A synopsis, for those of you who don’t know, is what happens to unchristian authors when they die of alcohol poisoning.
Or, for the nondramatic, an intriguing summation of the entire plot of your book.
I’ve spent a year now making six different versions of a query letter to only decide that I should’ve stuck with the third. I have long been compiling and researching agents, I’ve been through at least nine drafts of the manuscript itself, rewritten the beginning who knows how many times, and I started to feel a sense of relief. All of the big picture things were accomplished, all I needed were a few touch ups here and there, just to fix the small things, just to polish…
There are some select agents I consider my good potential fits based on what they represent, enjoy, and say in their social media/interviews. These are the ones who seem to have the same opinions on what constitutes good writing, don’t cut corners with their literary judgement, and are located in New York with agencies that have some connections with the Big Five publishers.
As I’m continuing the final drafts of my manuscript, I decided to look into some of those agents’ requirements to better gauge what their experience would be—Where they would stop, what they would have seen, etc. And I realized there was something I had forgotten.
Just when I finally had a clean and crisp query that doesn’t embarrass the living hell out of me, just when I made a beginning that I could read over and over again, just when finally everything came together…
Here’s the good news: As I started to write down the summary of events, I began to see the effect that nine drafts had on my plot. The pain caused by my uncertainty about transforming the setting from a beautiful backdrop into a full blown storyline, the side-character who demanded more stage time, the cutting of 70,000 words, all of it had a positive, tighter influence on the actual story.
I have to reread the book again. Over the last few months I’d been continually cutting excess words—a slow and tedious process, one that doesn’t really allow for actually experiencing the story, and I’ve forgotten some elements and have to remember where events came to play.
But while I can sum up the storyline in a fairly brief manner, easily cuing in on the important scenes as I have spent so much time figuring out what was actual essential, I have to find how much stylistic choices I should be making. And I’m not talking about cute sentences or clever phrasing, but ambiance. Normally, a summary contains none. My query feels to have the right mood as well as clarity, but that took me a long time to do.
When I see commercials for a horror film that make me curious but I don’t actually want to watch because gore and terror are too indecent for my fragile little psyche? I go on Wikipedia and read the summation. One of the top reasons they say, “Show don’t tell,” is because editorializing doesn’t chill your bones, raise your hairs, or gouge deep into your heart the same way having events unfold before you will.
I wish, in all honesty, it could be as simple as “Summaries don’t have atmosphere, period, so why worry about it?” but truth is, I know better. Even if I could get away with it, there is no reason to outside of laziness.
So I have a story, it seems. I’m just not sure how to tell it.
I’m going to put this off, I think.
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