Monday, February 20, 2017

Sorry Folks, I Did Not Like Little House on the Prairie

Do you remember the first book that really swept you away? A book that took you to a new world that you never wanted to leave?

I remember the first book that did that for me. I was in grade 5, and I wasn't much of a reader. In fact, I stayed as far from books as I could. In my early elementary years, I struggled to learn to read, so I figured it just wasn't my thing. I'd been given the Little House on the Prairie series. I liked the show, so decided, despite not being a big reader, to give it a try. I read a couple chapters, but didn't like it. So, my young self said, "See, reading is boring." I decided stick to movies and TV. I loved Star Wars, Star Trek, Thunder Cats, Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica.

My grade five teacher read to us a couple of times per week which I usually found boring. I'd space out and imagine my own stories. But one day, he started a new book--The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes. It didn't take long before the story of a human girl living on the distant planet of Isis with only a robot companion captured me. I started looking forward to story time. I hung on every word and was blown away by the twist ending. My imagination soared. No one had ever told me that the science fiction I loved on TV and in the movies came in book form!

This book opened up a new world for me. It's no wonder that science fiction is now the genre I choose to write most.

Perhaps you know someone who doesn't like to read. This isn't a permanent state of being. Most reluctant readers simply haven't found the right book. Like me, they need to find a story that sparks their imagination. Don't assume reluctant readers will like what you like. Young readers especially need an abundance of choices so they can learn what they enjoy. When reading brings joy, people become lifelong readers.

I'd love to hear which book or series made you fall head over heels for reading or which drove you to start writing in the comments below.


Melinda Marshall Friesen lives in a little house on the prairies where she writes speculative fiction for teens and adults. Check out her sci-fi/dystopian One Bright Future series here: Enslavement and Subversion.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Watching Movies to Help Your Writing

Depending on what I'm writing, I often utilize movies to help with fleshing out my story. Especially if the story is a historical or fantasy, I can use movie magic to help me with setting, clothes, and dialogue.

When I was writing my historical fantasy, I watched The Patriot, and also, National Treasure. The Patriot was great for period details, and National Treasure for getting me excited all over again about the Revolutionary War and Benjamin Franklin (who was in my book). 

Right now I'm drafting a fantasy with 1920 ties, and so I recently just finished the tv series, Downton Abbey. I kept a notebook to jot down certain phrases to incorporate into my book, as well as a sharp eye on the outfits that were being worn. I also want to rewatch The Great Gatsby (the one starring Leo D) as well. 

So don't feel guilty the next time you plop down on the couch to do some tube watching-- just call it research and dig into some popcorn!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Synopsis Critique #2 - MG Paranormal Mystery

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of RED-EYED DANIEL, a 76,000-word MG Paranormal Mystery, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


Thirteen-year old DANIEL VENTURE breaks out in blisters, and this ruins his life: he never invites kids over, doesn’t go to the pool, and doesn’t go to school. [This is a great start, really situating us in Daniel's 'normal life.' But it seems like the blisters must be really painful and/or disfiguring for him to have such an unusual life because of them - consider adding a little detail here describing his condition.] He visits a doctor to treat his condition, but discovers that she has zero intentions to cure him. [Is this the first doctor he's ever seen for this condition? Or is she a new doctor, or supposed to be some kind of specialist?] Instead, the doctor kidnaps his mother to a parallel world. [Has Daniel ever had any indication before this that parallel worlds existed? That his mother would be the target of a kidnapping? If so, integrate a little back-story here. If not, describe Daniel's surprise at this turn of events.] For the opportunity to search for his mother, Daniel trades his eyes. [Who does he trade them to? How? Consider making the last two sentences of this paragraph a separate paragraph and spending a little more time fleshing them out. The visit to the doctor (and subsequent kidnapping of Daniel's mother) seems to be your inciting incident, so they shouldn't be buried at the end of a bigger paragraph.] He wakes up in a parallel universe, haunted by demons. [Is it the universe or Daniel that is haunted by the demons?] Daniel discovers that while he was unconscious, a local doctor named DAVID LODNER filled his empty eye sockets with artificial red eyes. [Was the doctor local to the parallel universe or Daniel's original world? Any relation to the doctor who kidnapped his mother?] With these new eyes Daniel sees a walking demon-skeleton with sharp nails pierce a woman’s shoulder and realizes that he is incapable of battling his mother’s kidnapper, who is a demon herself. [How does he realize this? Does he attempt to save the woman and fail? Also, do the new eyes give Daniel any other abilities or powers?] To gain the knowledge of fighting demons ['To learn how to fight demons' is a little more straightforward], Daniel enlists in a military academy. [More detail about this parallel world would be helpful to situate the reader. Is it just like Daniel's world or are there significant differences (other than the demons)? A sentence or two describing the parallel world would help here - Daniel wouldn't be able to enlist himself in a military academy in his world, but he can here. How?] But the Chief Commander calls roll in the middle of the first night: something has been stolen and the thief is suspected to be nearby. Soon Daniel overhears a conversation between two teachers and learns that his dead father was once working on the reproduction of a secret device called the Pyramid Diamond, whose blueprints were stolen from the Commander. [What does 'reproduction of a secret device' mean? Recreating a device that existed at some point before? If not, then 'production' works better.] Daniel is convinced that his mother was kidnapped because she had classified information about the Diamond. [I really like this. Daniel's learning more about his parents and his real life, and his call to action can't be far off...] Daniel and his new friend BEN LODNER—David’s son [consider using 'Dr. Lodner' throughout instead of 'David,' because that's presumably how Daniel would think of him]—suspect that the thief is the class bully, after they see his silhouette near their guard booth. They give chase, but accidentally find themselves near a pub full of demons. Peeking into the pub, Daniel spots the kidnapper. [consider saying, 'his mother's kidnapper' so we know it's the doctor from Daniel's real world] But to get in and confront her, he needs a demon companion.
Daniel and Ben investigate a bit more, and learn that the Pyramid Diamond is a powerful weapon that can transfer telekinetic energy between demons and people, and vice versa. [Connect the dots here between what the Diamond does and the fact that it's powerful - what does it mean to transfer telekinetic energy? How does that help demons or people? Does it allow them to be stronger, quicker, etc.?] After Daniel and Ben successfully catch a giant bee demon, they are convinced that they can enter the pub and catch the bully helping the kidnapper to recreate the Pyramid Diamond. [Why are they sure it's the bully? And if they can get into the pub, why wouldn't they catch the kidnapper, who we know is in there, as opposed to just catching the bully? And I'm still a bit confused about recreating the Diamond... if the Diamond is an old device that was destroyed, or something along those lines, tell us that.] When they enter the pub, it’s not the bully they find, but David. [Again, I think using 'Dr. Lotner' works better] He was the one they had seen during their guard duty, and he was the true thief. [How do they find out? Does he confess?] Even worse, when David implanted Daniel his artificial eyes, he wasn’t doing him a favor. On the contrary—these eyes were used as a surveillance system, meant to follow Daniel all the time. [Nice twist.] David confesses that he did it because the king of all demons promised to bring his dead wife—Ben’s mother—back to life. And now, with the Pyramid Diamond finally complete and Daniel fallen into his trap, David can summon the king—Asmodeus. [Why does Asmodeus need Daniel? You get into it in the next paragraph, but some hints in this paragraph would help connect them.] Asmodeus appears and tells Daniel that his mother was used as bait to lure Daniel into the parallel world because what Admodeus really desires is Daniel’s immense telekinetic energy, which he will steal using the Pyramid Diamond. [Ah. This is a great reveal. Are there hints earlier on that Daniel has this power? If so, drop a hint earlier in the synopsis] But he also offers Daniel to spare his mother’s life if Daniel joins his army of demons. [A little awkward. Consider, 'But he also tells Daniel he will spare his mother's life...'] Daniel refuses and Asmodeus begins draining Daniel’s energy. [Why does Daniel refuse? I could see not wanting to join an army of demons, but his mother's life is at stake and earlier, he traded his eyes to search for her, so she must be important to him. Does he not trust Asmodeus to keep his word? Or something else?] But then Daniel realizes that in order to destroy Asmodeus he must destroy his demonic eyes. [How does he realize this?] He yanks out his eyes, and stabs them with a knife. Asmodeus is destroyed and Daniel loses consciousness. When he wakes up in the infirmary, he can see with only one eye because the other one was beyond repair. The Chief Commander tells him that Asmodeus was only receiving orders from another, more powerful, demon—Azazel—and as long as Daniel is not caught his mother will be safe. When Daniel gets back to the academy, students look at him with fear and admiration. Though his mother is still held hostage, Daniel’s battle with the demon has made him stronger: he will plot the best attack so the next time he fights Azazel, Daniel will save his mother and come out victorious. [If he's at the academy, wouldn't it be easy for Azazel to track him down?] [Does he ever go back to his original life? Can he? Whatever happened to his blisters? Did they disappear when he went into the parallel world?]


