Writing a Synopsis

I’ve written before about the amateur author’s pendulum, and the indecisiveness of which route to choose. The spectrum is vast, with traditional publisher at one end and self-publish, release-for-free at the other end.

I’ve decided that I’m going to submit Vengeance Will Come to a traditional publisher. First and foremost, I want the gatekeeper to say I’m allowed through. I don’t want to self publish and (accidentally) add to the slush pile. I know I’m not experienced enough to judge my own quality objectively.

I also know myself. I don’t want to have to worry about things like cover art, promotion and marketing. (I realise there could be elements of this, but I don’t want to ‘go it alone’. I’d rather leave it to the experts).

So now I’m trying to write my very first synopsis. Trying being the operative word.

The Greatest Toy in the World

A friend recently changed jobs, leaving the workplace after more than a decade. For his going-away present he received an engraved hip flask, some limited-edition gin and a sizable box of Lego.

The Lego was due to the fact that for years his work monitor was adorned by a parade of Lego characters. This was even more unusual given his age, having recently celebrated his 40th birthday.

On receiving the gift at a farewell lunch (pre-food) he jokingly asked if “may he be excused, so that he could assemble the Lego”.

At least he pretended to be joking. I’m fairly sure there were a number of people at the table (myself included) who were keen to build it, even if it meant skipping lunch.

That’s why I think Lego is the greatest toy in the world; entertaining to almost all ages, and has replay-ability that lasts a lifetime. It has small, durable components whose assembly options are only limited by your imagination (and, the size of your bank account).

I’ll admit that I’ve wasted many hours building things on Lego Digital Designer in the last few years. I think the attraction is how I, who have no actual building skills, are able to “engineer” something. (It is of course a skill so small as to be molecular in size, but it’s all I have). If I were a millionaire I’d have a giant Lego room and build epic-sized medieval kingdoms and spaceships. Just because it’s fun.

Below are my designs for a two-man fighter spaceship. It features retractable wings (for easy storage), weapons for both pilot and copilot and a small storage bay (for their lunch, if nothing else). The ship also features a symmetrical design allowing three points of being “fixed” to a docking bay.

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My hat also must come off in a sign of respect to the Lego brand who have now expanded into movies and computer games. The computer games are fun for all ages and they’ve really tapped into what makes games enjoyable (low entry point, forgiving game play, a sense of progression, humour and a multitude of achievements). Another aspect I really like is that the games are full co-op on a single device. (Using a single Playstation my wife and I can sit in the same room and play through the entire game together).

With my software engineering background I marvel at the code reuse they would achieve. New games can use basically existing mechanics and just need some new art. The Lego company has basically worked out how to print money.

But, in what sets them apart from many other money-making ventures, they’re able to do it by producing immense amounts of clean, harmless, fun for the customer. And the customer’s children (because the bricks last so long).

Organising Feedback

feedback-1793116_640

I’ve had a few rounds of feedback on Vengeance Will Come and have been mostly diligent in filing responses in a sub folder of the project as soon as I receive it. (If your inbox is anything like mine, things get lost in there like a grain of dirt swept up in a mudslide).

Sadly, that’s about where the organisation of feedback ended. (In my partial defence, I intentionally wasn’t processing the feedback straight away: I wanted a balance of opinions and some time to pass).

Here is what I’m going to do now, and in the future, before starting the revision process.

Compiling the Feedback

Create a Feedback Compilation document, which has the same structure (chapters and scenes etc) as the novel.

Go through each (feedback) document/email:

  • Where it’s a typo, grammar or obvious error (e.g. wrong character name), fix it in the manuscript immediately.
  • Where the feedback is incontestably wrong, ignore it. (If there is any doubt, don’t ignore it).
  • Where the feedback relates to a given chapter/scene place it in that location in the document. If it’s thematic feedback or has broader application than a single section I’ll add it to the top of the document.

    I’ll add three-letter initials of the reviewer in brackets at the end of the comment, just in case I want to know who provided it. Some reviewers opinions should hold more weight than others and it’s always helpful to be able to later clarify comments.

