Monday, March 17, 2014

The Blessing of the Dreaded Synopsis

I finished the first draft of Cracked (the manuscript I'm currently shopping out) in late 2005/early 2006, and at the time it was the best thing I had written. Back then it was called Reflection. It began with a ten page prologue that happened when the main character was four years old and set the rest of the plot, which happens nine years later, into motion. The whole thing was from his POV, but the narration was self-indulgent; his vocabulary sounded more like mine, including during the prologue when he was four. Also at one point, he referred to porridge as "the watery concoction" because Heaven forbid I use the word "porridge" twice in one paragraph.

But I didn't see any of that as a problem then.

My problem was the synopsis. I couldn't write one to save my life. At least not a decent one. I wrote one before heading to Chautauqua that summer because I had to send one to my critique-r, but it was mediocre at best, and I knew it. Chautauqua was seriously amazing, but it did not, unfortunately, magically fix my problem with writing synopses: mainly that I suck at it.

Fast-forward a few years, and I returned to this story. I realized I needed to ditch the prologue and integrate the salient information into the actual story. As I did that, it quickly became clear to me that I'd been wrong completely delusional in 2006. What I thought was really good when I finished it was extremely...not. So I pulled it apart and put it back together again. It took But it was totally worth the effort. The beginning is more hook-y (I think) and the narration is more authentic. No more "watery concoction"; it's just porridge.

All-in-all, it's a much stronger piece now than it was in 2006. And as much as still I loathe the dreaded synopsis, if it hadn't slowed me down, I would have attempted to send out a much weaker manuscript and gathered an armful of form rejections without really understanding why.

So thanks, dreaded synopsis, for tripping me up. (And you can stop doing that any time now.)


  1. Oh, the dreaded synopsis--I know it well! I hope your next one is much more kind to you! = )

  2. I share your pain ... but I do like how writing it can help solidify the plot.

  3. HaHa- I'm commiserating with you as I am having some watery concoction, too.
    Writers hate writing synopses of their own work, because these are better done by others. But they are a useful tool, as you discovered. That you were able to see what needed fixing and got to it shows you are on top of it, not delusional in the least. This is rarer than you think. Brava.

  4. I hate writing a synopsis, but I found that when I do it before I draft the novel, I can see the plot pitfalls. Wish I had known this before I wrote my first novel. LOL.

  5. I've had that experience too. In fact, with my current ms I'm querying, I knew it was stronger, because it was so much easier to write the query/synopsis. I love how a synopsis or even a query can show you that your book has problems.
    Kudos to you on taking it apart and putting it back together again!