This is a neat concept with some great twists and turns! My main critiques boil down to two areas:

(1) Connect the dots. For example, explaining that the Diamond imparts telekinetic powers doesn't mean much to me as a non-scientist. If those telekinetic powers enable the user to fly, or see through walls, etc., then that description has a lot more impact on the reader.

(2) I had a lot of questions throughout that amounted to Why? or How? Consider these questions as you read through again, and try to answer them briefly. For example, how does Daniel realize he must destroy his demonic eyes to destroy Asmodeus? Does someone tell him? Does he read about it somewhere? Adding even a short phrase to that sentence explaining how Daniel comes to realize this fact helps the reader with the plot flow.

Best of luck with the manuscript!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Meet Ashley Borodin in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature

1- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

To enjoy writing. Seriously. I want to have fun doing things. I’m not terribly good at that and I’m planning several interventions after I move interstate next week that will force me to have fun. Like buying a pet, so that I have to look after it. And I have someone who gives something back. At the moment writing is all a one-way street. Marketing doubly-so.

I’d like to get into a writing lifestyle. Cos I tend to binge-write and it’s not healthy.

I’ve started on another book that will stretch my ability to create characters. That’s my greatest flaw as a writer. It’s going to take me a while.

2- How has Autism influenced you as a writer?

This is really what I was alluding to in the previous question - my ability to empathise and relate has been severely stunted. I’ve spent my life concerned about ideas. I have compassion for people. I’ve stepped in when people were dying. Animals too. But I don’t relate to them. That’s changing as I persist with the Autism diet I’m on at the moment. For those who came in late it’s called GAPS, or FODMAPS (the more extreme version) and there’s little research, but tremendous allegorical evidence of its efficacy. If you search for GAPS on Youtube or Autism/Asperger forums you’ll quickly discover what I mean.

3- Would you please give an example of what makes you more liberal or more conservative?

Just as an aside, the conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal party. And I notice a lot of Liberals in North America these days are defining themselves as Classical Liberal or anti-Progressive. I’ve always found those labels irrelevant.
I’m a Gelato Centrist. I don’t care what flavour you are as long as you can hold a conversation and cede some ground to reason from time to time. That’s all we need for a perfect society. We already live in utopia, it’s just that several people don’t realise it.

A good example is this interview between Dave Rubin and Glenn Beck:

Like Rubin, I believe in the conversation. To me conversations about issues are more important than what side you take. A side is almost animalistic. A defensive reaction to perceived threat. You see this a lot with the current climate surrounding refugees on one hand, and the rise of the Right on the other. The reactions to these on the corresponding side are typical of frightened animals. The fear is real, but often they fail to prove the threat is equal to their reaction.
And that’s bad politics, it leaves you open to ridicule and ultimately being dismissed from further engagement. Over-reacting, as so many people do on social media, leads to ghettoisation. The other side simply ignores you and you retreat to your irrelevant echo chamber and remain useless in the real world. Only to emerge some time later and discover to your horror that the world has moved on without you. This culture shock is what we’re living through at the moment. The Left is waking up to reality, to the consequences of their actions, of straying from their own noble ideals. Even the Guardian, the Guardian! Today it published this:

If the Guardian are finally acknowledging what everyone else has been saying forever, if even they can get their head out of the ideological sand and remember The Working Class - if they understand Trump finally - that means they know what trouble the Left is in. The Left has lost the moral high ground.
So you could say I’m a Liberal. Like Sargon of Akkad and others wanting to bring the Left back to the centre. I want the Left to re-engage in the good fight for the underclass, for Liberty and all that.
Honestly, the people I identify with most are Catholics. Because they are the ones taking on the big issues and whether you agree or not, you have to admire their principles and courage. I’m a Catholic Liberal. But it’s ok, I have no character to assassinate and no career to sabotage, so I can afford to say things like that. Because that’s the world we live in.

Here’s Sargon talking about that world and The Skeptic community:

4- Who is currently your biggest fan and what does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My wife was an early detractor. Three years ago when I finished the novel, which she’d been tirelessly editing, she pretty much dismissed it. It was the character development, which I agree with.

But now, after many books have gone under the bridge on her side and she’s become a competent translator and editor in her own right - now she is my biggest fan. Perhaps it’s just a book you need to read twice. It should be twice as long, but at the time I was severely ‘autistic’; I did the best I could. And still now I would struggle to do much better. I envy writers whose first novel is perfect. But in my case I have drawn uncommon wisdom from the startup field.

Here are two useful quotes::

“Fail early, and fail often”
“If your first draft doesn’t embarrass you, you’ve launched too late.”

