star-Lord) and Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy circling one another

If you’re not familiar with Pitch Wars, it’s a writing mentoring program. Agented/published authors or industry interns spend three months working with one author to get their manuscript in the best shape they can, ahead of an agent showcase. All the information you need can be found right here

About Me | Genres I’m Accepting | Please Don’t Send | My Ideal Mentee | My Mentoring Style

Hello, My Name Is…

  • Gwynne, or G.L. professionally. I’m a co-founder of All The Kissing (ATK), a community by and for romance writers. I help moderate the ATK Facebook group and am mostly to blame for the #FridayKiss twitter prompt party.
  • I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016, and a 2018 Golden Heart® finalist, both in contemporary romance.
  • I write primarily contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and mainstream fiction. Regardless of genre, all my characters are bound by love. I prefer writing complex, imperfect people who manage to find peace with themselves despite their shortcomings and obstacles. I’m definitely a character-oriented writer. But don’t let that fool you. I can work a mean plot and hit the necessary beats.
  • I live off the coast of Seattle and there really are brazen local sea otters that hang around our yard (you can see videos of them on my Instagram feed). I lived in the Bay Area for four years before moving here, and in Oregon for a long time before that. I run on US west coast time.
  • I’m an energy worker and was a licensed massage therapist for a dozen years. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
  • I love astrology (Scorpio, Gemini ascendant, Pisces moon), tarot (Queen of Swords), Enneagram (2w3), Meyers-Briggs (ENFP), Hogwarts sorting (Gryffindor), numerology (6), piña coladas (blended), and getting caught in the rain (Seattle).
  • I’m represented by Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary, and am currently on submission.
  • I could tell you stories about getting caught on a river in a torrential downpour in Belize or being offered a handful of cash for my baby’s NY Knicks sweatshirt in China or waking up in the middle of the night in the Bahamas staring at the barrel of a machine gun. Life is a carnival. But enough about me. Let’s talk Pitch Wars!

What I’m Looking For

It should go without saying right up front that I’m LGBTQ+, #ownvoices, and diversity-friendly, but I’m saying it anyway. Love is love is love.

I am only accepting manuscripts in the Adult category.


If you have a ghost in your story and it fits one of my requested genres, send it to me!

A ghost passing in front of a plantation (from Scooby Doo)

Here are the genres I’m accepting, spooky or not:


I love romance. I love the craft of it, the skill of taking that arc and making it new and special. I love the characters who fall in love and fight for their happiness. Romance must be the central crux of the story, and it needs to follow the romance arc. If you’re questioning whether that breakup at the end doesn’t count because the book is 99% romance and that’s enough, you’re wrong. The book must end on a satisfyingly optimistic note—with the love interests together either happily ever after or happily for now—or it’s not romance.

  • I am not a fan of alpha males, although I love reading about alpha females. Bring me your betas, your gammas, your cinnamon roll heroes.
  • I’m not the right mentor for sports romance, inspirational romance, or erotica.
  • For heat level I’ll take anything from sweet to steamy.

These are the only romance sub-genres I’m looking for:

  • Contemporary Romance. Any trope (friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, and found family are favorites), as long as it has a central romance and ends happily. Beautiful, thoughtful writing and an engaging voice are a must for me with contemporary. PSA: I also love a good rom-com!
  • Scifi Romance. I prefer soft scifi, where the focus is on the romance more than on the science. However, I need enough scifi elements to make your world stand out and be noticeably different from ours, even in near-future novels. Think Vivien Jackson’s Wanted and Wired series. And yes, superhero romance counts here!
  • Fantasy Romance. Fantastical worlds are wonderful, but the world-building needs to be seamless and believable for me. If you’ve got a magic system where things happen “just because,” I’m not your best mentoring choice. Likewise, if you have to set the scene with a thousand years’ worth of history and name all the names, I’m not your best mentoring choice. I’m looking for stories where the romance is the focus, and the fantasy elements are more delicious gravy than main course.
  • Historical Romance. I don’t just mean Regency, although if you can get my panties in a twist over a duke, earl, or duchess, I’ll take it. I love historical romances that take place in all eras and countries (like Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace). But I’m definitely not the right mentor for Viking or Highlander romances. Ach, sorry, lads and lasses. 😦
  • Western Romance. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys 🎶 unless you’re going to send me their stories. I’m a sucker for cowboys who are loners, who have something to prove, or better still, something to hide. If your western setting doubles as a character on its own, I will love you forever.
  • New Adult. I am accepting New Adult, especially if there’s more plot than sex, but I might ask you to consider aging your characters up to adult.

