I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been committing myself to the task of getting my synopsis written, crafting a persuasive query letter and tweaking my first 10,000 words; all in a dramatic prelude (drum roll please…..) to submitting SINGLED OUT to an initial short list of literary agents.
It’s not quite ready yet, not through want of effort, I assure you. But in my less creatively energetic moments, I’ve also drafted an impressive spreadsheet listing all the agents I plan to contact, with their submission instructions and a few other essential details, all gleaned from agency websites. Some might accuse me of optimism (oh, go on…), but there are just four agents on the list at this stage, all recommended to me by my mentor, which is a gift for which I’m absurdly grateful. This is where it all begins.
But first, I need the perfect synopsis. And I’ve discovered that writing the perfect synopsis is a bit like looking for the perfect man. Yes, girls, you get it, don’t you?
So my synopsis is presentable in parts and pretty hopeless in other parts. I’m trying to change him it but it’s proving a tough job. There is a wealth of advice on writing synopses in the ranks of ‘how to’ books on my bookshelf and on the internet – and plenty of it is sound, sensible advice too. I’m trying to follow it – but I think I’m trying too hard. In all honesty, I’m making a bit of a job of it.
In the process, I’ve drunk my way through two jars of instant and 16 capsules of Tassimo Carte Noire Latte Macciato (yum) and even – the day my stomach became inexplicably crampy, probably due to stress m’lud (or maybe too much caffeine) – three peppermint teabags. Yes, I know, I told you I hate tea – and I do. But peppermint tea is more like drinking a Polo Mint and it was good for my withered digestive system, so I suffered it.
But I digress.
Each agent very helpfully puts submission instructions on their websites. They want a query letter or email – that’s fine. Actually that wasn’t too hard to write given my [mumble number of] years in sales and marketing work. It has to be modified for each agent, but it’s as complete as it needs to be for now. They want the first 10,000 words, three chapters or 50 pages – that’s fine too. It’s all much the same thing and once you’re happy with the content, you just need to cut-and-paste into a document topped with your contact details. But then there’s the synopsis… 300 words… 1,000-1,500 words… one or two pages… ‘brief’… So, more than one version then.
Taking some good advice and paying a deal of attention to an interesting online workshop in free pdf format from Mslexia here, (for which many thanks sandradan1), I started with a 25-word elevator pitch. Okay, so it was a scratch over 40 words. But it fits the bill, and it helped me focus. I graduated from there to the 300 word version which, with more help than I would have liked to have needed, is now complete. Next… The Big One – character detail, motivations, inciting incidents, tipping points, trials and tribulations, tension and triumph – phew! My first draft was a car crash and my second wandered into a maze of detail and never came out. But, armed with a short version I’m now happy with, I have more confidence in draft number three. There’s a faint hope that the process will be less like being hung upside down by my fingernails over a pit of vipers, and output more… forthcoming.
If somebody had said that writing a 1,000 word (or thereabouts) synopsis of your work will be harder than writing the 97,000 words itself, I’d probably have laughed confidently in their faces. I’m a writer after all, aren’t I? I’ve written dozens of business proposals, white papers and case studies, summarised entanglements of technical hogwash, edited endless articles and cut swathes from wordy websites. A synopsis is just another job, isn’t it?
Not so, when you want nothing more in your whole life, than to be taken on by an agent, find a publisher for your first novel, and enjoy the privilege of spending the third phase of your working life immersed in fiction. Not so at all.