Tag Archives: All You Need Is Love

The Synopsis

The other day an editor I know asked permission to use my latest synopsis as part of a talk she had to give. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, because up to now, I always thought I stunk at writing synopses.

Who knew : ) She went on to say that it was the kind of construction she looked for but rarely received, so I thought I’d share the steps I take to write a synopsis with you.

When I began writing I was a pantser who  believed that plotting  inhibited my creative process. That’s probably why it took me a year and a half to write my first book, which I never sold.

As time passed, I began to realize that if I wanted to write more books faster, I needed to plan more and if I planned more, writing the synopsis at the end of a project might just be easier.  I’ve played with a few variations of my process over the years but here’s what I’ve found works best for me:

1- Before I start to write a book, I write a character analysis for my hero and heroine because the more I know about who they are, where they’ve been, and what they want, the easier it is to move onto the next step–

2-  I write down my hero/heroine’s goals/motivations & conflicts. Keep in mind, it’s very effective if your hero/heroine’s goals oppose each other (ex: he wants a stay at home wife and she wants a career).

3-Once I’ve established their goals/motivations & conflicts, I write a  chapter by chapter outline. Sometimes this is a bare bones outline, sometimes it’s in depth.  Now I can begin to write the book.

Once the book is finished, I pull out the chapter by chapter outline I did months ago. I pinpoint the most important plot points in the finished book, (only those events and motivations that moved the story forward in a major way), and incorporate them into the outline. Don’t forget to reveal the character’s emotions and motivations. (Leave out secondary characters, you’re only using bare bones here.)

Once I’ve tweaked the outline, I begin to write the synopsis (in present tense) by picking up all the important elements from the outline. I introduce the hero/heroine each in their own paragraph. As they’re introduced, I identify their goals, motivation and conflict in as few words as possible, 1-3 pages maximum.

Wow, talk about pressure.  But take heart. Writing a good synopsis is tons of work but you’re also creating a valuable marketing tool. A good synopsis may even help you discover your blurb or pitch, and in the end, you’ve honed your writing skills too.

Best,

Cathy Tully

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Write What You Know

At an RWA national conference a few years ago, I sat in on a workshop that helped me understand what ‘write what you know’ means. In this workshop, we were all asked to write down every job we’ve ever had and the roles we’ve played in life throughout the years. I listed: Administrative Assistant to NY Fortune 500 Executive, Secretary in a pool of thirty, College student/graduate, receptionist at a veterinarian hospital, retail associate at a design store, owner of my own Interior Design business, Substitute teacher grades K-12, Girl Scout Leader, bridesmaid, maid of honor, mother, sister, wife, daughter, godmother, friend and aunt.

The speaker asked us to think about how we could use the professions we’ve spent time in as part of our books. Can our hero/heroine work in a field we’ve worked in? Can he/she be a parent? A scout leader? A teacher? An Admin? Instead of all those billionaires/tycoons in a lot of romances out there could we make him/her someone our reader could relate to so they could come to life on the page? The speaker then went on to explain that if you took what you know and incorporated it into your books, your writing voice be more genuine.

She encouraged our group to think about how our hero/heroine might become more relatable–more three-dimensional–and how it would be easier for your reader to sympathize with because they’re so real? Long after this workshop I thought about what the speaker had said and something clicked. It was my light bulb moment. So, I took her advice and incorporated a part of who I am into my next book, and like they say, the rest is history : )

My first book, All You Need Is Love features, Little Man, my family dog, who we lost to illness. It is the biggest tribute I can pay him and his cuteness jumps off every page. I love dogs, always have, and through no planning of my own, a dog pops up in every book I write. Dogs are better than secondary characters because they make people vulnerable without saying a word. We’re allowed to be our true selves around them without any judgment and their unconditional love brightens the darkest day.

Marrying Mr. Right’s heroine, Missy Modesto, is similar to a good friend I’ve known my whole life. Missy is a strong, tough, yet loving woman with a heart of gold and although years may pass between visits, when we do meet, it feels like yesterday : ) Training Travis is about a divorced dad who gains custody of his fifteen year old daughter after his ex-wife’s untimely death. And even though I can’t personally relate to being divorced, I am the mother of two girls, so I can relate to Travis’ fifteen year old daughter and the mood swings of a teenage girl. My first women’s fiction, Pieces Of Candy, is about a menopausal, mother of two. Candy is a substitute teacher and decides she’s wants a real career of her own. So begins her journey into interior design : )

The speaker at that conference knew what she was talking about–and I wish I’d heard her speak many years ago.  Still, it’s never too late and once I took her advice my writing voice has been with me ever since.  I think it’s really about being true to yourself and who you are as a writer….and this probably isn’t something that can be used for every genre to the extent that I’ve gone. Yet, I can’t help but think it would be hysterical to read a book about an interior designer who dies, comes back as a ghost and keeps rearranging the furniture, sending the people she left behind literally flying!

