Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Synopsis hell

Just how do you squash the setting, characters and plot of an entire, 68,000-word novel into 500 words?

Ask any writer and the chances are they'll tell you writing a synopsis is the single most difficult part of their job. I'm no exception, and tend to sweat blood whenever I have to summarise one of my works. Last time was bad enough, but that was for Necessity's Door which is only around 16,000 words long. This time, it's worse. Much, much worse.

I'm trying, I really am. I bashed away at the keyboard for a couple of hours this morning, stopped, hit the word count button, and found I'd done over 1,000 words. Without even trying. I hacked out as much as I could, stopped, checked again, and found it had crept down to about 800. I kicked the desk, hacked out a bit more, and got it down to 750.

Then I got really cross, and started chipping away at stuff I thought was necessary to explain the plot. After another twenty minutes of that I'd reduced the wretched thing to 588 words, and there I have stuck. I've read and re-read; I've fiddled and re-fiddled; but there's nothing else to come out - not if I want the overall piece to make the slightest bit of sense.

So, 588 it is. D'you think there's any chance that the publishers are too busy to count? :D


Bill Kirton said...

Sounds close enough to me, Fiona. But what's interesting is that you could actually keep on chopping stuff out and still see that it worked. I agree that synopses are murder, but I'm always pleasantly surprised at how effective deleting stuff is. It's good writing practice.

Fiona Glass said...

Luckily in this particular case the publisher didn't need to know every last twist and turn - otherwise I'd have been closer to 5,000 than 500! But yes, I can usually manage to chop a fair bit out of either fiction or a synopsis and still have it make sense...