A Laundry Mountain, Falling Leaves and the Synopsis

I learned a little about the way I write this last week.  I like juggling several projects at once right up until the irreversible moment when I hit terminal mental velocity.  Then I drop all the balls and hide under the mountain of laundry piled on my bed, whimpering. 

It turns out that I write query letters and synopses in a state of complete and utter distraction.  To get in the mood to write something technical, which a synopsis is, I went through the writer’s version of a baseball player stepping into the batter’s box.  Minus the loogies and the crotch grabs.

I skimmed books and websites to learn, sort of, what I needed to write.  Then I got scared and thought about outlining Alien Enlightenment, but I don’t outline anything.  So I researched angels and demons and time space continuums some more.  And I drank way, way too much coffee and ate a pumpkin scone or two.

Then I started reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly and told my closest friends and about a thousand other people that they really, really needed to read it too.  I even made a poster of the Teddy Roosevelt quote that inspired Daring Greatly.  The first poster I made sucked, so I created a second one.  Here it is:

I started the query letter.

• • •

A few more days passed.  Every once in a while, I walked past the computer, glared at the query letter, and typed out a sentence or two.  I ran many miles, celebrated a fifteenth Anniversary and whined, a lot.  My husband told me I was doing a marvelous job and no, Cutie you’re not fat several times.

I skimmed, in no particular order, pages from a few more books on writing and several websites.  I asked a few patient friends like Astrea Baldwin, Deb Bryan, Doug MacIlroy and August McLaughlin for tips, help and advice.  Yellow leaves fell outside my window and the weather turned cold after a front blew through.  I opened a document and titled it: Synopsis/Ripple/Farris.

Two more days passed.

I reorganized all of the books on my desk.  More yellow leaves tumbled and danced and skated as they spiraled to the Virginia clay.  I contemplated the seasons and tried to stop counting the acorns on the deck.

I folded the laundry, went for a run, and took a hot shower.  Then I wrote fifteen words.  Man I hope my husband isn’t still reading this because when he got home from work yesterday, I told him I had worked nonstop all day.  I spent a half-hour whining on Facebook:

Help! I must finish this synopsis but it is as boring as writing a freakin’ legal memorandum. Ack! Groan. Wail. Teeth gnash. Fingernail nibble. Nervous pacing.

I wrote another fifteen words, ate a bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, counted twenty-seven yellow pen-oak leaves float past, and whined for thirteen minutes.  Just re-reading this makes me exhausted.  A gust of wind brought a bombardment of acorns against the rooftop of our Dutch Colonial. 

The laundry pile beckoned, but I resisted.  It was time.  My short, chubby fingers ran over the wireless iMac keyboard, lickety-split, staccato tapping echoing against a mosaic of alternative music.  Sentences split, fragmented, then wove together.

Eight hundred and thirty two words and a week after I started, and the first draft is done.  And now?  Now I fold laundry.

45 Comments on “A Laundry Mountain, Falling Leaves and the Synopsis

    • LMAO. I used to be able to hack up a big loogie (making disgusted girlie face and almost squeal–nah–I don’t really know how to squeal) . . . gosh. Watching playoff baseball sounds like a good idea . . .

    • Dear Doug:

      Then will you give me a 93? I don’t want an A+–that’s brown nosing. And I was never a brown noser. Also, do I really have to revise it more? Or do I get more points for merely not hitting the send button or licking any actual envelopes addressed to agents?



  1. You should see my pile of laundry, it’s very scary. I need to get to folding soon 🙂
    Brene Brown, is a genious. Im reading her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”. Amazing, so inspiring.
    Creativity is so random and can’t be forced. The same thing happens to me and can be frustrated. I just wait, wait for… wait for it…There!
    Keep it up, love your writing

    • Hello Cynthia, and welcome!

      Aw man, I know, Brene is amazing. I can’t wait to read Gifts of Perfection . . . you know how sometimes you feel like someone wrote a book you needed at a certain moment in your life? That’s how I feel about Daring Greatly. Don’t get me wrong–there’s never a bad time to read it, but right now is a particularly good time, you know?

      Yes, yes, I agree that creativity can’t be forced. Thank God for laundry piles for those times we spin our mental wheels!

      Aw thank you!


  2. Awesome! I love your process. I understand your process. I embrace your process.

    Everyone should read Brene Brown because she is brilliant. I think I’ve recommended, “Gifts of Imperfection” to every client I’ve worked with.

    Keep up the great work, the running, the whining, the leaf counting, the scone eating, and getting laundry done in between it all.

    • I’m grinning at you Coach Carrie! Thank you so much for getting my process and encouraging me to work with (rather than in spite of) it! And I’m going to grab a copy of Gifts of Imperfection as soon as I finish Daring Greatly!

      Thank you!! Keep up the good work too, my friend!

  3. Haha! It almost felt like I was reading my own buildup to writing any post. The number of things I invent to distract myself from writing could each make it to a post of their own!
    I am glad you came out the other side though!

  4. What a great post! And every word of it is true. Teddy Roosevelt and Brene Brown are two of my heroes, so it was a treat finding them here on your blog. Ack, that query letter. For the longest time I felt myself above such mundane salesmanship, until I realized nobody was knocking on my door looking to buy books. Like you, I really worked at getting it right. Unfortunately, I turned out to be a better query letter writer than novelist. I got 48 agents and publishers wanting to read my novel, but not a single one nabbed it. I guess we need to be careful about what we perfect, eh? Congratulations on getting that first draft done, and have fun with the laundry (I’ve trained my husband to do the folding).

