Thursday, June 02, 2005

Telling the Story

I read on a writers' loop I'm on, how important it is to do chapter-by-chapter synopses of your books. How the publisher "needs" them, etc. Is this so the prospective buyer doesn't actually have to read the book before rejecting it? My overall problem with synopses is that I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer. I don't want to know every last hiccup before I start writing. Surprise me, story! Plus, if I could tell a story in 300 words, I'd write flash-fiction. I certainly wouldn't waste my time writing 85,000. Or am I just being ornery?


Janny said...

You're just being ornery. :-)

From what I hear, very few publishers "require" chapter by chapter synopses, and to her credit, one publisher gave a very good explanation of why they've gone that route.

I hate the idea, myself, though--and I LIKE synopses. I just don't like having to predict where my chapters are going to break! Like I know that ahead of time?


But I can definitely see how blind trust in authors to fulfill books on which they have only sketchy proposals can turn into a bomb waiting to explode. My books tend to at least run close to their synopses; that being said, FTA doesn't run close to the original synopsis with which I pitched it. In the process of completing the manuscript, I changed several crucial plot points, removed some melodrama and strengthened its plausibility in the process. Did the publisher complain? Nope. So one has to wonder how closely they actually read the synopsis to begin with.

The solution? If you really, really, really want to sell to that Big Publisher Who Insists on Chapter By Chapter Outlines, then you buckle down and DO that. It's a price of doing business. It's also a good discpline, by the way...but there's that word again, isn't it? (ducking) If you don't CARE whether you sell to aforementioned BPWIOCBCS, then write your synopses after your books are done, and pitch them accordingly. It's important, either way, to remember that you're not telling the story in the synopsis; you're merely giving the high-concept "snapshots" of the way your story is going to unfold. Or, if you want to look at it this way, the synopsis tells a condensed version of the "play" your character act out on the stage of the book itself.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


writtenwyrdd said...

I am amazed to hear that any writer can follow an outline or synopsis that closely. I am with you, Deb, that I like being surprised by the story. Those characters all snarl at me when I try to tell them what to do and go off and do their merry best to drive me crazy as I try and keep up. :)