Tuesday, September 09, 2014

More on synopsifizing

Boy, can I relate to Aline’s post from yesterday. I’ve had to do way more synopsis writing in the past three years than I did in all the previous years of my existence. There must be some out there who enjoy this kind of exercise, but I certainly am not one of them! It feels way too much like “doing homework”, and for the most part this buckeroo didn’t get along with that exercise, either.

Funny thing is, they’re really worth doing — and doing to the best of your ability. Here’s the thing I understood after I’d executed two of my Rapid Reads novellas, and my soon-to-be-released full-length novel, Roses for a Diva, all of which began life as synopses: do a really detailed synopsis, and then put it away in a drawer. I didn’t like doing them anymore than I had in the past, but at least I could see the point — from where I stood. Their value to publishers is an obvious one.

The clarifying of thought that takes place when writing your ideas down really helps later on. Problems arise if you consult your work’s “map” every morning before you begin working. Doing something like that seems to force your creativity into a kind of straightjacket, however unwittingly. It’s better to sit down with a bit of a foggy memory about “what comes next” and let the story wander where it will. If things don’t work out, you can check on what your synopsis said at the point of departure from it. In all cases but one, the new ideas worked out just fine, thank you, and ultimately my storyline was better for the divergence. Of course you do run the risk of your editor saying, “This bears no resemblance to what you told us going to write,” or worse yet, like Aline, your publisher uses your synopsis to describe your book in their catalogue while you’re at home happily ignoring it.

Ultimately, if I had my druthers, I’d jot down a few notes, no more than a page-worth about the arc I’d like my story to have and then get to work. That would probably give me enough of an idea to keep myself out of trouble, but not so much that it would get in my way. But publishers seem to want the comfort of a synopsis more and more these days. I’m sure the big guns don’t have to submit them, but us poor mid-listers sure do.

In the end, you just have to live with what’s required and make the best of it (or self-publish). My method outlined allows those of us who do it but hate it and not drive ourselves crazy. But it also requires a leap of faith for the writer as well as the publisher. In the end I really don’t think someone is going to complain if you’re work is solid and holds together really well. If there are objections, tell them that partway through writing you realized your synopsis was crap and the book would be, too, if you’d stuck to it. As long as your written words back that up, you should be good to go.


Aline Templeton said...

I do take your point, Rick. Mercifully, though, my editors have been very understanding and I don't think I've ever been asked to justify divergence from the synopsis. I think there's a whole new blog about that - does the book sell on the story or the way you tell it? Bags I! Is that a phrase that;s understood across the pond?!!

Rick Blechta said...

I'd like others to weigh in on this one, Aline -- which is the reason I wrote it, as I assume you did.

As for your phrase, I've never heard that one before and I count several Scots as friends. What does it mean?

Aline Templeton said...

It's quite general here,not really Scots. Do you talk about 'bagging' a seat - leaving something on it to keep it free for you? 'Bags I' just means I want to keep it for myself. There must be a North American equivalent!

Eileen Goudge said...

It's how you tell the story that counts. Case in point: "The Old Man and the Sea." Synopsis in a nutshell: Man catches fish, loses fish. And, as we all know, editors don't always know best. I attended a publishing party last night at which I chatted with another author whose first novel I'd endorsed. A novel, I happened to know from the agent, that had been previously rejected by every editor in town. "It sold 300,000 copies," she replied when I asked how it had done, adding with a wink, "You tell me."

Rick Blechta said...

Aline, yeah we might say "I bagged a seat," but I can't think of a North American equivalent of "Bags I"

Anyone able to supply this?