    • Morning new friend! Oh my gosh–great job as far as training your husband! Mine is great at folding laundry; unfortunately, he then puts the folded laundry BACK into the laundry basket. The results are predictable: a kid stumbles or staggers into our bedroom and knocks the basket of folded laundry over . . .

      Ah yes: mundane salesmanship. I’m having major issues lately with that. I gotta refocus and work on my self-confidence. I suspect that is where I am feeling pinched. I worry that if I stand to gain from it, people won’t like my writing as much. Um wow–I am just realizing that this morning. Distracted now . . . so glad to connect with you!! ~el

      • If you write a fabulous novel, you will lose friends to jealousy. If you write a terrible novel, you will lose your own friendship? If you write a magnificent novel, you’ll worry if you can do it again. Um…I think there’s a pattern here 🙂 No matter what you do, you’re changing your life with some good stuff happening and some bad stuff. It’s kinda like having kids. LOL

    • Morning Jae! Thank you so much for dropping by! Yes, a few friends have told me about the amazing query shark! And thank you for the good wishes! I’m going to swing by your place–what kind of stuff do you write? ~el

      • Currently I’m working on a YA fantasy that involves demons and angels. I was in the midst of a major rewrite, but I’ve mostly finished and now I’m trying to let it get cold before the editing phase begins again….

        • Now that is cool! My next book (aside from the sequel), Alien Enlightenment, is about aliens, demons and angels (and a lot of other stuff lol) so when I read your comment above, I grinned and figured we would have a lot to talk about! Ah, so you wait for the ink to dry before you dig back into the edits? That is probably wise — gives you a view of the forest, so to speak (or the entire field–as an athlete everything comes down to ballfields lol).

          • Honestly it’s like I was able to transplant eyes with another author. All of the mistakes and weaknesses become so much clearer. In the meantime there’s a couple editing books I intend to read and make notes so when edit fest begins I’ll be ready.

            In the meantime I’m going to try getting into short story writing. Starting with a study of Anton Chekhov. Apparently whenever people mention short story masters, his name floats to the top, right about Hemingway (of whom I plan to study too).

            Glad to have found your blog. I’ll be interested to know more about your story. Do you have a logline for it?

          • I know exactly what you mean!

            Let’s see: I’m not a fan of Chekhov, but I love Hemingway and Faulkner.

            Yep, my logline (I think these are overrated, by the way) is: A murder suspect teams up with a band of women at a safe house to trap a would-be rapist who is stalking her daughter.

            And I am glad to have found your blog too!

  5. I am not a writer but I operate the same way you do when I have to write letters to doctors, social workers etc. on my son’s behalf. There seems to be a way of collecting info and processing it on a subconcious level and when it’s finally formulated I can write the best letter! Just the way my mind works and similar to your way! After so many years, I just let it happen!! Good luck!

    • Oh, yes exactly, April–I love how you summarize the subconscious process — the way our brain operates. That is exactly the way it seems to work. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting! ~el

  6. For me, writing is like giving birth. If the baby isn’t ready to come, well, it isn’t ready to come. When the baby is ready to come—out she pops! It’s not the most disciplined way to write, and I am working on that, but you, of all people, need down time as much as you need to accomplish things. You just don’t believe that yet 😉

    • I don’t usually subscribe to this approach personally, but recently I’ve been OK with it. I’m writing very little but it doesn’t feel like a lack so much as a gestation period–which is, I think, why this comment caught my eye! Someday soon, I’ll get back to it. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy reading others’ beautiful words and watching those leaves drift by. 🙂

      • Morning my friend! Well (grinning) I am not sure if I would call this so much an approach as an anti-approach, or a lack thereof, or a massive infusion of silliness. And you know what? I’m having a helluva time writing. The business side of it is starving the joy out of me–time to go on a hunt for a better attitude, you know? xo

  7. Just do it…for the love of getting to cross something off the list woman, just do it. 😉

    Then you can have Ice Cream, or Chocolate, or go for a punishing run…oh you actually like that.

    Do it because you are brilliant and this is nothing.

    Love your procrastination with humor.

    • Morning Val! How are you this morning hun? I made the mistake of thinking about my query letter this morning (big sigh, lol). You are so, so kind to (and supportive of) me and I am so very grateful!! Thanks so much my friend! xoxo

  8. The key is to buy more baskets. Then you don’t have to set the laundry on the bed. Okay, that sounded way more helpful in my head… I currently have four baskets to fold. And eighteen half-finished stories. Actual numbers. I have serious problems with procrastination. Also, the story I just wrote wrecked my brain, and it’s hard to do anything with a broken brain.

    • Aw I need about ten more laundry baskets–yes, that’s brilliant! Gah to the half-finished stories! Those darlings interrupt me in my sleep, lol. Hmmm to the broken brain–reminds me of a brain cloud (grin).

      • You have run 37 bajillion marathons, woman. This is just a different kind. A marathon of the cerebellum. You can do it. 😉

        • Ha! I like that, hun! It’s done, and so is the query letter (well, sort of . . . they’re into their third drafts and I put them aside for the weekend because I was grouchy) and now I just gotta research agents. I’ve had a migraine since Wed. so am gonna give it a fresh look Monday. Have a lovely weekend!

          • Feel better! Try to stay step away from the social media. Good for headaches! 😉

  9. Query letters and synopses are the hardest. The book, no problem, but condensing it all down to 2 paragraphs or 2 pages. Eek. My first draft is never good. I find it helpful to go to the library and read the back cover of books in my genre so I get a feel for what is hooking and what doesn’t make me want to read the book. 🙂