Thursday, December 4, 2014

Synopses: Begotten, not (re)Made

This actually exemplifies for me *exactly* why synopsis-writing is frustrating. Not only is there a very wide range of quantity requested ("three to five paragraphs" or "one page" or "three pages" and so on), but there are a number of agents I've queried who in fact specify that all characters *must* be mentioned. I know this is a sure way to clunk-ifying a synopsis. And mine is clunked, because I've seen more guidelines instructing the inclusion of characters than not. Like a lot of neurotic pre-published authors - I obey like a spanked puppy.

Then there is the reworking of the clunker for almost every single query, because of all those varying particulars in submission guidelines. It's a bit like the Biblical genealogies; "who really reads The Begats?" But The Begats are canon.

Okay, here at the ranch we're not supposed to post autoerotically about querying hell, but ... these three posts at BookEnds are not just relevant to my authorial audience, but a perfect example to non-writers of what those of us seeking publication have to deal with, and an interesting point on the continuum of madness that is the path to success.

Readers here know I'm not precious about my darlings, and kill 'em off with dispassion - even with el├ín, often.  It feels good to improve my product, to be honest.

It feels like hell on a stick with cheese to work and rework and deploy and redeploy the tools to shill said product, just to get a professional to say "I'm willing to try selling this."  It's exhausting, and as often as you find advice on how to write The Perfect Synopsis, you find the submission guideline for which TPS is defined by entirely different terms.

Truth be told, I like the three posts above.  BookEnds' blog is a good one, and advice from those professionals you respect is worthwhile by extension of that respect.

The real point is that there is no such thing as TPS.  There is no industry standard, and there's no one single synopsis any author will ever be able to use for every single query.  Just as there is no single query.

This is both the joy and the head-desking frustration of publishing.  For all I complained on that third post at BookEnds:  for me, ultimately, this is just the minor pain that will make the pleasures stand out as they transform into success.  It's the gauntlet, the dues to pay.  And I have the luxury of choosing when to pay.

At post-ten-p.m. on a Thursday night:  I don't have to come up with a toll right now.  I can rest, get through the gate, and make better progress tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Boy, this was right on time. I've been head desking ad nauseum the past few weeks on a synopsis for the latest WIP. My head has actually worn a spot on my desk, it's been on it so much. I've found all sorts of interesting thing on the floor while there, and noticed I need to dust mop.


Anyway, I haven't clicked over to read the Book Ends stuff yet. I'm almost afraid to! Will it be that bad, she asks herself. Probably.

DLM said...

Hello, Donna! Thank you for stopping in and for the comment. :)

It's counterproductive to complain, I know, but it's also so hard not to shake your head (or whack it on the nearest desk ...) when you see JUST how varied professional advice can be. People act like there is an industry standard, and we want to *believe* there is one so we can settle down on all the reworking. But reworking is just part of the work. Sigh indeed!

DLM said...

Oh, and the BookEnds posts are NOT BAD at all. They just came right at a time when I've had to rework my own synopsis time and again, and not long after I saw one agency specifically state that all characters MUST be named. So, yeah.

Colin Smith said...

Having read agents' blogs for a few years now (Janet's being chief among them), I've come to the conclusion that there are no rules, and nothing is set-in-stone when it comes to agent submissions. The goal of queries, synopses, pitch contests, etc. is to get your manuscript in front of an agent. Manuscript Wish Lists, query guidelines, and synopsis helps are all tools to that end, but they are only tools. In the end, what matters is whether you've enticed the agent to request.

Given I've not had success getting an agent yet, I feel unqualified to offer advice. However, from all I've read on the subject, my "take-away" on synopses is this: outline your novel as briefly as possible, making sure you include only those details and plot points that make the story coherent and would pique the interest of the agent you're querying. E.g., if the agent is looking for vampires, don't neglect to mention your MC is a vampire. Seems obvious, but I know what can happen when you panic-edit. :)

We can only hope QOTKU gets her way one day and synopses are banished forever. Until then, all the best with the synopsis! :)