Sunday, 22 November 2009

Torture for Writers Part II

The thing of delight and enchantment that is your synopsis should be written after you have finished and polished your novel to the point where it will glitter in the slush pile like the Koh-i-Nor in gravel. There are three reasons for this:

First, you're hoping an agent will demand to see the rest on the strength of your initial submission so why start your relationship by disappointing them? (Especially when there's plenty of time to do that later on.)

Secondly, your novel is bound to change and evolve in the process of writing it, but should by some incredible chance you be taken on on the strength of the sample chapters and synopsis you're stuck with that story. It'll be like writing the rest in a straitjacket.

Thirdly, you (and they) need to know you have the stamina and discipline to write a whole novel. Unless you're a celebrity, of course, in which case the publishing pixies will be called out to assist your stumbling process. But that's another story.

So, you've written the novel. You are now going to write out the plot of your novel. This stage has three rules:

1 - It must be done from memory with NO consulting the mighty tome.
2 - Each sentence you write must start on a new line.
3 - Each sentence must start with the words 'And then...'

Following the three rules forces you to stick to the plot. You can't divert yourself into all the intricacies of the background or the setting because the sentences have to start with 'And then...' And because it's done by memory, and it's impossible for even the author to hold every twist and turn in their heads, you will concentrate on the more important plot points. And then...

And then, when you've done all that hard work, pick up a highlighter and mark out those key scenes which are the most important to the story. Mr Darcy's proposal to Elizabeth Bennett would be one, the Netherfield ball wouldn't. Frodo accepting the ring quest is, Shelob isn't, nor is Galadriel. It's tough playing Sophie's Choice with scenes but it has to be done.

And then, when you've done all that, your plot should be clearly defined. This, along with the work on theme and character, will be the basis for writing your synopsis into a wonderful piece of selling prose...tomorrow.

No comments: