Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Synopsis writing April 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Autumn Macarthur @ 4:05 pm
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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!

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2 Responses to “Synopsis writing”

  1. susieq Says:

    Hi……..I feel as though I’m reading my story….not yours! I put together an entry and synopsis for the Harlequin competition in three days. I knew it wouldn’t win because there were writers who had been honing their work for months. But I am so glad I entered as it was my first submission and it definitely won’t be my last. I too have finally become serious about writing and it is scary because it is something I really really want and I don’t want to fail. I’ve been very lucky in life and haven’t yet failed at something that really matters to me.

    The problem with my synopsis sounds very similar to yours. I need to convey much more of the emotion rather than just the bare bones of the plot.

    It’s great to know there are other writers out there going through a similar stage in their writing….thanks for the resource tips and good luck….

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    Hi Susieq- thank you for making the first comment on my virgin blog!
    The competition entry was my first “proper” fiction submission too! I am so glad it gave me the impetus to stop dreaming and start doing. It does make it so much more scary to put ourselves out there as being serious about developing our writing- I found myself completely unable to write for a while because of the pressure I was putting on myself, and my sense of failure at not getting any positive feedback. Thank goodness, I seem to have regained my joy in simply writing for the fun of it.
    Good luck with your writing- we can’t know how long the road to publication will be, but if we keep writing and keep learning we will get there!
    Jane (aka mulberry)


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