In my never ending quest to avoid actually doing any writing, while being able to pretend to myself that I am, here is today’s distraction. It’s the idea that seeing the plot of my story has changed so much as I have dug in deeper and got to know my characters better, I should write a new long synopsis, so I have a road map for the heavy duty edit/ rewrite the story is going to need. I actually think this is a mistake, as I know I need to finish the story first, then set it aside for a good while before I start on the revision process. But it’s an interesting distraction to think about synopses, as they are such an essential tool for the wannabe published writer. Though I have heard that some editors don’t actually look at the synopsis at all, but that’s irreleveant, as they ask for one I need to learn to write the beasties. So here is everything I don’t know about synopsis writing.
Now the synopsis for my competition entry was not good. At least, that’s how I remember it. Can I tell the truth and confess that I haven’t looked at it since the day I emailed it into Harlequin with the first chapter? I’d never written a synopsis before, and I know it’s something that even experienced writers can quail at. In fourteen days I had come up with “sort of” characters (okay, cardboard cut outs) and a “sort of” plot (okay, a pastiche of elements from every Presents novel I had ever read), written a first chapter, then revised it three more times, getting its as good as I could with my weak premise, stereotyped characters, and lack of time. That left me with just one day to write the synopsis. Ack! To make matters worse, it had to be a two page double spaced synopsis, and the example on the Harlequin site was a four or five page synopsis.
Well, it was a long, looong day, I think I spent at least sixteen hours sitting at the computer that day, and didn’t get to bed until about 3am. Even then I couldn’t sleep, as possibly better ways of sayingthings kept jumping into my head. First I did some research, and read alot of writer’s internet pages on romance synopsis writing. Then I wrote what seemed like a pretty good synopsis. Problem was, it was a four page synopsis, then I somehow had to chop it down to two pages. I struggled with that. How to convey the essence of my characters, their situation, their conflicts, their resolution, and still convey my personal voice as a writer in just 500 words?
The short answer is, I don’t think I did manage it. What struck me reading Lynn Raye Harris’ winning synopis here , was the strength of her personal voice shining through. I think mine had all the personal voice of a shopping list, in comparison, just a bland and lifeless string of events.
I just went back and read my synopsis, and actually, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being! I did manage to get some strong verbs and some flavour in there, though it could be a whole lot better. I haven’t shown enough of their emotional response to events, that seems to be the main issue. That and the crummy plot. Oh well. This has been a useful exercise, as I need to see where I went wrong before I can get it right, and I’d actually gone wrong in different ways to the way I thought!
Here are some of the resources I found useful.
- Charlotte Dillon has assembled a fab collection of articles on synopsis writing here . Not all the links still work, but I found some life-saving info in the lot.
- Kathy Carmichael’s 11 synopis tips can be read here . This is a short and snappy article, that packs a lot in, and has a great short synopsis example. I can’t believe that I read this carefully before starting on my synopsis, as I seem to have ignored every single one of her 11 tips!
- I haven’t read this book, The Sell Your Novel Toolkit, but the first few pages look very engaging, so I may just buy it. If I do I will write a review.
Anyway, no more excuses now, I’d better write some story words for a change and see if I can get my enthusiasm back for these characters. My favourite types of scenes coming up- the Cinderella transformation, and the first lovemaking- yum! So why do I feel so ho-hum? I think because I am at the core of the book, where the deep emotional shifts in the characters need to happen, and I don’t know that I am up to it. And I am afraid of failing. The last story I wrote was just fun, like a dare, this one I’m taking terribly terribly seriously. You know, just writing that has helped- I fel enthusiastic again. Puzzling, but magic!