Colour Coding

  • If the tone of the comment is positive, change the font colour to something less stand-out than black. I’m leaving it in the document so I don’t accidentally “edit out” the bits people like. And, inevitably, there’ll be days when I need a motivational boost.
  • Where I disagree with the feedback I’ll add a comment in brackets as to why, and colour the font a grey. (It’s still there, but less important).
  • Where I agree with the comment (or enough reviewers pick up on the same issue) and it’s a major problem, apply bold and red font.

Summarising

  • Once I’ve added all the feedback from all reviews, I’ll group my related dot points (to see the weight of opinions). This might result in grey text I disagree with becoming black text. I might also paraphrase a collection of dot points down into a concise problem statement.
  • If reviewers disagree with each other then I’ll either side with one, or put both opinions in a table with two columns (pros and cons).

After all this work I should have a single document to use as a reference when editing each section of the novel.

If you write, what are your strategies for managing feedback?

It’s Hammer Time

In the beginning of Vengeance Will Come I have a made-up saying, a piece of wisdom:

A bar of steel is of limited use

But if it endures flaming trials

And is pounded upon by adversity

It can be shaped into many powerful things…

forge

Vengeance Will Come has been in the fires too long and I have too many other projects I want to progress. To continue the forge metaphor it’s time that some serious hammering occurs.

To that end I’m suspending all work on any other project until the current revision of Vengeance Will Come is complete. No other writing (excluding blog posts) and no programming, no matter how enticing the idea may be.

Ideally I’d like to finish by the end of July, but I’m not sure that’s realistic (based on past experience). In any case, I’m aiming to finish as soon as humanly possible.

And so, it’s hammer time! (Millennials won’t get the pun).

Guardian (2)

(This is the second instalment of my audience-driven story. Start reading from the beginning, and then tell me what should happen next, via a comment or email, and I’ll write it).


“Oh that’s great. You’re crazy too,” I said as I took off my pristine white shirt and pressed it against his wound. I know the human body holds about 5 litres of blood; by the look of the man and the pool of blood around him, he must be getting close to the point-of-no-return.

“Will somebody call an ambulance,” I yelled toward the street, getting frustrated that I was the only one trying to deal with this situation.

The man shook his head, “I’m not mentally ill. Do you promise to look after the girl?”

Honestly after seeing the stabbed guy I’d kind of forgotten about the girl. With my arrival she’d stopped crying and backed away. I glanced over my shoulder and saw her sitting against the opposite wall, hugging her knees. A cute little girl, blue eyes, small nose and blue dress. Her cute kid routine was spoiled by the blood splattered over her hands and dress.

“You’re not going to die, I rebuked him.  You’re an angel remember? Angels can’t die.” Take that, reverse psychology.

With relief I heard footsteps behind me, a woman. She stopped as she rounded the bin and just stared in shock.

“Do you have a phone?” I asked.

“Ah, yes.”

“Call an ambulance?”

“I need to go…” she said, backing up.

“Call an ambulance,” I lost my cool, yelling at her.

“OK, OK,” she said pulling a mobile from her handbag and starting to dial. A grunt from my patient distracted me. The woman was gone when I turned back.

“Keep the pressure on, if you don’t want to die,” I said as I put my hands back on his wound.

“I didn’t say I was going to die, you’re the one who keeps talking of death. I need to return to heaven to heal,” He grimaced at a stab of pain. “and I could be a while in returning. You need to look after the Emma while I’m gone. Keep her safe, she’s special.”

I heard sirens in the distance. I hoped they were coming for us, this guy needed a psychologist as much as a blood transfusion. I wasn’t a surgeon, or a psychologist; just some guy who had the misfortune of big ears.

“Hear that, help is on its way.”

“You need to promise to look after Emma.”

“No, I’m not going to promise. She’s your responsibility and I’m not giving you permission to die. Hold on.”

“I thought you were the one,” the man said his face clouding with doubt. Or maybe blood loss. I swore and smacked his face. Then I realised what I’d done: just smacked a guy 100 kilos heavier than me. Even in his weakened state he could probably strangle me.

