Saturday, July 12, 2008

Synopsis nightmare

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I love it the way my agent blithely says: Send me a synopsis, will you? - as if I can churn one out in ten minutes. I'd rather write a 5,000 word chapter than one synopsis for a single book, and I'd make a better job of it, too.

And this one is for a whole trilogy.
We are talking summarizing half a million words down into something that makes sense and sounds interesting. For a fantasy. Right. Aaaaargh!

So I sacrificed a whole day of novel writing to write a synopsis instead...and I still think it sounds like the lunatic ravings of someone on hallucinogens. I had actually done this before, a year and a half ago, but at the time the books were unwritten and the trilogy was actually going to be a quartet, so it needed changing drastically now that it is only 3 books and one and a half of them have already been written.

Imagine an arid, ancient land where it no longer rains without magical intervention.

Such is the Quartern, where rainlords sense and move water and cloudmasters make and break clouds to bring rain. Their abilities bring them unlimited wealth and power, as well as a burdensome responsibility.

When potential new cloudmasters are murdered and the land is left short of water, a boy with the ability to move clouds becomes a pawn in a power struggle that leads to war, and two squabbling rainlords are forced to marry in order to produce more cloudmasters. In the meantime, in a poverty-stricken Quartern city, a girl able to depict the future on the surface of water is trapped in a painted destiny, not knowing that her skills will one day be crucial to the survival of the land.

The three books follow the story of these four characters in a time of drought and war, when men and women governed by greed seek to rule, and honour means risking all to stop them.

If only I could stop there.

14 comments:

phillberrie said...

Glenda,

I understand your pain, but surely no one actually expects the synopsis to fully represent the completed story if it hasn't been written yet?

Phill.

hrugaar said...

Glenda, for a little light relief ... open the text of your novel (or a chapter of it) in MS Word and use the Autosummary command from the menu. Knock the percentage right down low. What it's meant to do is produce a condensed summary (a précis) of the text. What it actually does is give you a jolly good laugh at the absurdity of its efforts, and reassure you that you're not so bad at making a synopsis yourself after all. :)

Jo Kasper said...

I just can't wait to read it... Hurry up...hurry up! (imagine this last bit being said in the voice of an impatient blackboard.

glenda larke said...

Ah, Phill, a synopsis is one of the most universally disregarded items in the whole publishing world - at least by authors like me. I am sure there are authors who know every chapter and what is in each before they ever begin. Not me.

Before I reach the end, I have thought of much better ideas than I had at the beginning.

However, I am sure it serves a purpose for editors - if they ever wade though one to the end of one; it shows that the writer does have direction and know where they are going. In other words that they have given some thought to the plot and it doesn't sound too awful. I hope.

Hrugaar, what do I do about the unwritten part?

Jo said...

We had to make a prècis of previously written works at school. The main thing being "previously written" I agree with phil - how can you possibly make a synopsis of something which isn't yet written. I guess what we really mean is an outline. I suppose it is important to a publisher to know what they are getting, but why they can't wait til they get it?

What, by the way, does an impatient blackboard sound like?

Satima Flavell said...

That's a jolly good synopsis, Glenda, and I want to read the books already.

I agree, Hrugaar: Word does such a bad job of summarising text it makes me feel a whole lot better about my own feeble efforts!

glenda larke said...

Ah then, Satima I have done something right.

And Jo K. - I shall have dreams about demented blackboards tonight...

Jo said...

Don't dream about demented blackboards Glenda, write a story about them.

I too would buy from the synopsis, but then I would buy your books anyway.

hrugaar said...

Glenda, in answer to your question, I expect the MS Word Autosummary will complete the unwritten parts for you in its précis ... though with about the same degree of accuracy that MS products attempt to anticipate and pre-empt anything else that you want to do. LOL. :D

But if it was a serious question, then ... um ... I suppose what I would do is follow on from the extract that you've included here by detailing the main sequence of events as written in the first book, and then giving very quick sketch* outlines for the projected storylines in the other two ... just to give a simple overview of where you're heading ... those major spoilers that the public don't need to know, but would-be editors do if they're wanting to sell the idea to their hard-headed (wooden-headed?) Board of Directors.

But I'm sure you know all of that already (witness your answer to Phill). Just as you know that all of us would buy the idea simply from the extract you've given here (especially with your name attached to it!).

* as in a 'matchstick man' sketch, don't worry about the anatomically correct detail of the bones, let alone putting any muscle or flesh on them.

Jo Kasper said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ks797n8B9g&NR=1

The link above shows the demented blackboard for those who did not have an Australian childhood in the 1970's.

glenda larke said...

I had an Australian childhood, but - alas - there was no Mr Squiggle back then. In fact there was no TV back then, either.

Told you I was ancient...

Jo said...

Well the blackboard was impatient but not really demented. Clever drawings though.

gynie said...

hold on ! Don't hurry ! i didn't even finished your first trilogy !!
It's going to take me a whole life to read you !!

Glenda Larke the writing woman faster than her shadow !!

glenda larke said...

Lol, Gynie!

By the way, I can't say how much I admire you for deciding to read the rest of the trilogy in English. I think reading fantasy in another language must be really tough.