On the first day of January I’m going to submit my first manuscript In the Between to a publisher. Here in Australia some publishers have days once a month where writers without Agents will allow you to submit and be added to the slush pile. Hey, if I’m keeping slush pile readers in jobs, then I will. Helping the economy and all that.
I have the requirements for the submission and everything is prepared. I’ve got my manuscript ready, first 100 pages for submission, cover letter and a synopsis, well not yet, but surely writing a synopsis will be easy, right?
So, so naïve, Lisa. I did end up writing a 300 word synopsis, because I can’t submit without one, but it was a hard slog to get it to a point where I don’t want to cry when I read it.
For the noobs (like me) or non-writers, a synopsis is your manuscript cut down to 300 words. Sounds simple until you realise 300 words is only half a page. I had to condense 100,000 words into 300. Yep. I’ve written before about my love/hate relationship with short stories, and even shorter titles here, but holey moly I was stuffed.
I consider myself to be a fairly good writer. I know about sentence structure, how to put a story together, how to plot and so on, but the synopsis took more time than I had predicted and that’s why it will be submitted in January and not this month.
First of all, I scoured the web looking for resources, also reading actual examples of synopses helped tremendously. So, I understood how to write a synopsis, but not how to write a synopsis. If you’ve written one before you probably understand the gibberish above.
I started writing the main plot points. What happens to make the character change, the main states of being, if you will. First time around I had 23. Yes, too many. I crossed all those out that were important to me, because I’d written the damn thing, I was only keeping certain chapters because I’m neurotic. I love my characters, it’s no secret, I shout my love and sometimes hate from the rooftops. Yeah, I’m that nut at 4am that you yell at to shut it from your bedroom window.
So many of these plot points were about secondary characters. I had to narrow it down to Layla and her story. It doesn’t matter that she accidentally smacks Andy in the balls with her hockey stick. While funny, it’s not a turning point in the book.
I got to my fifth version of my synopsis, when I went off on a tangent about Andy, and I realised this isn’t Andy’s book, or Jay’s, it’s Layla’s. It turns out there are only 5 big events in the book that force Layla to change. Yes, 5. In 100,000 words, what a wordy book, but that’s a different issue.
The style of a synopsis is an odd beast. It’s so dry. It’s basically – this is what happens and then this is what happened here. It’s like a narrator is reading the worst story in the world. I don’t write like that and I’m sure most people don’t so that took a little bit of getting used to.
Also, you have to give away the ending in a synopsis. Yep, all that hard work and you’re telling people what happens. I understand that you must tell the Publisher what happens at the end. They only have the synopsis and the first 100 pages to decide and base their opinion on. I’m sure in more than one case they stop after the first page, maybe even the first line.
I can hear you yelling at your screen, right now. “But I worked so hard on it! How can they just read the first page!” The downtrodden, underpaid and underappreciated author cries (totally not me…). Look, I’m sure you worked hard on it, just like me, but I’m expecting me and every Tom, Dick and Harry to be submitting on the 1st of January and if I don’t get this right then I’ll have to start all over again. I want the Publisher to be grabbed by the short and curlies and I never want them to put it down. Alright, I’d settle for a passing interest or even a, ‘Meh, it was alright.’
Time will tell.
Anyone else had any luck with synopsis writing? Tips and tricks are appreciated.