“You were fading out,” I explained, “you have to stay conscious.” The sirens were close now, more than one. “See help is almost here. “

The man shook his head as tyres screeched and the sirens stopped. The alley was lit up in blues and reds.

“I’ll be back in a moment, keep the pressure on,” I ordered and stood. Two cops were coming down the alley as paramedics unloaded a gurney behind them.

“Thank goodness you’re here, a guy’s been stabbed.”

“Where is he?”

“Behind the bin. Hurry he’s lost a lot of blood.” The ambulance officers ran past me. They looked at the wall and then one of them spotted the little girl and squatted down, “Hi honey. Are you okay? Are you bleeding?”

“No it’s his blood,” I called.

The ambo gave a small jerk off his head and the policemen joined him. They both looked around and talked quietly together. But neither of the ambulance officers was working on the African man.

“He can’t be dead, I was talking to him seconds ago,” I said. I tried to walk down the alley when the other policeman grabbed my arm. “Let’s keep the scene as intact as possible for the forensics team.”

“Oh man,” the shock inundated me like a wave of dumb. I couldn’t think straight. A guy I’d tried to save had just died. A chill ran through me, and my knees began to buckle. The cop saw me starting to fade and got me to sit on the curb.

Sometime later he came over and flipped open his notebook, “I need to get your witness statement, Mr?”

“Steve Johns,” I introduced myself. The policeman asked some preliminary questions: date of birth, home address, occupation, if this was my normal route at lunch time. It all happened in such a blur that I barely even noticed the girl being driven away by Child Services. I felt kind of bad that I wasn’t ‘looking after the girl’, but I’d had entirely too much drama for one day. I’m not parent material, especially of a child who just witnessed their Dad dying.

“Okay Mr Johns, are you hurt at all? Your hands are bloody.”

“Yeah. No, um I’m fine. It’s all his blood. I was just going out for lunch and I heard the little girl crying.”

“Are you under the influence of any alcohol, prescription medication or illicit drugs?”

“What?” I asked, my face screwing up at the unexpected question..

“We need to know if you’re a reliable witness,” the cop explained. His colleague joined us but let him continue with the questioning.

“No, no drugs.”

“The little girl, what’s her name?”

“Emma.”

“Emma who?”

“I don’t know. Check his wallet for ID.”

“Him who?”

“The deceased,” I replied, thinking there was a sentence I never thought I’d say.

“And what’s the deceased’s name?”

“I don’t know that either.”

“And where is he?” the policeman asked.

Are you under the influence? I wanted to ask, but a smart-mouth can only get you into trouble. I bit my tongue, “the African man behind the bin.”

“There’s a lot of blood back there, but there’s no man,” the cop said.

“What?” I said, dumbfounded, “there’s nowhere else he could’ve gone.”

The cop squatted beside me, just as the ambulance officer had done to Emma. “Do you ever have blackouts, time that you miss?”


What do you want to happen next?

The Red Pill

The_Red_Pill

I recently watched The Red Pill. I enjoyed it as a thought-provoking piece. Contrary to all the negative criticism that I’d heard about it, I didn’t find it hateful toward women.

Despite my strong views in the next three paragraphs, I didn’t agree with everything the movie had to say (which I’ll discuss further on).

The first thing I heard about this movie was that screenings of it were being ‘shutdown’ amid protests from a vocal minority. If anything, the hysteria surrounding the movie only made me want to see it moreAnyone who tries to shutdown a debate is conceding they fear the opposing arguments. It seems, based on Google Play reviews, that a lot of other people also liked it.

red pill google reviews
GooglePlay reviews, 20/6/2017
red pill google reviews 2
GooglePlay reviews, 24/6/2017

Not incidentally, Channel 7 and Andrew O’Keefe owe the director Cassie Jaye an apology for their completely biased and ill-informed interview. O’Keefe starts the interview admitting that people not being able to see the film restricts the conversation “we’re able to have around this”. He then launches into a tirade of how the film represents certain things (which it doesn’t), then admits he hasn’t seen it, blaming Cassie for not sending him a copy (which she did). Then they tried to force her to remove the videos of the interview from her Facebook site. Stay classy, 7. (Here’s a thought, you could always just apologise. I’ll let you save face by assuming it was just a momentary lack of ethics and professionalism).