I won’t be forgiven for being a Moderate, but I might be forgiven for being an amateur.

5- What does your Twitter handle 0rWouldUrather mean or where did it come from?

I wish I knew. I think it comes from a song that a guy in my high school physics class made up, it’s a parody of something:

“...or would you rather be a fish?
A fish is an animal
With big fuzzy feet
It eats pineapples
With it’s beak..


So if you can’t tell
A big pond
From a dish
You could
Turn out
To be a fish.”

Genius. By the way, I don’t know if it was ‘big pond’ or ‘Bigpond’ which is a broadband provider in Australia.
(*Interviewer Note: I solved some of this mystery for Ash.)

6- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?#

I think it still needs improving. But starting to overcome autism is the one thing I can say helped. Which means putting your health first.
There was a study of entrepreneurs (I can’t remember the citation) that showed the most important element of success was personal health, putting that first. Every entrepreneur has some crazy, eccentric health routine they swear by. And they’re all different.

7- Does #RRBC stand for ( Rave Reviews Book Club? If so, where do you review your books at?

Your research is correct, it’s Rave Reviews. I’ve joined as an author and so far I have been very slack with Goodreads. Or rather so overwhelmed with Twitter and everything else involved in launching that I haven’t really developed a routine with Goodreads yet. I’m also having trouble with the site, so I need to get on that.
I’ve done a few reviews on Amazon and I’m thinking of perhaps doing a few more. I’m not a great reader so I’m not really the best person for the job, though as a writer I understand the tremendous demand.
If I did review regularly, I’d like to focus on stuff like ‘The Leshy’ by NC Stow. You can read my review here.

And poetry and perhaps well-written essays. Basically the stuff no-one else wants to read. Rather like my book.

8- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

The nearest thing that comes to mind is Poe's Law. Perhaps there’s a better category for things that I can’t tell whether they are a parody or the real thing.

When I started The Jealous Flock I used to be a bit like that. I was never a progressive, because for one I’m not American so the term means nothing to me, but also I’m not a joiner or a populist. I’d heard of people ‘fighting racism’ online and I’d heard of ‘elevatorgate’ and I took them at their word. I assumed it was true.
I think the first facadal fissure began to occur when I saw an interview with one of these anti-racist crusaders (self described) on SBS, which I used to watch a lot. The thing that caught my attention was a picture of Gene Wilder, the American actor in his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory garb. It’s one of my favourite films, so I was interested right away. I didn’t know what memes were at the time, and I didn’t care about Facebook, but I couldn’t quite make the connections between racism and Gene Wilder. Nor Willy Wonka for that matter. Perhaps the Oompa Loompas were typecast and that was the issue. I couldn’t figure it out.
I think the camera actually showed a glimpse of one of the memes, and it was Willy Wonka saying something like, ‘So tell me again how white people are all racist.’ And I thought, that’s funny. That’s really quite funny. And perhaps a year or two passed, and somehow I discovered Sargon and the sceptics. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to memes. And there he was, Willy Wonka saying some really funny shit. All over the internet. It was about as un-racist as one can get.

Anyway, back to your question. I basically took home the grand prize. I don’t know how Bingo works, but I definitely won. Plus I added a whole new chart, so I won next week as well.

I am a fan of diversity, but not systemic conspiracy theories. For as one progressive (I believe he’s called Aids Skrillex by the cool kids) put it : "You’re *^cking a white male." And if you know someone in the West at least who’s more underprivileged than me, I will relinquish my bingo takings. Both weeks. I’m that confident.

9- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

I don’t know. Is this a writing school question? I never went to writing school, but it sounds like a formula. I don’t use those. Or genres. Those people sound mental. I’m mental, so I know the signs.

10- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I read as little as possible. Especially these days. The book industry is crap, it just churns out things designed to piss me off on purpose, I’m sure of it.
But also I have too many impediments to reading. It’s just too painful. The amount that I have to do in writing and using the internet is way beyond my pain threshold. Adding reading for pleasure is just impossible.

11- How will you measure your publishing performance?

A good question and one I can’t rightly answer. I think the quality of the conversations I have with readers is my honest answer. I’d quite like to make back some of the money I spent on marketing so I feel like less of an idiot, but there’s no guarantee of that. So far it’s not looking good. I’m told if you switch to romance you can clean up in a month, no promotion whatsoever. The demand is off the chart. It’s a woman’s world.

12- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

Desperation and obscurity. No one wanted me. And I wanted this to be the one project I saw through to the end, give it the best chance of life. So ‘self-published’. Which is the industry equivalent of leaving my book on the nature strip and hoping the right person will find it.

13- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I honestly don’t know. But as long as it’s well-thought out they can say what they want. I’m more interested in free thought than free speech. There’s a reason tourrettes is considered an illness.

14- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

No, I think I’ve just about ruined my chances with your audience, but if they want a proper fight they can try to get me banned from Twitter, I hear that’s all the rage these days:

You’d be doing me a favour. I hate Twitter, but I endure it because I’m really trying to make a go of this book. I really would like to eventually talk to people about it, about things that matter. I’m thinking of eventually starting a Youtube/Minds/Facebook video thing where I try to bridge the gap, the gulf rather, between the progressive mindset, actual liberals and other moderates.

The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tracking your writing time

I really enjoy Randy Ingermanson's Advanced Fiction Writing Newsletter, and I've been hanging on to this article in particular to share with you all. As someone who ekes out writing time on a very non-regular schedule, this article was a bit of a wakeup call for me. I hope you'll find it useful.
Imagine that your agent calls you out of the blue one day. An editor needs a book written to fill a slot in her publishing schedule. The first draft needs to be done in five months and revisions within the following three. The editor called your agent and asked if he had any clients who could meet the need. Your agent suggested you, and the editor would love to work with you if you’re willing to take the project on short notice.

Now the ball is in your court. Are you interested? Do you have the skills to write the book? Most importantly, do you have the time? The editor has made it clear that the deadline has no slack. Either you can meet the deadline or you can’t. Your agent needs to give the editor an answer tomorrow. What do you say?

You might imagine this never happens.

It happens all the time, somewhere in the publishing world. It happens once in a while to just about every professional author. 

And professional authors know how to answer the question intelligently.

Really, there are only two possible answers:
1) “Yes, I have the time. The project will take me 80 hours to write and 50 to polish, and I have that much time in my schedule on a five-month deadline. Then revisions will take another 75 hours, and I have that in my schedule over the following three months.”

2) “No, I don’t have the time. The project will take me 80 hours to write and 50 to polish, and I don’t have that much time in my schedule on a five-month deadline. Not even close. Sorry, I can’t take this project, but thanks for thinking of me. Period.”

Either of these answers is acceptable to the editor. What’s not acceptable is door number 3:
3) “I don’t know, probably. I’m busy right now, but it sounds like a great project, so I’ll just make the time. I don’t know where I’ll find it, but I will.”