Cowboy cracking a flaming whip


I’m looking for powerful, intimate stories that follow the main character’s emotional growth through the course of the novel. With women’s fiction, attention to characterization is something I need to see amped way up. I love strong women, I love quirky women, and I also love reading about a female main character who is broken but at least begins to heal as the story progresses. A central romance is not required (though it will make me happy). Emotion is key for me in women’s fic—I want to be able to crawl into your character’s heart and understand why it beats the way it does. I want to feel your main character’s pain, her joy, and her tears (Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune). I prefer deep single POV and more optimistic endings in women’s fiction.


For contemporary I like everything from light yet compelling (The Descendants) to issues-driven to dark. But I don’t want to dwell on gruesome details about murder or sexual violence or satanic rituals, and I don’t want psychological thrillers masquerading as contemporary fiction. In this genre I’m a fan of multiple POVs (A Brief History of Seven Killings), stories that hop back and forth in time (The Time Traveler’s Wife), and old mysteries that have new light shed on them in later times (The Historian). Bottom line: intrigue me with your plot and premise, then give me a character I can root for with a voice that wows me. Did I mention I love ghosts?


My preferred flavor of urban fantasy is a story where the fantasy element is so much a part of everyday life that we simply accept it and get lost in the storytelling. There are reasons Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere are two of my most re-read books. I like urban fantasy from light to gritty (Mishell Baker’s Borderline). Make me believe all these worlds exist side by side with ours. Bonus points if your urban fantasy contains some light-hearted elements, or at least well-thought-out characters of all stripes.


Oh, I love a good retelling! I don’t just mean “I named him Cinderfella and gave him evil stepbrothers,” though. My favorite retellings are the ones that retain the basic elements of the original story, but twist them on their sides so that the story takes on a life of its own (Cinder or Warm Bodies). Even if we can’t tell what work it’s based on until the end, I find these stories remarkably lovely and will gobble them up (no zombie pun intended).

R and Julie (Warm Bodies) holding hands


I’m on the lookout for character-driven literary fiction with an imaginative plot and a fascinating, unusual narrative voice. Single POV, multiple POV, any era, doesn’t matter as long as the characters are compelling. Make it heartfelt, make it beautiful, make it so I can’t put it down. Give me a happy ending or a sad ending. Make me care so much about your characters that it hurts. Make me care so much about your characters that I can’t stop thinking about them for weeks. Months. Years. Favorites include Patrick Suskind’s Perfume and almost anything by Louise Erdrich.


Please note right up front: for hard sci-fi, I am not your best mentor choice. My preference in science fiction is for soft sci-fi stories with romantic subplots, even if the romance isn’t the central theme of the story. Bring me your near-future, your superhero worlds, your outlying other colonies. Or okay, bring me a character like Mark Watney and convince me he could survive, or even a total nihilist like Spike Spiegel and show me what drives him (we all know it’s love). Again: soft on the hard science, big on the human emotion side.

Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) shooing kids away from his ship

Please Don’t Send Me:

  • Stories where the central action revolves around abuse, rape, incest, torture, or other nonconsensual or violent acts
  • Stories that are racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-anybody
  • Thinly-veiled diatribes about politics
  • Biblical retellings
  • Stories about angels or demons

If I’ve worked with you on your Pitch Wars manuscript before and you haven’t drastically revised it since, I respectfully request that you submit to a different mentor.

If your genre isn’t specifically listed here, I’m not the right mentor for it. If you’re still not sure, ask me. You’ve got four mentor picks—choose wisely.

My Ideal Mentee

  • is willing to put in the hard work Pitch Wars demands to make their manuscript better
  • can take feedback, absorb it, not get hurt receiving it, and work with it in their own way
  • has a healthy desire to learn
  • has a healthy sense of humor
  • has a healthy sense of self
  • will not get sick of being cheered on

Bottom line, I’m not looking to work with someone who thinks they have to do everything I say just because it’s Pitch Wars and I’m their mentor. It’s a partnership, a give and take. At my core, I’m just another writer who happens to love your story.

Sam from iCarly on reading a book: "These things are great! It's like TV in your head!"

My Mentoring Style

I believe in mentoring as a partnership rather than me telling you what you must do (unless that relates to schedules, where I might pull rank). I’m a former professional copyeditor, technical editor, and proofreader, so we’ll polish your words to a shine. We’ll pay attention to story flow and arc, and in hitting the beats at the right time. Most of all, we’ll pay attention to voice, characters, and characterization. By the time we’re through, your characters will be so distinct and realistic they’ll be ready to jump off the page.

Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes flying blissfully through the air

If you’re my mentee, you’ll get an edit letter up front, with a thorough read of your manuscript at least twice during the course of Pitch Wars. I’m happy to read anything you need along the way as well. I can think up a dozen story scenarios at any moment off the top of my head if brainstorming together is something you’d like.

I won’t rewrite your book. I won’t put words in your characters’ mouths. But I will give you the tools you need to revise your book your own way and in your own words, so that your story and characters and settings sparkle in the sunlight. (See what I did there, Twilight fans?)

I believe in constructive criticism and outright I LOVE THIS SO MUCH squeeing. Remember, if I pick your story, it’s because I already love it, see untapped potential in it, and want to help you make it the best it can be. I will never give you the full-on Simon Cowell treatment (unless it’s a standing ovation). There will probably be homework. I will help you pull your plot together, find the right starting place, see to it that the pacing is good, that you don’t let your story sag in the middle. I’m also fluent in queries, pitches, and synopses.

Simon Cowell applauding & giving two thumbs up

I work best using email, DMs, and other written communication. I’m not phone-phobic so if you’re into phone or video chats that’s cool and I’ll do it, but most of my communication will be via email or DMs. I’m really good about responding ASAP and happy to hear from you by text message as well.

Also, I’m pretty nice and chill. Easy-going, and low drama. That doesn’t mean I won’t be all excited about your work, running around with my hair on fire. I will. I’ll just do it quietly.

Dexter (Dexter's Lab) running around DeeDee with his hair in flames

So what are you waiting for? Let’s work together.

If you have any questions about what I’m looking for or whether your story is appropriate to submit to me, please ask. I’m always happy to answer. You can hit me up on Twitter at @gwynnejackson and at my AMA on the Pitch Wars forum.

Pitch Wars 2019 Adult Mentors’ Wish Lists

  1. Paris Wynters
  2. Kathleen Barber (Accepts NA)
  3. Ian Barnes
  4. Mary Ann Marlowe (Accepts NA)
  5. Elizabeth Little
  6. Hayley Stone and Erin A. Tidwell
  7. Gwynne Jackson (Accepts NA)
  8. Maxym M. Martineau (Accepts NA)
  9. Katie Golding (Accepts NA)
  10. Ava Reid and Rachel Morris (Accepts NA)
  11. Carolyne Topdjian
  12. Natalka Burian
  13. Tim Akers
  14. Alex Segura
  15. Michelle Hauck and Carrie Callaghan (Accepts NA)
  16. Laura Brown (Accepts NA)
  17. Mia P. Manansala and Kellye Garrett (Accepts NA)
  18. Kerbie Addis and Ren Hutchings (Accepts NA)
  19. Susan Bishop Crispell (Accepts NA)
  20. Kelly Siskind and Heather Van Fleet (Accepts NA)
  21. Janet Walden-West and Anne Raven (Accepts NA)
  22. Kate Lansing (Accepts NA)
  23. Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara
  24. Alexa Martin and Suzanne Park (Accepts NA)
  25. Gia de Cadenet (Accepts NA)
  26. Rob Hart
  27. Layne Fargo and Halley Sutton
  28. Michael Chorost (Accepts NA)
  29. Sarah Remy (Accepts NA)
  30. Nicole Glover (Accepts NA)
  31. Farah Heron (Accepts NA)
  32. Samantha Rajaram
  33. Keena Roberts (Accepts NA)
  34. Rebecca Enzor (Accepts NA)
  35. Matthew Quinn Martin (Accepts NA)
  36. Denny S. Bryce (Accepts NA)
  37. Meryl Wilsner and Rosie Danan (Accepts NA)
  38. P.J. Vernon and Kelly J. Ford (Accepts NA)
  39. Gladys Quinn (Accepts NA)
  40. Diana A. Hicks (Accepts NA)
  41. Damyanti Biswas
  42. Stephen Morgan (Accepts NA)

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I love writing a synopsis, said no one ever.

A woman in front of a laptop anxiously biting on a pencil

These days, I usually I write craft posts over at the All The Kissing blog but I know a lot of people who are nervous (politely put) if not outright panicking about writing a synopsis. I’m going to try to help get those of you all flustered about synopses to a point where you can breathe, say aha!, and get that synopsis to reflect your story the way you want.

At its heart a synopsis is nothing more than a marketing tool, but there are a few things we need to remember about them.

1. Don’t be stingy with plot details.

Why? The synopsis is a short description of your book, not a short description of your hook.

