Innovative Way to Write a Novel Synopsis via Jan Morrill

If you're not a writer, this may surprise you. If you are an author who has ever tried to craft a synopsis for your novel or novella, you'll know this pain.

Writing a synopsis is almost harder than writing the novel itself.

Last year I was finishing up They All Died Smiling in preparation for getting it ready to pitch to an agent. By the way,  4months later, not a word from the agent. Still waiting But I digress.

I had to prepare a brief letter and a 1 page synopsis. FOr the uninitiated, this is a summary of the store, including the resolution at the end. It's supposed to cover the highlights quickly so a publisher or agent can decide if it's the sort of thing they want to see.

It's HARD. Did I mention that?

I have yet to find an author who enjoys writing them for their own book. I can help someone else write THEIRS with no sweat. Doing mine is a different matter.

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I took a haiku class from author and speaker Jan Morrill last fall. Now, I don't write a lot of poetry, but 17 syllables I figured I could handle. She made haiku relevant for non-poets. If you missed my article about how valuable her workshop was, you can read "How Can Haiku Help Your Writing."

One of her BRILLIANT suggestions that would never have occurred to me was to write a haiku summarizing your book. While this would not replace the 1-pager publishers and agents want, it can serve as a great book blurb or elevator pitch that you might even put in the letter accompanying the submission.

I invite YOU to share a haiku of your novel or novella in the comments! The typical haiku form is as follows: 3 lines, 17 syllables total, 5-7-5. Continue reading "Innovative Way to Write a Novel Synopsis via Jan Morrill"


Writing Prompts: How Can Haiku Help Your Writing?

Have you heard of haiku? Maybe you remember it from your language arts classes at school.

I've seen it. I've written some upon occasion outside of academic necessity for a grade. Recently, author Jan Morrill taught a workshop that helped me hone my poetry writing skills  and opened my eyes to a variety of ways to use Haiku to help my other writing.

What is Haiku?

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form that traditionally has 17 syllables across 3 lines. The typical pattern is 5-7-5. haiku are generally about nature.

I remember that much from my English classes, which is what my school district called language arts.

Beyond the Nature 5-7-5

Beyond the brevity, I learned from Jan Morrill that haiku should capture a moment. While nature inspires much haiku, anything in life can find its way into one of those tight little gems.

"Haiku captures a moment."

- Jan Morrill, author of The Red Kimono, Life: Haiku by Haiku, and other books

Haiku as Writing Prompt

Continue reading "Writing Prompts: How Can Haiku Help Your Writing?"


Writing Skills Book Review of Creative Characterization by Jan Morrill

Having taken Jan Morrill's live workshop on creative characterization, I was thrilled when I saw the announcement that she had made a print (and Kindle) workbook to accompany it.

Creative Characterization by Jan Morrill

cover of Creative Characterization by Jan Morrill

 In Creative Characterization, award-winning author Jan Morrill discusses six different methods she uses to develop characters such as those in her historical fiction, The Red Kimono:

• Interviewing
• Describing Photos and Paintings
• Writing Letters
• Writing in a Different Point of View
• Accessing Character’s Inner Child
• Internalization

The exercises in this workbook will help develop characters, and may even lead to a bit of self-discovery along the way!

Do I find this book helpful for me as a fiction writer? Continue reading "Writing Skills Book Review of Creative Characterization by Jan Morrill"


Book Review of Historical Fiction Novel The Red Kimono by Jan Morrill

Welcome back to another Write On Purpose book review. Each week, I review a well-written book, highlighting what makes it good from the reader’s perspective and what writing skills and techniques make it an irresistible read. Thus, each review serves both writers and readers.

Author Jan Morrill's first novel weaves great storytelling, thorough research, and her mother's experiences in a Japanese internment camp during World War II into this novel about the power of hatred and perception.

Read more about the book.

The Red Kimono by Jan Morrill

From the Inside Flap

The Red Kimono by Jan MorrillIn 1941, racial tensions are rising in the California community where nineyear-old Sachiko Kimura and her seventeen-year-old brother, Nobu, live. Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor, people are angry, and one night, Sachiko and Nobu witness three teenage boys taunting and beating their father in the park. Sachiko especially remembers Terrence Harris, the boy with dark skin and hazel eyes, and Nobu cannot believe the boys capable of such violence toward his father are actually his friends. What Sachiko and Nobu do not know is that Terrence's family had received a telegram that morning with news that Terrence's father was killed at Pearl Harbor. Desperate to escape his pain, Terrence rushes from his home and runs into two high-school friends who convince him to find a Japanese man and get revenge. They do not know the man they attacked is Sachiko and Nobu's father. In the months that follow, Terrence is convicted of his crime and Sachiko and Nobu are sent to an internment camp in Arkansas, a fictionalized version of the two camps that actually existed in Arkansas during the war. While behind bars and barbed wire, each of the three young people will go through dramatic changes. One will learn acceptance. One will remain imprisoned by resentment, and one will seek a path to forgiveness.

From the Back Cover

"The story of a Japanese family uprooted and forced to live in a bleak World War II internment camp gives human faces to one of the shabbiest chapters in U.S. history. Told from the viewpoint of an engaging Japanese girl, The Red Kimono tells it all--the bitterness and pain as well as the joy and pride and patriotism of a people too resilient to be beaten by racism. The Red Kimono touches my heart."--Sandra Dallas, New York Times best-selling author of Tallgrass and True Sisters

"A slice of American history beautifully told by three young Americans coming of age in a turbulent time." -- Jodi Thomas, New York Times best-selling author of the Harmony Series.

"The attack on Pearl Harbor sets in motion this incredible story of a race of people betrayed by their country. Only a writer with Morrill's talent could tell it with so much compassion and honesty. You won't soon forget The Red Kimono." -- Velda Brotherton, Author of The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks

Why was this book so good I gave it a 5 star review on Amazon?

5 Star Review Graphic Continue reading "Book Review of Historical Fiction Novel The Red Kimono by Jan Morrill"


Fiction Writing help: How Do I Write Great Dialogue?

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(NOTE: Post updated to add new material to aid with dialogue writing).

I love writing dialogue! The characters speak and I take dictation. At least, that's how it feels to me. Here is a snippet of dialogue from my work in progress, They All Died Smiling. Kassidy, a writer/demon hunter, talks with her friend Floyd:

While finishing an assignment for the paper, I dialed my phone. “Floyd, I’m borrowing your studio for a half hour this afternoon, OK? Thanks. I appreciate it.”

“Uh…you’re welcome. Thanks for asking ahead of time.” I heard the smile in his voice and imagined him brushing a stray lock of blond hair out of those eyes that look like the sea.

“My pleasure. You won’t be in the throes of artistic fervor this afternoon. You will be at the gallery for your viewing.”

“You truly are a mess, Kass. It’s a showing, not a viewing. A viewing is what they do for dead bodies.”

Floyd was a good verbal sparring partner; I let him tease me in honor of our first meeting. I made that faux pas for real when interviewing him for a story about green pottery. Having come right from a wake to the gallery, I accidentally used the wrong word.

“Floyd, just the reception room, not the part full of your cherished creations. And I promise to make it up to you.”

“Ooh, that should be fun. I’ll hold you to it. You owe me big time for using my space.”

“Yes, I do.” My face flushed. “Sell lots of pots.”

“It’s a good thing you put an s on that.”

So many authors I know struggle with dialogue. Maybe I as a blind person have a distinct advantage over you sighted people, because I pay so mush attention to what I hear.

What's at the Root of Dialogue Problems?

My observations tell me that problems with dialogue come from 2 main issues with writing dialogue:

Dialogue Problems

Continue reading "Fiction Writing help: How Do I Write Great Dialogue?"


Guest Post: 20 Sentences by Jan Morrill

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This post is part of a collaborative blogathon by authors of Oghma Creative Media during the month of February. Knowing many of these authors and their writing, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something that will make you laugh and learn. We’d love for you to visit, and if you so desire, comment, like or share!  

We're sharing the other bloggers as well as contributing articles and stories of our own.

This post is by Jan Morrill, author of The Red Kimono.  I will be reviewing her book soon. She shares a writing prompt or creativity prompt you might like to try. See original source.

Take it away, Jan!

