Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No....It's a bloody synopsis!!

Morning all.

Just a warning to anyone who may read this.  Today's post will not be a witty, enlightened piece of written genius (We can all dream can't we?)

Noooo, today's piece is going to be an all out rant.

'What' I hear you gasp.  'Pip having a rant, never!  Then tell us O Wise One (Hey!  It's my blog, I can be wise...sometimes) what has irked you so?'

Okay here goes. 

It's a single word, one that I imagine is only whispered in the darkest of corners by those of us who one day hope to achieve the mantle, writer.  This word holds incredible, dark power.  So terrible is this word that I know it has the ability to drown any and all elated sensations that I hope every writer feels when they have finished a piece and thinks that it might be ready for an agent to read. 

So savage is this creature of torture, because if this word was a 'being' it would be a foul, contemptible thing indeed, that it has the ability to take your perfectly lovely day, you know the one, your sat in your favourite chair, enjoying the calm serenity that comes from knowing you can pat yourself on the back for all those month's you have spent, locked away, writing your masterpiece (as far as I'm concerned my work is always a masterpiece, so why shouldn't it be the same for everyone else), when out of nowhere it starts stalking you and whilst you try to ignore it, it's to late, because you can both feel and hear it.

At first it's low, barely even noticeable, but that's okay, because this vile menace is nothing if not patient.  Then it starts, and like the solitary echo of dripping water, it lets you know that you should be afraid.  It gains momentum.  You try to ignore it but that persistent dripping quickly picks up speed and then without warning transforms itself to something even more ominous, a single, lowly drum beat. 


The drum gets louder and louder, you start to run, but the harder you try to ignore it, the louder and quicker the sound becomes, and now there are hundreds of drums, thundering around you, all playing together at the same time and tempo.  You try to run from it, but you simply can't.  It has to be faced, there is no escape.  And then with the power of a tidal wave crashing to the shore you are over powered by the full force of its intensity and in the eerie silence that follows you are left with a single word...
Okay, that was ridiculously over dramatic, but in my defence this is how writing a synopsis makes me feel, plus it gave me a chance to practice my suspense, spooky, scary writing techniques.  Pretty good huh?  Probably best if you don't answer that.
I have to be honest, I am really struggling with this particular aspect of the writing process.  If you are new to writing, like I am really, but if you are just starting out, then do not read this, not yet, I wish you the best of luck with your writing and hope to see you on the other side when you have finished your first piece, but don't look at the big word above, it could possibly put you right off.
I have read every blog and website I can get my hands on regarding 'Writing a Synopsis'.  I have had help from a top guy called Chris Salch who helped with one of my early versions massively and eventually with his help I managed to get my original seven page synopsis down to two pages.
Hurrah!  I hear you cry, so what's the problem? 
I am so close to sending my stuff to agents that I can see it, but now some of the agents that I hope might like my stuff and who I would like to send my stuff to are asking for a synopsis of '1 page' and I don't think I can do it.  It took me approximately 18 months to write my story/book and most of it was a pleasure, I really enjoyed it.  So far I have spent the better part of 3 months writing and re-writing my synopsis, desperately squeezing every inch of space in to those two pages and now, just as I think I am done, the goal posts move again.
I don't think I can do it.  I honestly don't think I can possibly fit my book into a one page synopsis.  I realise that if I was more experienced and had more knowledge and was maybe a professional editor I could probably summarise my story/book in to a paragraph or even a single sentence, but as it stands at the moment, with the tools I have...
I have read everything I can on the subject, I reckon I could probably give a pretty good lecture on how to write a synopsis, but please can someone tell me how I am supposed to squeeze approx. 166,000 words on to a single page and still make it sound even vaguely interesting enough for someone to think 'Oooh that's sounds good, I think I might like to read a bit more about this'.
Over the last three months I have often wondered if writing a synopsis is some kind of terrible test or a ridiculous riddle that you have to solve to get in to the writing world, but once you have cracked it, your in, one of the elite.  If that is the case, please could I have a different test.  Pretty much anything else would do, I would even take on the standing in a bath of water whilst having a car battery attached to my nipples test than face the 'synopsis'.  It would be far less painful.
So here is today's questions -
  • Is there a magic formula?  An idiot's guide to how to?  A way that explains the process in such a way that I get it and understand that I was probably worrying unnecessarily over nothing really?
  • Does anyone have this much trouble with writing the aforementioned?  If so, what did you do to get passed it.  I would love to read a synopsis that has been accepted and passed, just so I know what one looks like.
  • And if an agent requests a 1 page synopsis, is it okay to send them 2 pages and explain in the letter that proceeded it why you have sent two pages?  To be honest this is a stupid question to ask, I know the answer.  No, it's not okay, but I am at a loss as to what to do. 
Well that's it for today.  Apologies for the waffling on, but remember this is a diary, not a helpful and informative blog that helps and advises, sorry.  I'm just a bloke trying to understand how his head works.  Anyway, I have to go, I hear the beat of the drum calling and I am running out of places to hide.
Stay cool
Pip  x