Why is that not acceptable? Because it’s nothing but smoke. Editors get smoke all the time from amateur authors. Amateur authors who miss deadlines are the reason that slots open up in publishing schedules, forcing editors to scramble. An editor expects better from a professional. 

The reason professional authors can answer this question is because they track their time. 
Maybe they use a spreadsheet.
Maybe they use some sort of time-tracking software.

Whatever. A professional author can look at her records and figure out how many hours she needs to produce a piece of work, based on past experience. She can look at her calendar and figure out how many hours she has available over the next several months. She can do the subtraction and come up with an answer—a yes or a no. She can do it quickly, without guessing.

And of course, she might still be wrong. She could break her leg next month and wind up short on hours. If that happens, every editor will understand. What an editor won’t “understand” is that an author said yes on an impossible project without having a clue that she couldn't meet the deadline.
Some professional authors are fast and some are slow. That’s fine. 
Some professional authors have a lot of time for writing and some have a little. That’s fine. 

But every professional author knows if she is fast or slow, and she knows how much time she has for writing. Not knowing is not fine. Blowing smoke to get a contract is not fine.


  1. How much time did you spend writing last month?
  2. How much time did you spend writing so far this year?
  3. Are those numbers about what you had planned? (Say within 20%.)
  4. How many hours did it take you to write your last project?
If you can’t answer the above questions accurately within five minutes, then you need to start tracking your time. There are any number of tools you can use to do that. 

If you Google the phrase “time tracking software,” you’ll find enough options to keep you up late into the night comparing all your choices. Because every author has different needs, there is no way for me to make a recommendation that would be meaningful to you, but the tool I use comes up on the first page of the Google search results. 

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 15,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Marketing Experiment #782: Wattpad

For me, book marketing has been one experiment after another. I hear of or think of a new idea, then give it a try. Some things have worked. Some haven't, but I'm always willing to try something new.

For the past year, I've been thinking about and researching Wattpad. I've heard of people having success there, but I've been in this business long enough to know that for every wildly successful author out there, there are about 10,000 others who haven't achieved the same results.

I had a few of misgivings about Wattpad.
  1. There are thousands and thousands of stories available which means it's yet another platform where competition is fierce.
  2. It's free. I work very hard on writing and editing my novels, and I feel my time has value. No one would give away a house they built themselves, and we're talking about a similar number of hours invested.
  3. If the novel didn't do well, I ran the risk of never getting it traditionally published because it would be available online for free, which technically means it was previously published.
However, I have this manuscript that I wrote during the 72-Hour Novel Contest (yes, you have 72 hours to write an entire novel). The Typhon Project is a YA Sci-fi apocalyptic read that is complete at 35,000 words, qualifying it as a novella, not a novel. I loved the story, so I'd considered weaving in some subplots to beef it up but, after a lot of thought, came to the conclusion that the story was best served at its present length. 

As I considered trying out Wattpad, I thought of The Typhon Project, a manuscript that I would probably never pursue traditional publication for because of its length. I wanted to share that story and since it was just going to languish on my computer anyway, I decided that Wattpad might be an excellent way for me to get it in front of readers, especially since the platform is hugely popular with teen audiences. 

So, I designed a cover and posted the first couple chapters. I've committed to posting a chapter per week until it is complete. This experiment is well underway, and I'm excited to see how it turns out. If you're curious, you can find it here: The Typhon Project

Since I'm still learning this new platform, I'd love tips from the OA community. If you have any tips or best practices to share with a Wattpad newbie, please post them in the comments below. Thanks!


Melinda Friesen specializes in writing teen fiction. Her first novel, Enslavement, has been nominated for a Sunburst Award as well as a Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Snow Willow Award.

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #27

Reading some sweet haiku definitely put me in the mood for Valentine's Day! Thank you to the entrants, we always appreciate your creative participation on the blog. And a big congrats to Dani C. for crafting our winning conversation heart poem!

Recipe 4 love
Spice it up, my honey bun
You & me, let’s kiss

Friday, February 10, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #27

Valentine's Day is almost here! I hope everyone gets something sweet from someone special, and speaking of sweet, how about some romantic poetry?

For this #OAFlash fiction contest, please submit a 3 line haiku using conversation hearts. I'm including some pictures of conversation hearts, in case you need some help w/the phrases. You can also come up with your own, as long as they are conversation heart-like. =)

Deadline is at noon on Sunday, with the winner announced later that afternoon.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Synopsis Critique #1 - Women's Fiction

We're getting started with our first synopsis critique this week! The author of UNREASONABLE DOUBTS, a 91,000-word Women's Fiction, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