Best,

Cathy Tully

Moving Your Story Forward

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about forward movement in fiction. A good story starts at the beginning, moves through the middle, and ends at the end. But this isn’t as simple as it may sound because without forward movement, even good characters get stuck in dull stories. If your characters are reflecting, wondering and thinking a lot, be wary. Odds are all that thinking and wondering aren’t getting them from point a to point b.

Characters must do things, say things, go places, and interact with other people. A young man thinking about death isn’t a story. A young man digging his own grave is. Don’t ask who your character is; ask what your character does. Trust in your skills as a writer. Your character will reveal who he/she is once you’ve undertaken the task of describing him/her through their words or deeds. This happened to me while I was writing my first book, All You Need Is Love. A secondary character I created, the heroine’s Gram, wound up becoming the real life Gram I wished I had while growing up. Reviewers even mention the quirky senior citizen as endearing and memorable. Go Gram!

When your character’s personality and motivations emerge, this revelation may be so deep you might have to make changes to your plot when you’re done with your first draft. Gram’s constant knudging, made me change her from a one scene character to a six scene character. Quite a difference.

Our characters often reveal themselves to us when we least expect it and this is what makes being a writer, at least for me, so much fun ☺ These aren’t just voices we hear in our heads urging us to write their story down, they become real people we can relate to through the process of writing their story, and in some instances we hate to say goodbye to when the story is over.

Plot turns into story when we convey emotional information to the reader. A woman discovers the end of her marriage. A young man is left at the altar by the love of his life, a child realizes his mother isn’t coming back. Use these emotional discoveries that make real life interesting, horrifying, and beautiful.

Once you entwine them into your story, you begin to mesh plot and character together. Your reader will experience real heart break, loss or joy. Through this process of meshing you’ll feel the difference because the emotional information you convey will create a memorable three-dimensional character that might just grow his/her own fan base : )

Best,

Cathy Tully

Details…Details…

Details, Details…

Writing is hard work, a never ending process of learning and applying. I’ve been writing for fourteen years and am still learning how to improve my skills. Today I’d like to talk a little about details in a story.

A detail is a word/phrase/image that enables a reader to “see.” Instead of telling your readers that Sam “looked sad,” describe the shape of his mouth or the lifeless slats of his hair. Avoid details that call to mind anybody and use the specific ones that call to mind your character because these are details that stay with your readers through the book.

Sometimes it only takes one or two details to bring your character to life for a reader. These are the telling details that stretch beyond observation to give readers a larger, richer sense of character or place.

When I was asked to do revisions for my first book, All You Need Is Love, my original opening line was: “Stepping inside the local veterinarian’s office, Ginger bellowed.”

A specific directive from my editor was: “Don’t just tell me I’m in a veterinarian’s office, show me, make me hear it, see it, feel it.”

Here’s what I added:

Stepping inside the local veterinarian’s office in Promise, Massachusetts was like stepping into a half-price sale at Macy’s the day before a holiday. A Doberman barked repeatedly while a Pomeranian, eyes wide, ran in circles piddling on herself and the floor, frantic to escape the din and chaos.

Ginger bellowed, along with a German shepherd across the room that had jumped into a chair with the woman trying desperately to clean the Pomeranian’s urine from her heels. The shepherd, easily one hundred pounds, bounded back onto the floor, sniffed once at the yipping Pomeranian, then raised his leg and doused the little dog.

My editor was delighted with the details and replied that she felt as though she was in the veterinarian’s office, heard the chaos and, being a pet owner, could smell the urine. No, not the best memory, but vivid just the same : )

The right details at the right times allow your readers admission into your character’s inner peculiarities, fears, and compulsions. It’s one thing to explain the veterinarian’s office was utter chaos, but when I added the details that helped the reader experience the scene, I enriched my story.

Best,

Cathy Tully

Write What You Know

About seven years ago at an RWA conference, I sat in on a workshop. In this workshop, attendees were asked to list every job we’ve ever had and the roles we’ve played in life throughout the years. I listed: Administrative Assistant to NY Fortune 500 Executive, Secretary in a pool of thirty, College student/graduate, receptionist at a veterinarian hospital, retail associate at a design store, owner of my own Interior Design business, Substitute teacher grades K-12, Girl Scout Leader, mother, sister, wife, daughter, godmother and aunt.

