Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Synopsis – Love em or Hate em???

There are contest, we’re talking writing contest, all through out the year. Some are amazing and some…well, it’s not that they are not good, they just don’t speak to me personally to enter. Which is great on the pocketbook so to speak.

Yet, it’s this time of the year I get excited about them. Now and going through the next couple of months there are several contest I think are great. There’s the TARA (deadline just passed), the Molly’s, (deadline fast approaching) and the Maggie’s, (deadline coming soon). Yes, there are more than these three and they’re really good too. It’s these three that speak to me, Vicki writer.

Of the three above, two require a synopsis and one is your choice to send or not to send. And out of the two that require the dreaded “S” word, one of them is a judged component of the contest.

Synopsis. How can one word breath fear into so many of us? Is it because we’ve written this incredible long book and can’t for the life us figure how to get everything in a 3 – 5 page document? Maybe.

I looked up the meaning of the word on and this is what it says:

• A brief or condensed statement giving a general view of some subject
• A compendium of heads or short paragraphs giving a view of the whole
• A brief summary of the plot of a novel, motion picture, play, etc.

So where are the words, Fear, Dread, and oh yes, Procrastination? I mean really, most of us who are writers (there are a few who love them), really hate (strong word) writing them. We will sit for days on end thinking about them, trying to wrap our minds around the few short pages we need to tell our story and get everything “we” think is important.

That’s just it, everything is NOT important to put in the synopsis. Really. An agent, editor, or contest judge, doesn’t need everything including the proverbial kitchen sink in there.

So, we write it, part of it anyway, and then stew over it, write some more, stew some more and finally come up with what we hope will be a shinning short version of our work.

The thing is this, I’ve seen the lengths of them, long, medium, and short. By short, I mean very short. In fact, a friend of mine, sent me hers to look at. I asked about hers, since I knew her first book was indeed quite long, had paranormal elements, romance, and well, great stuff.

I expected it to be at least 5 pages, probably longer, since I knew roughly the word count of the book. Nope, not so much. What I received was 2 pages. Two! That’s it. It was great. Told whomever would be reading it, everything they needed to know.

Guess what I’m saying here, is yes, Synopsis World, is the place where so many of us get stuck. Perhaps even put the book under the bed with the other ones and begin the next book. Why, because writing the book is so much more fun. And the writing of the book isn’t the part which can bring the rejection first.

Still the contest deadlines loom and the agent / editor queries must have them, so they must be written. Yes, fear, dread, and procrastination, must be pushed aside and the words which flowed when you wrote your book, must now flow in a shortened, condensed version, so to tell your story and hopefully final in the contest or acquire the agent / editor.

Your turn, do you love to write them? Hate to write them? Ask for help writing them? Do they make you stop and go to the next book?

Writing Wishes and Plotting Dreams,


Diana Peterfreund said...

I *love* synopses. I actually love writing synopses as much, if not better, than I love writing the actual book. All the "problems" one can have with a book diminish. You can SAY something is a thrilling action sequence without having to show it, skim over tricky plot twists and make it seem all okay, all sorts of fun stuff. I like to say I can make anything sound good for four pages. It's the other 396 that are the problem.

I usually write my synopses before I write the book. That makes it easier not to get bogged down in detail. then I just revise when I'm finished and know how the book actually goes.

Vicki said...

Diana, Hence lies the problem. I didn't write it first. I've made myself a promise to never do that again. Although I realize it may change by the time I write 'The End', it will be easier to edit and correct.

Perhaps this will be my form of plotting pantser style. :)

Karen Lingefelt said...

Before writing any book, I can write a rough draft synopsis up to the dark moment. I can't figure out the resolution/tying up of loose threads till I have to write it.

My biggest problem is keeping them short. I'm learning to pare them down to 5 double-spaced pages.

Otherwise, I am Diana's polar opposite when it comes to "synopsitude."

Stephie Smith said...

I hate writing a synopsis after the book is done but don't mind at all when I've only just started the book. I, too, get bogged down in detail if I've already written the book; it seems like everything is so important that I must include it.

From a judge's POV, I'll say this about the optional synopsis. I haven't judged loads of entries, but it's happened more often than not that a synopsis has made me think less of an entry. I can usually tell if the writer hasn't finished the book because the synopsis is too vague. Or else it's not nearly as well written as those polished chapters.

From the viewpoint of one who's been judged I'll say that no one has ever marked off my ms because of something they didn't know or understand yet (something that would have been revealed in the synopsis, had they read one), but I've had judges mark off for things they only knew from the synopsis, even when the synopsis wasn't supposed to be judged. For example, a judge told me that my ms had too much plot for a historical romance and there was no possible way all those things could be in one book and have the book make any sense. And she rated the questions about plot very low and mentioned it again. Well, I don't know what to say. All those things are in the book and I think it works just fine!