LIANA COHEN is an idealistic young attorney in the appeals bureau of the NYC Public Defender’s office with a problem: after representing dozens of guilty people, she’s lost hope that the clients actually deserve her help. [I'd break up this sentence for easier reading. I suggest (1) '...NYC Public Defender's Office. She has a problem: after representing..." Or (2) leave out 'with a problem' and just use "After representing..." as its own sentence. The reader will understand it's a problem.] Accused of letting her cynicism infect the more junior attorneys, her boss threatens to fire her if she can’t get back on mission. Her uncertainties have spilled over into her personal life. Liana is seriously involved with JAKOB WEISS, a mid-level associate at a white-shoe law firm. They love each other, but Liana is tired of playing second fiddle to Jakob’s outsized career ambitions – nearing 30, she wants to get married. [This is a great first paragraph. Introduces us to the main character, her world, and her 'normal.']
In this state of emotional upheaval [what you described above about Liana's personal and professional lives is problematic for sure, but I'm not sure it amounts to emotional upheaval. Upheaval connotes a sudden change for the character, and in the first paragraph, you're giving us the status quo, not the change. 'Emotional turmoil' could work.] , Liana is assigned to represent 24-year-old DANNY SHEA, who has been convicted of raping an 18-year-old girl on July 4th on a rooftop in Brooklyn. Shea testifies that he and the girl, whom he knew casually, got a little high, slow danced while watching the fireworks, and then made love. According to Shea, the girl freaked out when her younger brother interrupted their consensual encounter. The victim’s story matched Shea’s in all regards, except that she claimed Shea had forced himself on her. Liana finds Shea intelligent and magnetic, a young Brad Pitt look-alike. Most importantly, she believes he may be innocent of the crime. [I would reverse these first two sentences. If she believes he's innocent, I'd be on board with her finding him attractive. But if we're told first she finds him attractive, I'd worry that's why she's trying to believe he's innocent. From what we know so far of Liana (she's idealistic but jaded, believing her clients are mostly guilty), her belief in his innocence seems paramount here] Liana discovers reversible error in his case when the jury is exposed to inadmissible DNA evidence suggesting that Shea has raped a second woman in the past. [On the same token, why does Liana suspect he's innocent? If there's evidence he's done the same thing in the past, it's worth dropping another sentence here to explain why she doesn't think he did it this time.] Liana visits Danny in prison, out of curiosity and less honorable motives. When she finds the physical attraction overwhelming – just the touch of his hand on hers -- she cuts the visit short. Liana‘s close friend at work, Deb, complains of stomach problems and a loss of appetite; a number of weeks later, she is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Their friendship becomes both more demanding and closer as Deb’s health fails, culminating in Deb’s request that Liana to [delete 'to'] help her overwhelmed parents arrange her funeral when the time comes. Deb warns Liana not to let herself get bamboozled by Danny and lose sight of her love for Jakob. [I think you can delete this paragraph. Deb doesn't show up much in the rest of the synopsis, and the friendship (and Deb's subsequent death) doesn't seem to have much impact on the main plot. Of course, if you're also writing a longer synopsis, you should flesh out Deb's subplot and tie it into the main plot as much as possible.] On a trip over Thanksgiving weekend to Newport with Jakob, meant to rekindle [rekindle what? Their relationship? Their love? Need an object here] after a strained summer, he explains to Liana the work stress that he has been under. Liana floats the idea of getting married, and he tells her he doesn’t feel either of them is ready. On New Year’s Day, Liana announces to her two closest girlfriends that if Jakob doesn’t propose by her 30th birthday in May, she will move on, an ultimatum that she never shares with Jakob. [All of this is good detail for the subplot (which I think you do need here) about Liana's relationship. But we haven't heard anything about the main plot - her representation of an accused rapist - for a few paragraphs. Add a sentence or two here tying Liana's romantic subplot into the main plot - what's been going on with Shea and his case over these several months?] Valentine’s Day, and Liana prepares a romantic meal. [Make this a complete sentence: On Valentine's Day, Liana prepares a romantic meal.] When Jakob forgets their date, she brings the repast to the office, and finds Jakob holed up in a conference room drinking wine with a pretty paralegal. She forgives him, but they are both thrown. [Did he do anything requiring her forgiveness? Is he having an affair with the paralegal? Did Liana catch them kissing? Maybe they talk it through and decide to forget about the incident?] Liana wins Danny Shea’s case on appeal. In a weird procedural twist, the prosecutor declines to re-prosecute [wouldn't it be double jeopardy if he did re-prosecute? If not, disregard this comment], and Danny [sometimes above, you refer to him as 'Shea.' Either is fine, but keep consistent (first name or last name) throughout] is set free. Over coffee, they discuss his past, and Danny tells Liana that he wants her to be part of his life. [How does Liana respond?] Liana is a fanatic Mets fan. When Jakob doesn’t clear his calendar for Mets Opening Day, and Liana’s widowed mom is going to the Yankees opener with a man she’s met, Liana, devastated, invites the next person she encounters, who happens to be Danny. [How did they encounter each other? Have they been seeing each other?] At the game, she is enjoying his company, when they are featured on the kiss cam, and she succumbs to his passionate kiss, captured on the Jumbotron before Liana breaks free. She leaves in a huff. [Why is she angry about this? Because he kissed her or because it went public and she's still technically with Jakob?] Liana has developed a friendship with a local rabbi, JORDAN NACHT. When Rabbi Nacht, also a Mets fan, sees Liana on the kiss cam, he invites her in for a chat. They discuss marriage, fate, and the need for couples to bring out the best in each other. Liana asks him to tell her how to pray for Deb. [This paragraph also seems unnecessary, especially if you delete the subplot about Deb from the rest of the synopsis. Again, for a longer synopsis, you can add more detail about this subplot. Either way, no need to name the rabbi, since he doesn't appear at any point in the synopsis other than this paragraph. You can just refer to him as 'the rabbi.'] On Liana’s 30th birthday, she suggests to Jakob they take a break from the relationship. Instead of objecting, he tells her that he loves her, but he won’t be strong-armed into getting married. A couple of days later, Deb dies. [If deleting the Deb subplot, you can delete this sentence. But I would add a little more here about what's been going on with Shea between the baseball game and Liana's birthday. Are they still communicating? Seeing each other? Did winning his case have any impact on Liana's feelings about her job?] After the funeral, Liana gets drunk. Danny arrives unbidden at her apartment and she confides her troubles in him. They begin to be intimate, until, in a lucid moment, she tells him she wants to stop. He pulls himself together and leaves, warning her to lock the door behind him. It is unclear whether he has given her a date rape drug, but she collapses. [So was he planning to rape her? Is that why he told her to lock the door - so if he came back, he wouldn't be able to get to her? How does Liana feel about this? Add a little more detail here - this is a really important turn of events, so it should be emphasized.] The next day, Liana finds out Danny has been arrested on a new sexual assault case after leaving her apartment. [Then Liana was (presumably) wrong about his innocence. Emphasize this, and add a little more about how she feels and copes with it. She's lost a potential romantic interest and her judgment about him was wrong. Either of these things alone would be disheartening, but both of them together would be crushing. Show us how this turn of events impacts Liana.] Liana has crossed too many lines at work, and quits. [What lines has she crossed? Above, we're told she's a bad influence on the more junior attorneys, but it's not clear she's done anything else questionable.] Danny is convicted of a lesser charge and gets the maximum of 90 days; Liana knows he is still out there, waiting. [Waiting for her? Waiting to sexually assault someone else? How does Liana know?] Liana is depressed – unemployed and unattached. She desperately wants to win back Jakob’s trust but doesn’t know how. Her mother’s boyfriend unwittingly gives her the idea of introducing Jakob to a potential client that he could bring into the firm. Liana secretly prepares materials for Jakob, and sets up a meeting for him and the CEO. With this effort Liana proves to Jakob that she is committed to him. He gives her an “eternity” necklace and proclaims his love, but stops short of proposing, saying they both need to recover from this experience. [You wrap up the subplot of Liana/Jakob nicely (though I am curious whether Jakob ever found out about the kiss-cam), but is there any more that needs to be said about the main plot (Danny)? If Danny is out there, waiting, there should be some resolution to how Liana deals with that. And is there any resolution to Liana's career problems? Or did she want to solve her problems with Jakob before figuring out her next career move?] EPILOGUE: Two years later, after they have moved in together, Jakob has made partner and Liana has embarked on a new do-gooder job. At [a] Mets game, Jakob proposes on the Jumbotron. [Nice ending. Though if you don't have resolution to Danny's plot in the preceding paragraph, it would be good to include a detail or two about where he's ended up and whether he's tried to approach Liana again.]