The speaker asked us to think about how we could use the professions we’ve spent time in as part of our books. Can our hero/heroine work in a field we’ve worked in? Can he/she be a parent? A scout leader? A teacher? An Admin? The speaker then went on to explain that if we took what we know and incorporated it into our books, not only would our writing voice be more genuine, but our hero/heroine would be more relatable.

Long after this workshop was over, I thought about what the speaker had said and something clicked. Yup. It was my light bulb moment. So, I took the speaker’s advice and incorporated a part of who I am into my next book, and like they say, the rest is history : )

My first book, All You Need Is Love features, Little Man, my family dog, who we lost to illness. By filling the pages of this book with his cuteness and adorable ways, he literally jumps off every page. I love dogs, always have, and through no planning of my own, a dog pops up in every book I write. It’s funny how the subconscious works, isn’t it? My critique partner says having a dog in all my books is part of my ‘brand’ and I suppose she’s right. All I know is that dog’s allow us to be vulnerable. We’re allowed to be our true selves around them without judgment and their unconditional love brightens the darkest day.

Marrying Mr. Right’s heroine, Missy Modesto, is similar to a good friend I’ve known my whole life. Missy is a strong woman with a heart of gold and although years may pass between visits, when my old friend and I that based Missy on, do meet, it feels like days not years have passed: )

Training Travis is about a divorced dad who gains custody of his fifteen year old daughter after his ex-wife’s untimely death. And even though I can’t relate to divorce, I am the mother of two girls, so I can relate to Travis’ daughter and the mood swings of a teenage girl : )

My first woman’s fiction, Pieces Of Candy, is about a menopausal, mother of two. Candy is a substitute teacher and decides she’s fed up and wants a career of her own. So begins her journey into interior design.

All of these characters/stories parallel my life in one way or another, and it isn’t by coincidence. I took the speaker’s advice at that conference long ago, and I didn’t just find my writing voice, I found out who I am as a writer because I write what I know.

Do you write what you know? And if so, how do you think your writing process has changed since you’ve started to write what you know?

Best,

Cathy Tully

Finding Your Writing Voice

I began my writing journey over ten years ago and from the get go I submersed myself in learning and refining my craft. Even then, I heard talk about ‘finding your writing voice,’ but didn’t pay it much attention. I mean, I was too busy trying to learn how to write a book : )  I read every romance and women’s fiction that I could get my hands on, and joined a critique group.

Then I started to attend conferences and saying I was overwhelmed, well that’s putting it mildly. A few years passed, and I found workshops no longer exhausted and overwhelmed me. Instead, I actually began taking away information that I could apply to my own writing projects. I thought, hey, my book is good, but it can be so much better, so I used what I learned. I entered contests and received some great feedback. I pitched to editors and although they rejected my projects, I often received nice, detailed letters encouraging me to revise and resubmit.

On some of the revision letters I was told to take my writing to the next level—the story flows, now add some personality and give the book flavor. Now, some writer’s sell their very first book, or even their second. Some go on to win awards and become NYTimes bestsellers right off the bat. I’m not one of those writers. Everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve had to work hard for. Ahhh, but that’s another blog for another day : )

Anyway,  I wondered about what the editors had said, what it meant to take my writing to the next level, so I talked to as many published writers as I could and they all told me the same thing. Relax and trust in your skills, it will happen. But I was still frustrated. It doesn’t help that I’m the kind of person who hates to wait. What did they mean, relax? I kept thinking, when will it happen? Where is this voice I’m supposed to have and why is it so hard to find?  Not until I pushed the thought from my mind–when I said enough of this frustration and trying to find something I don’t know how to find, did I truly relax. And what do you know…

I had my ‘aha’ moment a few weeks later when I was reading a chapter I’d written out loud to myself. I liked what I was hearing and somehow it seemed different than my other books. My dialogue was more conversational–my characters witty and real. I caught myself laughing at these people I’d written–what they were doing, and why.

I added my personality, made my characters endearing, quirky and appealing, and it was then, not until I was well into my fourth book, that my writing voice took form. I found that by giving my characters the opportunity to become real people reader’s want to relate to, my writing voice flowed freely.

