On Friday Katrina wrote about how writers get past the hard part in their stories. I sobbed quietly in the comments that I was facing my own Waterloo – the synopsis. Now I’ll sob a little louder.
I use a working synopsis as part of my writing road map. I’d love to be able to send that out to agents and editors, but it’s not suitable for public consumption.
So I used it as a starting point, then I kluged in copy from the synopsis feature in Scrivener. It got the story from A to Z, but used way too many letters to get there. I think I might have used a few numbers and random symbols too. I had to face facts -- this thing isn’t going to write itself while I watch Top Chef and eat Cheezits.
It’s hard to strip our own stories down to essentials. A common strategy is to pretend you’re explaining the plot to a friend. Good advice – but there are pitfalls. Most of the time, when a friend recounts a plot of a movie or book, it’s neither interesting nor coherent.
“And then the hero discovers that the bad guy was actually the stranger who helped him in the first scene! Oh wait, did I forget to tell you about that?”
Most synopses have a “you had to be there” kind of flatness, despite our best attempts to layer them with crackling voice and writing.
I understand why editors and agents want them. They might love the first chapter, but if the plot falls into a thousand messy pieces, they want to know before they get to page 248. So I’m working on my synopsis – procrastinating a bit. Maybe a lot.
In the meantime, Top Chef this week was really awesome. I’d tell you what happened, but you really have to see it yourself.
Useful advice from:
What's your best advice for a writing a synopsis? Who do you want to win Top Chef? (I'm rooting for Carla. Who else?)