Overall, this is a well-written synopsis that follows the rules. Most of my comments have to do with the need to emphasize the main plot throughout (including relating subplots to the main plot whenever possible), making sure to include character motivations and reactions where they're needed, and ensuring all the character arcs are followed through to the end. It reads well, and with some fairly minor adjustments, you'll be good to go. Great job, and best of luck with this manuscript!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Meet Chinedu Enechi in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Ifechidere by Chinedu Enechi

1- What is your favorite philosophy book?

Self -Constitution” by Christine Korsgaard.

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

My mom fell ill in 1998 and her business crumbled as a result. We had to survive on only my dad’s salary. Even then, the major part of my dad's salary was used for hospital bills, so there was little or nothing left for feeding and other housekeeping needs. The worst part was that no doctor could diagnose what was wrong with her. In Africa, where science fails and doctors say they can't do anything else, we try unorthodox methods but even that didn't work for my mom and things got worse. Things became so difficult that we started missing classes at school. Sometimes, my dad would have to skip work or even the days he went to work, he always had to rush back to check on her. Because of my mom's health problems, I determined to speak to people through my writing. My mom's life story and my family generally, motivate me to write. Though my mom is gone, I feel like I can continue to honor her and her legacy through my writing.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Life generally, Nature, people’s experience and mine too.

4- I read that you're working on a story dealing with the culture of gender age differences in marriage. Is gender equality an important issue for you and why?

Yes, it is. I detest inequality and the problems it causes. I love when everyone is treated the same, given equal opportunities and treated fairly.

5- Would you share pictures with us of the environment you grew up in?

6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

My short-term goal is to write things that will help someone out of an affliction they may be undergoing at the moment they're reading my book. Then long term, I will love my stories to always be remembered by people who have been helped as a result. Even when I am gone, I want to be remembered through my writing, and I want my future children and grandchildren to reap the fruit of my labor financially and socially.

7- The University of Nigeria's logo states "to restore the dignity of man." Do you feel your studies at Nsukka have empowered you to aid in that noble mission?

Sure, it really was of immense help. In fact, I wrote “Ifechidere” when I was in school. Being in Nsukka was of huge value to my writing.

8- Would you share a recipe with us?

Method: Boil some water, meat and fish to which you add a small quantity of oil. When it boiled, you add the pounded coco-yam mixed with red oil. Grind some pepper with ogiri, Maggi, and allow to boil till you notice the pounded coco-yam had started melting. Add the oha leaf and okazi leaf and salt to taste. Wait till the oha leaf and okazi leaf are softer by then the coco-yam would have dissolved. Your soup is now done!

9- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My biggest fan is Ike Gift Ifunanya and he loves my storylines.

10- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

The reader will feel sympathetic towards Ifechidere, especially when they read about her ordeals at the hands of her foster parents. They might also feel sorry for Steve because of some things that happened to him.

11- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Both praise and criticism. Praise helps me to continue my good work in meeting my fans expectations and demands while criticism helps me to tighten any loose ends.

12- What is the most memorable trait of one of your characters?

Ozioma’s forgiveness of Onukwube.

* 13- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

Romance [*interviewer note: Covers the Book by and Author of Color square]

14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?


15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

The synopsis and the cover page.

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I am happy that publishing happened and I believe that things will continue to progress.

17- What is your favorite movie?

Tyler Perry's “Why Did I Get Married?

18- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

Small press because I wanted to be carried along in the publication and marketing of the book.

19- What discussion topic would you would like the readers of this interview to remark on in the comments?

How my past impacts on, but doesn't negatively affect my present or my future.

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book (an excerpt or blurb) and yourself (short bio, social media)?

“Ifechidere” is based on a real life story; my mother's real life story, actually. Also, the issues surrounding and caused by the osu caste system are real, even today; it happened to a friend of mine.

Chinedu Enechi is an African writer who enjoys telling Africa stories, that raise questions about ethics in a bid to pave ways for reformation of some societal ills – especially as they relate to different forms and expressions of domestic violence. He is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and an MA student of Political and Social Philosophy at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Nigeria.

Facebook: Chinedu Enechi
Twitter: @ChineduEnechi
Amazon Author Account:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Museday feels lived in

Have you ever heard the term "it feels lived-in" used to describe a movie or TV setting? For example, in Star Wars, lots of the sets are scuffed and worn--it makes each place look like it's existed forever. In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Paula's kitchen countertops are covered in junk, like Paula and her family really live there and we just get glimpses into their lives.

You can do the same with your writing. Little traditions can make your characters' lives seem more real to the watcher (er, reader). When writing descriptions, remember that people aren't perfectly neat--describe their unique messes! Anything you can do to make your fictional world feel like it exists outside of your story will help your readers to sink deep into your work.

What techniques do you use to make your worlds (contemporary or otherwise!) feel lived-in?

Do you need an extra set of eyes on your query letter? I'm offering up some critiques! If you're interested, let me know in the comments! I'll select a few people to win critiques.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Author Crushes

Have you ever had a crush on a certain author? You love their work, you enjoy how they present themselves online, and follow avidly on Twitter, Instagram, etc., so as to get glimpses of their magical, intriguing lives.* You dissect their books, hoping to find what makes them so darn good.

I've got a few author crushes, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I use these crushes to help give me encouragement when I'm feeling down. They were once unagented/unbook-dealed** writers once upon a time, too. But they worked hard & believed and here they are today. That can be me--and you, as well.

No matter what path you choose for yourself and your work (self-publishing or traditional), it can be good to find yourself a crush. And what better time to do so than in the month of February! I do advise that you don't send them valentines or chocolates though. That could get weird... ;)

*I'm sure their lives aren't any more magical or intriguing than most. Except for when they're on the red carpet if they're so lucky for their book to be adapted to the silver screen. That seems pretty magical.

**Totally correct English! (cough)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis - Part Two, and Call for Submissions!

Last week, we covered the basics of synopsis writing. This week, as promised, we're going to get into the mechanics, using an example from a book most of us are very familiar with. Now take a deep breath, limber up your typing fingers, and let's get synopsizing! And keep in mind, if you'd like your synopsis critiqued on this site, the submission instructions are below.

Where do I start? Do you use an outline? If so, start there! Flesh out each scene from your outline's descriptions, focusing on the main plot, into no more than a paragraph each. Many scenes will require only a sentence, some paragraphs will summarize more than one scene, and some scenes won't require summary at all (focused on a subplot, character description, etc.). Once you have all the relevant scenes fleshed out, start connecting the dots: make sure going from Scene A to Scene B, all the way to Scene Z, makes sense in the context of your central plot. Then revise the language until it flows well.

If you don't have an outline, make a list of scenes from your manuscript, in order. Summarize each scene (you don't have to do this in great detail, just enough so you can explain what happens in your central plot in each scene). Then connect the dots and revise the language.