  1. Understand completely, still rewriting a synopsis after funding, publishing and marketing the bleedin book already. I doubt your book is as mad or lacking in the covering towel as mine but writer's pride made all those step-wise guides, if followed, merely a distortion of the book. My only suggestion is to lie in a darkened room, forget what your book is about and imagine picking it up off a table in a bookstore. You are looking for a present for someone who shares your taste, who may hand it on to you when she has finished. First you have to decide .This one or that other one with the flash cover? Somehow the short cryptic statements on the back cover will weave their enthusiasm through the blurb that gives the broad brush content. Then you will bleach out the stain of persuasion and hang it in the sun...any help?

    1. Hey Philippa, thanks for the help. I will certainly give the dark room idea a go, if nothing else it might help me relax a little. I wish you all the best with your work. Keep me informed and let me know how it goes for you. Stay cool.

  2. This is just an opinion, but I would stick to submission guidelines that were provided. Not just this one, but each of them. In reference to your post, you can take a visit to a brick and mortar bookstore (or online), making note of books in the same genre as your manuscript, and also note the publisher. A reputable agent also provides information about recent sales. Research some of the books that have been acquired and when. Read the back of book. Did you note any similarities? That can also give some clues about the agent. Some also offer advice and tips on Twitter. I have even seen tweets about common mistakes. Finally, decide if you want to submit an edited version of your work, if you have not worked with a professional editor yet. Polished work is a major plus, and it gives the idea that you respect the agent's time. Some editors do provide synopsis or summary help, too. I also believe letting your true writing voice come through is important. Legitimate agents tend to work with authors on many projects, if possible, so look at it in terms of finding the right fit for both parties. Sometimes a 'yes' to the wrong fit can result in an unhappy working/ contractual relationship through rewrites and story alteration. You may strike gold. However, things don't go as planned, don't let it dampen your spirits. Don't take it personally either. He or she considers what may sell, given their pool of contacts, or who is looking for what in their network. Practice is the best teacher. I wish you the best. And by the way, many authors struggle writing summaries and/or the synopsis.

    1. Hey Andrea.

      Thank you for the excellent advice. I will be trying as hard as I can to stick to agent guidelines, but mate they make it difficult, lol. I suppose if it's worth doing though...

      I haven't worked with an editor and was going to enquire about that later. Can I pay an editor to look at my book, give me advice and help? Any info you have would be gratefully received.

      Again thanks for the advice and whilst this probably sounds really mean, the knowledge that it isn't just me that struggles with the 'S' word.

      Look after yourself but above all, stay cool.

  3. Hey Pip!
    Glad to hear you could consult Chris Salch. I know you wrote you "read every blog and website I can get my hands on regarding 'Writing a Synopsis'" and feel like you could give lectures on the topic, but did you check out Nathan Bransford's advice?
    I've always learned a thing or two from his posts.
    Sounds like good advice to mimic book cover copy and include what happens in the end. Always stick to submission guidelines. Best of luck and don't give up.

    1. Hey Tina

      Thanks for the advice regarding the legend that is Nathan Bransford, I really appreciate. And I know that what you say id correct, I have to stick to submission guidelines, I am just finding it incredibly difficult, 1 Page synopsis, what a pain. Thanks again, look after yourself but above stay cool.

  4. This has been the bane of my life, but in the end I managed it, phew! it can be done. Luckily for be I had the help from Cornerstones literary consultancy in the UK, they have helped and given me advice throughout writing my first book. Good luck with this and don't give up, it will get there.

    1. Thank you so much for the words of encouragement Janet, I appreciate it. I honestly believe that if anyone knew what is required after they have written something, synopsis, blurbs, etc, I'm not sure we would have any writers these days. I like a challenge but there were times when I could have thrown it all in the bin. Stay cool Janet. Pip