Saturday, January 08, 2022

The Dreaded Synopsis

When writing my erotic romances, I don't start with a synopsis, I just write. Mostly I start at the beginning, work through the middle, and find the Happily Ever After. Why? Because if I write the synopsis, I'm no longer interested in writing the story. I know what happens and the sense of discovery is gone.

With The Companion my approach was slightly different. I'd started it several times and couldn't find it's opening scene. Out of desperation, I wrote a single-spaced, two-page synopsis to give the story some shape. I then knew where to begin and to be honest, after writing that synopsis? I never looked at it again. While I knew my ending, the events that take place to get there came out of that wonderful sense of creative discovery as I wrote. The novel also ended up being much longer than expected, as I realized taking the short way I'd written in the synopsis didn't allow for any character development.

But The Companion is finished and now looking for a publisher. When I received an email from an editor stating what he's looking for in his next book to acquire, I realized I have his perfect novel. I just have to convince him of it. He wants a 2-3 page synopsis and I'm thinking, "Hey! I have that!"

So I pull out that long-ago written treatment--and discover what I wrote then and what I ended up with are very different. I need a new synopsis.

Three days later, I'm still trying to write it.

I'm coming close, but wow. I gave up my first attempt after I got to six pages and still was only on Kiera's story. Checked the editor's email again and realize he's included a link to an article he'd written on what a good synopsis should contain. For an epic fantasy, he said in the article, one should expect a longer synopsis -- up to 20 pages! Yay!

I open a new document and start breaking the story down the way it's actually written. Each book of the larger work contains three to five chapters, so I can't stick with the usual formula of summarizing each chapter into a paragraph and still remain in my page limit. So I summarize each book and get it to fifteen pages. I'm good.

Then I re-read the email and he really does seem to be expecting two to three pages. A MUCH shorter synopsis.


By this time, I've been writing a full eight hours and my fingers are tired. I put it away for the night and start again the next morning on a new, shorter, synopsis.

And I manage to tell the entire story in three and a half pages. There's no emotional content, it's just a "she did this and then he did that and then they did this other darn thing" sort of telling and it's dry as a bone and totally lifeless. Augh!

By now I have drafted my husband into reading through these pieces and comparing them to the request in the email and getting his feedback. He teaches Public Speaking at the college level and approaches the query letter (which I've also been trying to write) with the same approach he takes to the opening of a speech. He tells me I haven't grabbed my audience yet and I start rewriting that as well.

If you're keeping count, by the end of Day Two, I now have several discarded drafts of a short synopsis, one long one that still needs work, and a query letter that *almost* works.

Day Three dawns and it's time to take down Christmas decorations. I do laundry, take ornaments off the tree, take my brother to a doctor's appointment -- pretty much anything other than face the work I still need to do. But its in the back of my head the entire time, nagging away at me. I finally go up to my study, open the crappy, "this is what they do" synopsis and add in the emotional arc. I move from three pages to six and realize, this is just the way it has to be.

Why? Because I'm really telling not one, but TWO stories here. Martin and Kiera's stories are intertwined and told in parallel throughout the epic. I have it to three pages of synopsis for EACH story. With any luck, the editor will understand that. I hope he will!

So the query letter is written, the short synopsis ("short" being a relative term) is complete, the longer synopsis will be finalized today. I'm sending both versions and he can decide if he wants more information or not. Seems prudent to attach both files--and yes, I've explained my reasoning in the query letter -- which is also too long, but he wants specific information and I've provided it. Remember, the point of the query letter is to get him to open a synopsis and the point of the synopsis is to get him to open the first chapter and the point of the first chapter is to get him to want more -- and to buy my book!

And, of course, this is only Volume One. Trying to sleep in this morning, my brain kicked into gear with what happens next and started writing the synopsis for the NEXT book. I'll actually type that out later today, but expect that, when I finish writing Volume Two, I'll be back here again, rewriting it and fussing once more.

All right. Enough procrastinating. I'm off to make a final read-through of what's going out to the editor before I actually push "Send." Wish me luck!

Play safe,


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