It’s funny, I’ve heard that when you read your book, the emotions you feel are the emotions the reader will feel, but somehow I didn’t get it until it happened to me. Right there in the quiet of my own little office on a day I will never forget, I found the voice that had probably been there all alone. I just didn’t know how to coax it to come on out and play : )

Best,

Cathy Tully

Judging A Book By Its Cover

I’ve always thought a good cover helps sell a book, but recent events, have turned me into a believer. One day last week, I ran into a local beauty supply store I’d heard good things about, but had never visited. The owner stood behind the counter animatedly chatting with two women about the antics of her new kitten. As I took my merchandise to the check-out, the owner mentioned how her cat is so much happier now that she has a companion.  I nodded in agreement, because I’ve lived this, only with dogs, and know the truth in this statement.

The women’s smile widened in appreciation of my acknowledgement. As she rang up my sale, we spoke in more detail about her cats. The subject soon focused on my pets. I told her I didn’t have any pets right now, and that we’d lost our dog to illness a little over a year ago. All the women grew quiet. One blotted her eyes; another patted my arm and my heart instantly warmed. I love animal lovers. They are honest, sensitive people, and I adore being around them.

After paying for my merchandise, I mentioned my book that featured my dog. I pulled out a copy from the bag I bring along when I run errands. They asked me questions about the cover, and pointed to the coffee cup, the steam in the shape of a heart, the young couple gazing into each others eyes, and the little dog sitting proudly in the corner. These women commented on how much they loved the cover and how inviting they thought it was as we talked about how all of the elements on the cover related directly to the story.

Wow. That was an enlightening experience for me. I’d always thought a cover was important, but this interaction with complete strangers proved to me just how important a good cover design can be.

I sold five books that afternoon, and am so grateful for publishing companies like Astraea Press and The Wild Rose Press, who encourage their authors to communicate in great detail with their cover designers, allowing us to work hand in hand to create a beautiful finished product.

Before this experience, I’d never even thought to ask potential publishers how much input an author would have in their cover design. Instead I got lucky. I sold to two publishers that do believe an author’s input is invaluable and since there’s no guarantee to my luck holding out, I can assure you, how much author input goes into a cover design will be the first question I ask any potential publisher in the future.

Best,

Cathy Tully

First Book Signing

So, my ebook, ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, is available as a paperback, on amazon.com, and I couldn’t be more excited! I managed to sell the downloads necessary for it to become a print on demand, and as if that wasn’t enough, this weekend I attended my first book signing festival at Unionville Winery in Ringoes, NJ.

One week before, my stomach started acting up, my face broke out, and I couldn’t sleep. Jeez, I felt like a sixteen-year-old going on her first date. This festival takes place every fall and it was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time. The owner of the vineyard told us he expected at least 2,000 people, and he wasn’t kidding.

I love to people watch–so sitting at the booth and watching everyone, in all shapes and sizes come together and enjoy different wines, good food and the wonderful fall weather was so much fun for me. As luck would have it, Mother Nature graced us with good weather. Although rain had been predicted, she held off until later that day after we had all packed up and were safely home. The wind gave us a run for our money, but other than that it was all-good. There were dozens of vendors, including crafts, food, and wine : )

A good friend, Linda Parisi, author of sinful suspense, showed up unexpectedly and made my afternoon. My husband, daughter, and one of my best friends came to the festival later in the day, and made the afternoon even more special. After they had been to the wine tasting, they brought over a bottle of wine, an extra glass, a large marguerita pizza, and we spent some time together. Is it just me? Because I think wine makes everything more special : )

I signed with two lovely ladies, Chris Redding, author of romantic suspense, and Helen Henderson, author of science fiction/fantasy/history books, both of whom I would spend the day with again : ) Did I sell dozens of books? No.

But in the end, that didn’t matter, I left with a few Christmas gifts, lots of business cards, and a good feeling. My daughter blamed it on the wine, but I disagree. When you spend an afternoon with people you enjoy and care about—life doesn’t get much better than that!

Cathy

All You Need Is Love by guest author Cathy Tully

Please welcome author Cathy Tully to Attacking The Page. Cathy is my writing buddy, conference roommate, and Isshinryu karate student. She was recently promoted to Ku Kyu (yellow belt) last month! Her debut novel, All You Need Is Love, is a sweet romance and is available from Astraea Press and Amazon. Read her excerpt below. Welcome Cathy!

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE is the book of my heart. My life was blessed with, Little Man, the Yorkshire Terrier portrayed in this story for nine wonderful years. Having lost another dog a few years ago, I never took Little Man for granted and enjoyed every day that he graced my life with his presence.