Oghmaniacal Blogathon: Twenty Sentences

Steve and I did a fun and interesting writing exercise together some time ago. I meant to write a post about it then, but as often happens, life got in the way. I forgot.

But lucky for me, while searching my computer for another file, I came across these sentences and now I have a post idea for this sunny, but frigid Monday morning!

Our little writing project began after listening to a few of the twelve hours (yes, twelve hours) of The Great Courses audio program on “Building Great Sentences” :

Great writing begins—and ends—with the sentence.

Whether two words (“Jesus wept.”) or a sentence in William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom!, sentences have the power to captivate, entertain, motivate, educate, and, most importantly, delight.

By the way, here’s one of those Faulker long sentences:

From a little after two o’clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that — a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes filled with dust motes which Quentin thought of as being of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.

Personally, I think sentences can be too long. I lose my train of thought and have to start over again. But perhaps that’s more a judgement on myself and my reading abilities that it is of the author.

It appears I’ve meandered away from talking about our writing prompt. Here’s what we did:

  1. We wrote the first twenty sentences that came to mind, with little thought about those sentences.
  2. We then picked a few of those sentences and lengthened them according to some of the guidelines discussed in the “Building Great Sentences” audio course.

So, here are the twenty sentences I first wrote. The sentences I chose to expand are in blue:

  1. I love dogs.
  2. Driving makes me happy.
  3. Blue used to be my favorite color.
  4. I’m hungry for a bear claw.
  5. We’ve missed three episodes of 24.
  6. Not sure when I’ll exercise regularly again.
  7. I need an oil change.
  8. I can’t wait for Santa Fe.
  9. Tommy’s smile is the sweetest.
  10. Family above all else?
  11. Let’s paint something.
  12. I miss the ocean.
  13. The wind whispers secrets to me.
  14. What does Scarborough Fair mean?
  15. Soon I’ll be moving again.
  16. I’ve had a good life.
  17. What’s new for today?
  18. I have more than one secret.
  19. I have much to be grateful for.
  20. Maybe we’ll get a dog soon.

And here are the expanded sentences I wrote:

jan and jubieI love dogs, though I’m not sure if it’s the memory of dogs that I love after nine months of not seeing my beloved Jubie and Bear, which, as I think about it, is long enough to have brought a new life into this world, though not long enough to lose memories that can still bring tears to my eyes.

Blue used to be my favorite color, until one day I realized I don’t have to be limited to only one, because why shouldn’t we be allowed a multitude of favorite colors out of the thousands that exist in the world, and so, today, I love azure blue and eggplant purple and taupe and shocking pink and…

jackWe’ve missed three episodes of 24, a show I’d waited for three years to return, but when at last it did, I’d found someone to replace Kiefer Sutherland, a man who takes me on adventures I’d once only dreamed about, and who entertains me so, I forget to turn the television on.

“I need an oil change” was just another thought that popped into my head as I wrote these twenty sentences, and it was true in the literal sense, until I read the one sentence in the context of the twenty, and then I wondered, with a bit of trepidation, if instead it was meant to be a metaphor because feeling rather creaky and old lately, perhaps an oil change would help me run anew.

Tommy's smileTommy’s smile is the sweetest, his grin so big it crinkles his nose, so full of happiness it trickles through to his arms and legs until they flail with joy, so ready to be shared it overflows and spills onto whoever is lucky enough to catch the contagious joy of  a child.

Let’s paint something, meet in a room with bright colors and brushes, where we’ll work together but separately, talking as we paint, until, hours later we have created more than one masterpiece.

I miss the ocean, but when I see the boundless blue complexion of the sea, smell her salty aroma, hear all that she whispers to me, I realize she is like a dear friend, who, though I may not have seen for years, makes me feel like I never left her side.

I have more than one secret, though to some, I don’t have many secrets and to a very few, I have none, which is a wonderful, freeing feeling compared to the weight of secrets I shared with hardly a soul in the past.

These were first draft sentences. Some need some polish and refining. Still, I think they are so much richer than the first twenty. Maybe that’s why I like editing so much. My first draft is like sketching in pencil. The editing is like adding the color and texture.

Give this exercise a try. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Thank you, Jan!

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Ronda Del Boccio

best selling author, speaker and top reviewer.

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