she’s a girl with glasses

it’s just a passing phase
July 21, 2010, 3:14 pm
Filed under: blog, writing | Tags: , , ,

I have been sitting here, attempting to write a synopsis of my novel for an hour. An hour, and I have two lines, half a sentence, and no period. I can’t even clearly map it out, this sentence, even as I know my novel backwards and forwards.

This is daunting. And now, this is me attempting to wax poetic while at the same time avoiding the actual task at hand.

In truth, the issue is very simple: stylistically, I am a concise writer, rather efficient with my use of words… in a long format. I structure my fiction in bursts, in clusters, but these bursts and clusters are joined together, spread over pages and formed into a cloud of the same. However, in speech, I am a rambler. I use the word like as a form of pause more often than I’d like to admit. Anyone who has entered a conversation with me knows I have trouble shutting up. I babble, I get sidetracked, I get wound up. I talk with my hands a lot; I’ve been known to gesture right into drinks and people’s faces. I talk at hyper-speed and interrupt often. I have baffled native-English speakers.

It seems strange that my writing style is so the opposite, but, in my brain, I’m so much clearer in my words and intentions than ever translated into the air. I’m not sure if I have some tunnel from my brain to my mouth that has the unique ability to take perfectly formed and logical thoughts and turn them into Valley Girl speak from the mid-80s whatever the subject matter. I’m much more intelligent than I sound when I speak. I don’t doubt that I’ve convinced more than one person of the opposite in my lifetime.

It doesn’t help that I have a faint lisp.

So this combined results in a clash of expression. Where I have a concise writing style, giving a synopsis (in this case for a query letter) is more conversational, like sitting a friend down to tell them about your writing. As we’ve noted: my skills are not in conversation. Several friends have read the NOD ™, but those who haven’t, when they ask the dreaded what’s it about? are treated to ten minutes of “um” and “like” and “well, not really but..” until I throw up my hands and say “YOU SHOULD READ IT, IT’S NOT AS BAD AS I MAKE IT SOUND.”

Ringing endorsement, that is.

Without offering to send every person who stumbles on this blog a copy of my manuscript (premature career death, anyone?), any clue how to write up a compelling synopsis without breaking into the written equivilant of flailing arms and a Valley Girl voice lisping: “No, really, it’s better than that! Please come back!”

Things are dire around here when I’m contemplating baking, like, cupcakes. Ya know?


3 Comments so far
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Actually yes, I believe I can help you. Writing a query letter hung me up too, until I sat down and banged out a workable method. This is kind of a long description, so bear with me.

1. Write down what happens in your first chapter, badly.

And I mean it. Just say what happens. Here’s an example of what happens in my first chapter:

Elizabeth is standing there with her binoculars. She is looking at some boys. They are in her guest house.

Yup, all done. Pat yourself on the back.

Now sit down with your awful first chapter synopsis, and your first chapter, and start asking questions. “WHY is she looking at the boys.”

You can, if you like, go through the entire book this way, but I like doing one chapter at a time.

Now your synopsis should read something like this:

Elizabeth is standing there with her binoculars. She is looking at some boys. They are in her guest house. She is curious about them because her mother is trying to keep their presence a secret.

Now we add layers to this pitch. Make a note to yourself that the secret is probably going to be a good hook. Just write it down as an observation. Make a note about your main character’s personality. What does she have to say?

#@!! people moving into my mom’s guesthouse. I’ll show them!

“Meanie weanie mommmy. Why won’t she tell me what’s going on?”

etc. etc.

Write down the synopsis from your character’s voice.

You can even struggle to write it in your own voice, if you like. I’ll watch.

Finally you’re going to combine all these things and strap it to your Good Author Writing Skillzz. You know, the ones you left behind in your novel?

Let’s recap what we’re combing:

The Badly Written Synopsis
The List of Answered Questions
The Potential Sales-Pitch
The Character’s Voice
Your Voice (optional)
Your Good Writing Skills

Combine them all and you should get something like this:

Anyone would be curious about a handful of strangers moving in unannounced. Elizabeth Brooke certainly is, especially when her mother does nothing to stop the family making themselves comfortable in their guesthouse.

Since mom’s usual response to trespassers involved a 20-gauge shotgun and rock salt, Elizabeth is sure mom invited them herself. What she isn’t sure about is why Mom wants to keep it a secret.

Do this for every chapter, and then cut out anything unnecessary.

Ta-da! A query letter! ^^ Be sure to use third person present tense!

Comment by amkuska

I know what you mean…I can write about some things for hours and pages, but seemingly simple things, like a synopsis, are so incredibly hard. I don’t know what it is…just differences in what we can easily write about I guess!

Comment by Sadako

[…] Posted on July 25, 2010 by amkuska I just spent twenty minutes writing a huge comment to this person here trying to help her sort her query letter. Since it’s useful information, and I did promise […]

Pingback by Query Letters Made Difficult | A.M. Kuska's Blog

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