Some pointers
  • Use third person, present tense, active voice, regardless of what you used in the manuscript.
    • This isn't required, but it helps orient the reader if you put each character name in ALL CAPS the first time you use it. This makes the name stand out to the reader.
    • ... but no more than 4-5 named characters in the synopsis. For everyone else who isn't as integral to the main plot as those 4 or 5 characters, describe them by their relationship to the main character or the plot. For example, in a synopsis for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (the book we'll be working with below), the only named main characters should be Harry, Ron, Hermione, Voldemort, and Quirrell. There are obviously many other important characters in these books, but for the purposes of this book, everyone else can be described rather than named (Harry's aunt, the headmaster of Hogwarts, etc.). 
    • Start at the beginning. Weave in a brief description of the setting, the time period, and any other details necessary to orient the reader, and then get right into the main character and his/her 'ordinary world,' in order to lead into the inciting incident in the next paragraph.
    • Lead right into the inciting incident. What happens to propel your main character into action? You should get into this as soon as possible after describing your main character's 'ordinary world.' What changes?
    • Follow the Hero's Journey (explanations here) or Save the Cat (here) or any other plotting structure you used for your manuscript, and run through every important point that gets your hero from the ordinary world, to the inciting incident, to deciding to act, to trying and failing, to trying and succeeding, to ultimate victory/failure.
    • Give away the ending and all plot twists!
    An example

    Here's the synopsis (by an anonymous poster) from the Wikipedia page for Harry Potter & Sorcerer's Stone. This summary wasn't written to accompany a manuscript submitted to an agent, but let's pretend it was. I'm going to include my comments in bold/brackets throughout. Then, I'm going to rewrite this synopsis so it conforms more closely to the guidelines we've discussed (focusing on the main plot, limiting the number of named characters, etc.):

    Original Synopsis with Comments:
    The most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, Lord Voldemort, murdered married couple James and Lily Potter but mysteriously disappeared after failing to kill their infant son, Harry. [THIS IS BACKSTORY. WEAVE THROUGHOUT THE SYNOPSIS, BUT DON'T LEAD WITH IT] While the wizarding world celebrates Voldemort's apparent downfall, Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and half-giant Rubeus Hagrid place the one-year-old orphan in the care of his surly and cold Muggle uncle and aunt, Vernon and Petunia Dursley and their spoilt and bullying son, Dudley. [TOO MANY NAMES AND TOO MANY DETAILS ON BACKSTORY BEFORE GETTING INTO HARRY'S STORY. ]
    For ten years, living at number Four Privet Drive, Harry is treated by the Dursleys more like a servant than a member of the family and is forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs. [THIS IS WHERE THE STORY REALLY STARTS. MAKE THIS THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, WITH SOME DETAILS FROM THE OPENING PARAGRAPH SPRINKLED IN] Shortly before his eleventh birthday, a series of letters addressed to Harry arrive, but Uncle Vernon Dursley destroys them before Harry can read them, leading to an influx of more and more letters. To evade the pursuit of these letters, Vernon first takes the family to a hotel, but when the letters arrive there too, he hires a boat out to a hut on a small island. [THIS IS TOO MUCH DETAIL FOR A SCENE THAT CAN BE OMITTED OR SUCCINCTLY SUMMARIZED TO GET TO THE INCITING INCIDENT, WHICH IS HARRY RECEIVING HIS HOGWART'S LETTER]
    It is Harry's eleventh birthday and at midnight, Hagrid bursts through the door to deliver the letter and to tell Harry what the Dursleys have kept from him: Harry is a wizard and has been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. [THIS IS THE INCITING INCIDENT, AND SHOULD BE PRESENTED EARLIER] Hagrid takes Harry to a hidden London street called Diagon Alley, where he is surprised to discover how famous he is among the witches and wizards, who refer to him as "the boy who lived." He also finds that his parents' inheritance is waiting for him at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. [TOO MANY DETAILS, WE DON'T NEED ALL THESE NAMES. WE SHOULD BE ON OUR WAY TO HOGWARTS BY NOW] Guided by Hagrid, he buys the equipment he will need for his first year at Hogwarts and as a birthday gift Harry receives a pet owl from Hagrid (which he names "Hedwig").
    A month later, Harry leaves the Dursleys' home to catch the Hogwarts Express from King's Cross railway station. There he meets the Weasley family, who show him how to pass through the magic wall to Platform 9¾ [LITTLE DETAILS LIKE THESE ADD A LOT OF COLOR. PLATFORM 9 3/4 GIVES THE READER AN INDICATION OF THE KIND OF MAGICAL WORLD WE'RE IN. KEEP DETAILS LIKE THESE, BUT KEEP THEM SMALL], where the train that will take them to Hogwarts is waiting. While on the train, Harry meets two fellow first years, Ron Weasley, who immediately becomes his friend, and Hermione Granger, with whom the ice is a bit slower to break. Harry also makes an enemy of yet another first-year, Draco Malfoy. Draco offers to advise Harry, but Harry dislikes Draco for his arrogance and prejudice and rejects his offer of "friendship". [DRACO ISN'T IMPORTANT ENOUGH IN THIS FIRST BOOK TO EVEN INTRODUCE]
    At Hogwarts, the first-years are assigned by the magical Sorting Hat to houses that best suit their personalities. While Harry is being sorted, the Hat suggests that he be placed into Slytherin which is known to house potential dark witches and wizards, but when Harry objects, the Hat sends him to Gryffindor. Ron and Hermione are also sorted into Gryffindor. Draco is sorted into Slytherin, like his whole family before him. [KEEP THIS MORE VAGUE. IF ANYTHING SHOULD BE KEPT HERE, THE ONLY IMPORTANT DETAIL IS HARRY AND HIS FRIENDS ARE SORTED INTO THE SAME HOUSE, WHICH AIDS IN THEIR GROWING FRIENDSHIP AND LOYALTY TO EACH OTHER]
    Harry starts classes at Hogwarts School, with lessons including Transfiguration with Head of Gryffindor, Minerva McGonagall, Herbology with Head of Hufflepuff, Pomona Sprout, Charms with Head of Ravenclaw Filius Flitwick, and Defence Against the Dark Arts with Quirinus Quirrell. [NONE OF THIS DETAIL IS NECESSARY, THOUGH QUIRRELL SHOULD BE INTRODUCED] Harry's least favourite class is Potions, taught by Severus Snape, the vindictive Head of Slytherin who seems to loathe Harry. Harry, Ron, and Hermione become far more interested by extracurricular matters within and outside of the school, particularly after they discover that a huge three-headed dog is standing guard over a trap door in a forbidden corridor. They also become suspicious of Snape's behaviour and become convinced that he is looking for ways to get past the trapdoor. [WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL. CUT DOWN TO ONE SENTENCE]
    Harry discovers an innate talent for flying on broomsticks and is appointed as Seeker on his House’s Quidditch team, a wizards's sport played in the air. His first game goes well until his broomstick wobbles in mid-air and almost throws him off. [SUBPLOT. NOT DIRECTLY RELEVANT TO THE MAIN PLOT, EXCEPT FOR THE NEXT SENTENCE, BUT CAN BE CUT WAY DOWN] Ron and Hermione suspect foul play from Snape, whom they saw behaving oddly. For Christmas, Harry receives an invisibility cloak from an anonymous source and begins exploring the school at night and investigating the hidden object further. He discovers the Mirror of Erised, in which the viewer sees his deepest desires becoming true. [IRRELEVANT SUBPLOTS]
    Thanks to an indiscretion from Hagrid, Harry and his friends work out that the object kept at the school is a Philosopher's Stone, made by an old friend of Dumbledore named Nicolas Flamel. Harry is also informed by a centaur he meets in the forest that a plot to steal the Philosopher’s Stone is being orchestrated by none other than Voldemort himself, who would use it to be restored to his body and come back to power. When Dumbledore is lured from Hogwarts under false pretences, Harry and his friends fear that the theft is imminent and descend through the trapdoor themselves. [THIS IS A GOOD PARAGRAPH. PRESENTS THE STAKES WELL AND EXPLAINS WHY HARRY AND HIS FRIENDS WOULD PUT THEMSELVES IN DANGER]
    They encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires unique skills possessed by one of the three, and one of which requires Ron to sacrifice himself in a life-sized game of wizard's chess. In the final room, Harry, now alone, finds Quirrell, who admits that he had tried to kill Harry at his Quidditch match against Slytherin. He also admits that he let a troll into Hogwarts. Snape had been trying to protect Harry all along rather than to kill him, and his suspicious behaviour came from his own suspicions about Quirrell. [I WOULD LEAVE OUT THE SUBPLOT ABOUT SNAPE UNLESS YOU'RE WRITING A LONGER SYNOPSIS. FOR 1-2 PAGES, IT CAN GO]
    Quirrell is one of Voldemort's followers, and is now partly possessed by him: Voldemort's face has sprouted on the back of his own head, hidden by his turban. Voldemort needs Harry's help to get past the final obstacle: the Mirror of Erised, but when Quirrell tries to grab the Stone from Harry his contact proves lethal for Quirrell. [A LITTLE MORE DESCRIPTION HERE SINCE THIS IS THE CLIMAX OF THE BOOK] Harry passes out and awakes in the school hospital, where Dumbledore explains to him that he survived because his mother sacrificed her life to protect him, and this left a powerful protective charm on him. Voldemort left Quirrell to die and is likely to return by some other means. The Stone has now been destroyed. The school year ends at the final feast, during which Gryffindor wins the House Cup. Harry returns to the Dursleys' for the summer holiday but does not tell them that under-age wizards are forbidden to use magic outside of Hogwarts. [THIS IS A CONFUSING ENDING. END WITH A SENTENCE THAT'S RELEVANT TO THE PLOT, NOT SOMETHING THAT LEADS INTO FUTURE BOOKS]