I commend Cassie Jaye for the courage in making the film and all those involved in the production, distribution and screening. For those who buckled under the screeching howls of protest… thanks for nothing and I’m glad you didn’t get my money.

There’s a few topics in life that I’m passionate about. Men, and marriage, are among them. Through a great marriage you bless everyone in the family. Get enough great families and have you have a great community and scaling up, society.

And great marriages require healthy men and women (holistically), regardless of their current marital status.

I believe men can only be great men when supported by other men and great women. Likewise, women need other women and great men around them. Only together are we strongest. Anything which pulls down either gender is therefore harmful to all.

The movie highlighted several valid points where society discriminates against men. These include the criminal justice system handing out harsher punishments, family courts preferencing custody to the female and the unequal spending on breast vs prostate cancer and how domestic violence against men is largely ignored by society.

Now in some cases, men are their own enemies. We aren’t good at going to the doctor regularly. We’re fueled by testosterone, which find us in dangerous situations (often when younger). Sure, I can make that jump. But it’s not all our own fault and we do need to find solutions. We can’t expect equal funding for prostate cancer unless we campaign and fundraise for it. (Politicians tend to do things that are popular instead of following evidence-based science).

The movie identifies that while women have been freed from the “house wife” stereotype, men remain locked in as the “provider”. Keeping a home functioning and providing an income are both important roles that need to be done. But both can be done by either gender. Society should frown upon either not being done, not by it being done by an alternate gender.

The male rights campaigners talk about society seeing men as disposal. They talk about the “women and children first” rule (in an emergency situation), or that society is more willing to lose soldiers if they are male. Men, they say, are therefore taught to consider themselves as of less value than females.

How do I see myself is a different question than how do I value someone else? I like the gallantry that a man will sacrifice himself to save a woman. I think that it is a positive trait that should be encouraged in both genders. The notion of sacrifice, and protection of others is a bulwark against the rampant ideology of self-first. We should each see, respect and value each other. And that begins with truly listening to one another.

I don’t see the Male Rights Movement as a backlash against female empowerment (as some claim). It is however resisting the push from radical feminism which thinks that men are obsolete, naturally evil and single-handedly responsible for the ills of the world. Clearly, that’s not true.

I encourage you to see the documentary and make up your own mind.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think?

Quick Update

I have a few things I need to prepare for the coming weekend, so I have to make this quick.

I was in the process of writing a blog post on The Red Pill movie. I’ve done about 50% of it, but I’d rather take the time to formulate it well than put it out quickly. So that might hit the blog next week.

I’ve also made a good start on the next installment of my audience-driven story The Guardian. Remember, I’m looking for your input in directing the story.

I’ve decided to excise out the first few pages of “source material” from Vengeance Will Come. I really like these pages (draft here). The idea was that they set the scene for the series (not just the novel). But I also know there’s a real danger in having material which doesn’t relate to the book (setting promises and expectations, and then not fulfilling them). So I’m taking the pages out and instead turning them into a short story. I’ve started to mull it over in my head, and I’m calling it The Heretic.

halo halo brochureAlso, the other day the beautiful Mrs Ezard and I went out on a date. We thought we’d re-live the memories of visiting the Philippines by getting a halo halo dessert. (It didn’t matter at all to us that it was only mid morning).

Here’s what it looked like in the menu (right).

I don’t really remember what it tasted like in the Philippines except for really yummy. Pieces of jelly, beans, fruit, ice and delicious purple ice cream.

halo halo real

This is what it looked like when we received it. Ignore my smile, I wasn’t really sure what to think at this stage. I was thinking something along the lines of “wish I’d gone somewhere else…”

And I’d have to say, the resemblance to the menu is very lacking. One could say, fairly, incomparable.

I didn’t eat much of mine. No point consuming calories if the taste buds are whingeing.

 

 

halo halo 2

But I was on a mission to find good halo halo for the nephews and nieces so I tried another place a few days later. (The sacrifices I make, honestly 🙂 ).

The results were better (far nicer), but I’m not sure if the price justifies it.