A common mistake I see in first-time synopsis writers is that they don’t want to include the big reveals. You have to include the spoilers. The whole point of the synopsis is to give the reader an idea of the important things that happen in a story. So instead of saying “And if Mardina doesn’t tell Alaric about her big secret, their future will be in jeopardy,” we need to know what you’re referencing. “If Mardina doesn’t tell Alaric she’s got a two-year-old child with death-by-staring powers, he’ll never forgive her once he uncovers the truth. But if she does tell him, that knowledge will tie them both to the planet, demolishing Alaric’s dream of exploring the nebula.” (I kind of like where this is going. Plot bunny for the taking, anyone?)

2. Take a tip from the world of screenwriting.

Why? The intricacies of the story belong in the book narrative, not the synopsis. Often, your synopsis will be used by an industry professional to help gauge their interest, or to ensure that you’re representing the genre correctly, before they read your pages.

In drama shows, many episodes have two discrete yet complementary plots. The main one is referred to as the “A” plot, and the minor one is the “B” plot. While the “B” plot is often fascinating, it isn’t the sole or main focus of the episode. Make sure that your synopsis focuses on the “A” (main) plot of your story. As tempting as it is to weave all the intertwining sub-plots into the synopsis, we need to chop mercilessly. The gist of the story needs to be there, but without all the detail.

3. Use names sparingly.

Why? Ease of reading. Ease of remembering. Ease of understanding who’s where when, and which characters are most important.

Pick a handful of your most important characters—two or three, no more—to refer to by name. All the rest can be referred to by description (“the roommate” or “her father” or “the Imperial Juggernaut”). When you’re including characters in your synopsis, ask yourself if they’re part of the “A” storyline or the “B” storyline. If the answer is “B,” it’s best to leave them out.

Tip: current synopsis style favors capitalizing the first instance of the named characters (“GIOVANNI is first mate on the USS Sinksalot”) and then use regular capitalization rules for the rest of those instances.

4. A simple recipe: pitch, query, synopsis, novel.

Why? Some books present well in queries. Others present better in synopsis form or in pitch form. If you have all these pieces at hand, you’ll always be able to share something that showcases your book beautifully.

Each book needs at least four pieces:

  • the novel itself, which is your brilliant labor of love
  • the synopsis, which is a short distillation of the novel
  • the query letter, which is a short distillation of the synopsis, and
  • the pitch, which is a short distillation of the query letter.

Some authors write the novel first and then the supporting pieces. Others start with the pitch or query letter or synopsis. Discussing how to write a synopsis before the novel is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I’ll give you a little hint: you do have some kind of outline, don’t you?

Once you start looking at all the marketing pieces this way, they start to seem a little less daunting. At least they do to me.

5. My favorite synopsis-writing resource

I wouldn’t be able to say much of anything about writing a synopsis without crediting my favorite resource at Pub(lishing) Crawl: How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis. It’s become my go-to for each synopsis I’ve written. I highly recommend this tool, with examples from Star Wars: A New Hope. I find it so flexible, I’ve been able to adapt it to fit all of my books regardless of genre. With a little imagination you’ll be able to see how to adapt it to fit books told from more than one point of view, and still keep your synopsis focused and succinct.

Good luck!

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It’s That Time Again – RWA National Conference

Photo by Aaron Sebastian on Unsplash

There are so many reasons to go to the professional conferences for whatever occupation you hold. As a writer of romance and women’s fiction, that means the RWA national conference is the place to be and to go.

This year, the conference has a special meaning for me. It’s in my home town (that’s right, I’m a Manhattan girl by birth). As if that’s not enough, I’ll get to spend time with family and friends. Make new friends, meet new people, and stay in the heart of Times Square. When I was growing up, Times Square was not a place I frequented. But it’s changed so much, and I’m looking forward to seeing it as a new! improved! tourist attraction!

Beyond tourism, I can’t wait to soak up knowledge, experience, and atmosphere. Being around 2000 romance writers is so empowering in so many ways that it’s hard to describe. But we are all there because we love writing and love the genre. Romance writing has gotten a bad rap lately for a lot of reasons. At its core, it is by women and for women, and if you don’t think being around that much positive energy for a week is an uplifting experience, then I’m guessing you haven’t attended the RWA national conference. Just being there—just soaking up the happiness and glee and good vibes—is one of the highlights of my writing life. Heaven knows I spend enough time face to face with my laptop screen. Being face to face with writing friends is a slice of bliss.

So this conference always recharges my batteries. It can be such a beautiful time for Romancelandia. I hope if you’re there, we get a chance to meet!