    Rewritten Synopsis

    Ten-year-old HARRY POTTER lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, who treat him more like a servant than a family member, and force him to sleep in the cupboard under the stairs. Harry can't remember his parents, who died when he was an infant. He mostly keeps to himself, avoiding his cousin's bullying and his uncle's unpredictable wrath. But when strange things start happening around Harry, including his sudden ability to converse with a snake, and an influx of letters addressed to him flood the house, Harry realizes he's part of something bigger than the only world he's known.

    Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a huge, good-natured man shows up with another copy of the letter, despite Harry's uncle's attempts to destroy all of them. It's Harry's acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The man explains that Harry is a wizard, and in fact, his wizard parents were murdered by the most evil and powerful dark wizard in history, LORD VOLDEMORT, who disappeared after failing to also kill Harry as a baby. Harry is shocked to learn he is famous among the inhabitants of the wizarding world, who refer to him as 'the boy who lived.'

    Soon afterward, Harry leaves his aunt and uncle's house to attend Hogwarts. On the train, he meets RON WEASLEY, the fun-loving youngest son of an established wizarding family, and HERMIONE GRANGER, a brainy know-it-all who is the only witch in her family. When they arrive at Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all sorted into Gryffindor House, the House associated with bravery and loyalty.

    Soon after starting his lessons at Hogwarts, which include subjects such as Transfiguration, Potions, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, Harry and his friends discover a huge, three-headed dog standing guard over a trap door in a forbidden corridor. None of their professors will tell them why the dog is there or what it's guarding, but that doesn't stop Harry and his friends from sneaking around the school at night, having a horrifying run-in with a troll, or using Harry's newly-acquired invisibility cloak to spy on their classmates and professors.

    Eventually, Harry and his friends learn the hidden object is an ancient artifact called the Sorcerer's Stone, which gives the bearer eternal life, and in turn, near-limitless power. Harry soon realizes the plot to steal the Stone is being orchestrated by the disembodied Lord Voldemort himself, who plans to use it to return to his body and resume his evil reign. But Lord Voldemort must be using someone on the Hogwarts grounds to acquire the Stone for him. Harry and his friends initially suspect their dour Potions professor, who has a history of associating with Voldemort and despises Harry for unknown reasons, of being his helper.

    Then, the headmaster is lured from Hogwarts under false pretenses. Left unprotected, Harry and his friends fear the theft of the Stone is imminent and descend through the trapdoor themselves to guard it. They encounter a series of obstacles, each of which requires unique skills possessed by one of the three: Hermione must solve a difficult puzzle, Ron sacrifices himself in a life-sized game of Wizard's Chess, and Harry must use his newly-discovered flying talent to retrieve the key to the final door. 

    Behind that door is not the Potions professor after all. It is PROFESSOR QUIRRELL, the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He admits he is one of Voldemort's followers and is now partly possessed by him. In fact, Voldemort's face has melded with the back of his own head, and has been hidden all year by Quirrell's omnipresent turban. Voldemort needs Harry to get through the final obstacle and retrieve the Stone for him. Harry is able to get the stone, but when Quirrell tries to grab it from Harry, the physical contact proves disastrous for both Voldemort and Quirrell. Because Harry's mother died to save Harry, she left a powerful protective charm on him and Voldemort cannot touch him, even through someone else's body. Voldemort vanishes, Quirrell is injured but no longer possessed, and the Stone is destroyed.

    The school year ends with a feast, during which Harry and his friends are honored for their roles in saving the Sorcerer's Stone. Harry returns to his aunt and uncle's house for summer vacation. This time, though, Harry goes with the knowledge that he is a wizard and his real life is at Hogwarts with his friends. And no one, not even his awful family, can take that from him.

    Here are some great resources on synopsis writing:

    And now, here's your chance to have your synopsis critiqued on this website! Fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week. Thanks for participating!