Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 17, 2008

In Which the Author Considers Writing an Action Scene

I recently mentioned to my nineteen-year-old daughter something about a friend on LJ who I’d never actually met. In person.

“You have friends you’ve only met online? Mommmm!” E. sounded shocked and appalled.

“Um, not tooo many,” I murmured. “And they’re children’s book writers!”
Anyway, guilty as charged, and it’s not like E. never shocks and appalls me. One of my newest friends is Becky Levine beckylevine who often seems to write about what’s puzzling her in the writing process just when I’m stuck against, too.

Recently she wrote about the problem of first pages and first chapters. That’s something you might think I’d face say once a year or two, but seems to come up almost as regularly as the new moon, given that I always have to circle back to the beginning and try again. How on earth do you lead someone in while giving all sorts of necessary information at the same time? How do you tempt and not dump?

As I responded to Becky’s post, I mentioned that in my work in progress, the main character is about to set off to rule a new kingdom. Until I wrote that synopsis, the drama of the situation eluded me. Most drama does. (see last post on The Wind in the Willows; unlike my students, I’m okay with Ratty writing sea poetry instead of getting onboard the ship).

But I’m glad I wrote that synopsis. I can get lost in the details of family, costume, everyday anxiety and forget there are details in the big pictures, too. And action to play with and plunder.



  1. perhaps it is time to write a synopsis of my WIP. Thanks for the tip, J.

  2. Interesting, I was just wondering if I should try to write a synopsis for the WIP where I have no idea what really happens, yet. Did you write your synopsis after writing a first draft or before?

  3. At a recent conference an editor suggested if we were stumped at writing our own synopsis, we should swap with a friend. 🙂
    Curious if you can write a synopsis for an unfinished book or do you have to wait for a first draft?

  4. I’m trying it right now and I don’t have a finished draft. I’ve only written the beginning third, I know the climax and part of the resolution, but there’s a lot of stuff that has to happen in the middle there and I’m hoping that writing a synopsis will help me discover this.
    By the way, I’m doing my synopsis first person past tense — as if it had already happened and my boy has lived to tell the tale.

  5. Jeannine,
    What a wonderful post to read! Please tell your daughter I’m relatively sane and probably too safe for my own good.
    Your comment didn’t just show you the drama. It really hit me. It reminded me how much we really have to push our heros out there to take on the big stuff. I was asked to do a guest post on a suspense writer’s blog, and I wanted to write about making sure you know what’s at stake.
    When you posted about your MC having to start ruling a city, I was hit with all that must be at stake with her. So your comment starts off the blog post–I’ll post on my blog when it’s up!

  6. I guess there’s all kinds of ways and times to write a synopsis or not! If your intuition is that it will get in the way, hold you down — don’t do it! (of course). But if you can do it in a free-writing way, just to see where it will take you, why not? I’ve done it for books where I basically know the path, but need clarity getting back on it.
    Good luck!

  7. I’m happy that helped! Becky is good for me to read because her process often seems unlike mine — but there are parts that overlap. Since she has experience writing mysteries, she’s more attune to plot, and that’s something I need to think more about.

  8. Susan, I thought I was replying to you, but seemed to have replied to your question to Linda — so if you go back to my blog, I THINK I answered your question (sorry). If not, you can try me again and I’ll try to answer in the right place!

  9. I’ll look forward to your blog! And now I’m trying to write a scene that lives up to what I meant to set up. (glad no one is peeking over my shoulder there, yet)

  10. Sorry. I guess I’m the one who messed things up. I was interested in answers from both you and Linda. Thanks!

  11. I believe that in some respects, it’s a spin thing. My life feels pretty normal and, well, boring to me, but someone recently pointed out how romantic my life sounds, studying poetry and quilting and planning on Regency ball gowns. And if you put it that way, it does sound romantic. See? It’s a spin thing.

  12. No, no, my fault — but thanks. And bigger thanks as you are the person who ‘introduced” me to Becky!

  13. Oh lovely lovely words and spin. Yes, so much better to write verse and contemplate ball gowns than spell out the reality of waiting in front of the computer for a word or phrase,long enough to drink a pot of tea and pull one’s hair out, while, in my case, wearing something that might appall even the barn boys in Austen’s time.

  14. LOL. No one’s fault – just writers who love talking about process.
    Becky is so cool and I’m very lucky that she lives close to me so I can visit with her in person too!
    Did you see this post just up about a bunch of synopsis examples?

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