He was special in so many ways, I wanted to share his zany, crazy, loving personality with as many people as possible. ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE is the greatest tribute I could pay to Little Man, who was indeed, a beloved member of my family. I hope you enjoy reading ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, and fall in love with Little Man just like I did : )

Jack DeVane is on the fast tract to becoming CEO of Cunningham Coffee and nothing will get in his way…until a little dog wanders into his condo and a beautiful dog walker wanders into his heart.

Caitlyn Stiles has one wish–to take over the family business. When she returns from college and this is no longer an option, she travels to Promise, Massachusetts to look after her ailing grandmother where she takes a job as a part-time dog walker.

Can one sweet, little dog teach Jack there’s more to life than work? Teach Caitlyn to let go of her resentment? And teach them both that ALL THEY NEED IS LOVE?

Excerpt:

“Caitlyn, are you ready yet?” Her mother called from the bottom of the stairs.

“Almost.”

“Hurry. All the best plants will be gone if we get there too late.”

She closed the closet door and gazed out her bedroom window.  It was a clear, warm day with a vivid blue sky. A vivid blue that reminded her of Jack’s eyes. She groaned and headed down into the kitchen where her mother waited.

With Easter only a week away, she’d promised her mother she’d go to the nursery and pick up some crocus, hyacinths and assorted flowers to brighten the front of the townhouse.

“So, are you ready to help me pick out some pretty yellow tulips?” Her mother wiped her hands on a kitchen towel.

“What did you say?”

“Yellow tulips. This year I’ve decided to fill the entire front of the house with yellow tulips.”

Caitlyn flinched. “But I thought we’d decorate the front of the house like last year when you first moved in. Use a mix of assorted pansies. What happened to that idea? You loved the effect. You even agreed it would be colorful and perky.”

Her mother shook her head. “No. I’ve changed my mind. This year I want to use bulbs, so they’ll come back again and again. Since I didn’t plant any last fall, we can buy potted tulips that’ll come back again year after year. And I’ve decided that yellow tulips should be the main accent color. Bright yellow. Vivid yellow. Beautiful yellow tulips.”

Caitlyn groaned. Tulips? The one flower; the only flower she hoped to dissuade her mother from using.

“What’s wrong with you? A beautiful bright yellow will serve as the perfect accent color for the house’s brick face and black shutters. I even bought a gorgeous yellow spring wreath for the door.”

Caitlyn put her head in her hands.

“I think yellow will look stunning. They’re going to make our house stand out from all the others on the block. I even saw something similar in a magazine, and I’m telling you, the effect was beautiful.”

“Okay mom. I get it. You want yellow.”

“Yes. Yellow tulips. You used to love yellow tulips. They were your favorite flower.”

“Were is the operative word, Mom. Were.”

“What happened to change your mind?”

Caitlyn couldn’t hold it in anymore. “Jack happened.”

“I don’t understand.”

“He ruined everything.”

“Nonsense. How can a man ruin your favorite flower?”

Caitlyn groaned. “It’s not bad enough he works for a company I detest, but then he shows up out of nowhere to get his mitts on dad’s recipe behind my back. To top it all off, he brings me yellow tulips.”

“What?”

“I said Jack brought me yellow tulips.”

“No. Before that.”

“Dad’s recipe?’

No. Before that.”

“Jack works for Cunningham Coffee, Mom.” Caitlyn blew out an exasperated sigh.

“Oh honey, you’re thoroughly confused. About everything.” Her mother walked over to the table and sat next to her. She kept her voice low. “Tell me sweetie, did you insist Jack leave that morning he came to town, even though you love him, because you thought he still worked for that horrible company?”

Caitlyn nodded and bit her quivering bottom lip. “I can’t be with someone like that. Someone who works for people like that. What does that say about him?”

Her mother sat opposite her then reached across the kitchen table and squeezed both her hands. “Caitlyn, Jack doesn’t work for Cunningham Coffee anymore.” She handed Caitlyn a tissue.

She blotted her eyes. “No. He probably owns his own company now. He’s probably taking advantage of more people like they taught him to.”

“As a matter of fact he does operate his own company. Well, part of the company. He and I haven’t worked out all the details yet.”

Caitlyn stood and pushed her chair in, ignoring her mother’s comment. “If I know him, he’s closing every innocent, little store he can get his hands on.”

“You don’t know him at all do you?”

“What does that mean?” Caitlyn said.

“It means you better get ready to eat some crow!”

You can visit Cathy Tully at www.CathyTully.com and on Facebook. Thanks for visiting Cathy!

~K.M. Fawcett