Confession (aka Synopsis Crisis 2)

Synopsis crisis 1Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned.  It’s been… aah… sorry about this… 14 days since my last confession blog post.

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.

15 thoughts on “Confession (aka Synopsis Crisis 2)

    1. Yes, I realise I’m probably over-thinking it. Just a little more work though… maybe just a couple of days… … .. . . . 🙂

  1. I feel your pain, Jools. I agree that the synopsis is harder to write than the novel. All that work that went into the novel, the plot twists, sub-plots, conflict and rich details of character and setting – how do you sum that up in 1,000 or so words? But I am confident that you will find a way and will soon be mailing it to your carefully selected agents. Good luck.

    1. Thank you so much! I don’t think everyone’s a writer or would-be writer. From what I’ve seen from looking through the blogs of my subscribers – and I’ve wandered through every one – there’s quite a variety. You are warmly welcomed. 🙂 I love what you’re doing to fan the flames, as it were, for one of my favourite British actors too…

  2. Spot on love. I wondered where you had gone off to. I see your excitement and I am enjoying it with you. You are such an easy and enjoyable read I love it. You are brilliant and much fun. Thank you for the gift you share.

    1. Still here, Bill! Just about to hop over to yours to share a few thoughts on those eclectic cross-cultural food experiences. 🙂

    1. I think you’re right, but it’s hard to know when to stop. Each part of the submission has a role to play. The query letter has to persuade the agent to read the sample chapters; the sample chapters must make them want to know how the rest of the book goes; then it’s the job of the synopsis to to persuade them that there’s enough meat on the bones to give the whole manuscript a go. That’s quite a responsibility for a few hundred well-chosen words to carry. So they’d better be very well-chosen indeed. But then again….. I suspect one can chew over those few hundred words until they are pulp and still not feel they’re good enough. It has to stop somewhere. I may put a time limit on things – one thing I can handle is a rapidly approaching deadline, even if it is self-imposed. 🙂

  3. Hi Jools, I wondered where you’d gone. You mentioned something that I’ve been wondering about. I’ve taken a break from my book, because I’ve finished it and now need to let it alone for a while, but I’m not sure how to find time for both blog and book when I get back to that. Maybe less sleep? Good luck with yours. I know how important it is.

    1. You’ve hit a major nail on the head – making time for writing… and blogging, and Twitter, and Facebook, and all the other stuff – plus actually doing a day-job – is not easy. So long as I can find an hour to do a blog post during the day (and more importantly, so long as I can think of something to say that people might actually want to read), I can manage the comments and reading other people’s blogs via my iPad in the evenings, curled up on the sofa with the TV on in the background. I’m one of a growing band of what the analysts call twin screeners or something like that – that’s people who watch the TV whilst doing other stuff on their tablets or smartphones! It’s all about squeezing an extra few minutes out of the day. I just wish I was 20 years younger and didn’t need a different pair of glasses for each screen!

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