April 20th, 2011


In Which We Sum Up

Or, Infinite Monkey and the Dread Synopsis

The Dire Interwebz is chock full of advice on writing the Dread Synopsis and the equally dreaded Evil Query. Writers, agents, publishing professionals,and even our mums, it seems, have weighed in. Yet there still seems to be a general wailing and gnashing of teeth in the debate as to what to focus on. How to condense an entire manuscript to a 200-250 word blurb, or a 2-3 page synopsis?

I believe this is because, at the heart of any matter where business meets art, it's all subjective. Yes, Evil Query and Dread Synopsis are part of the business of writing, but it's still about art.  Art = subjectivity. So while Agent A gives advice based on their experience, you may get something different from Writer B and yet something else entirely from Editor C. As fun as a cage match might be to determine the winner, it may prove more productive to boil it down to the common denominators: conflict.

Conflict comes from the Protagonist and Antagonist coming at the same resource from opposite directions, and the consequences that ensue from the decisions made, actions taken. What I've found is that if I go back to the plot development I've already done and focus on my key scenes, is that my synopsis has already pretty much written itself.

I'll give you a moment to catch your breath.  Go on, I can wait.

Breathing again? Okay, here we go.

Way back In The Beginning, working on my Aristotle's Incline, I worked out a basic summary for each key scene or sequence at my major plot points. In character work I did a list of Wantings for Protag and Antag.  These are the two key ingredients of focus for the synopsis.

What I did first was make a new list of Wantings for FK and his Arch-Nemesis based on what I've learned about them since I started TWN.  I noted the conflicts of those wantings and possible resolutions so I could get a better idea of how to make things more difficult for poor FK. I also noted the fate of my major cast and some of the minor players within FK's sphere of influence.  Then I broke down the synopsis into manageable bits based on the key scenes.

For Act I I focused on the Opening, setting up (or flagging) where the points of conflict begin for the plot and each subplot. Then I moved to the Inciting Incident right in the second paragraph and its immediate consequences before turning my attention to Plot Point 1.

For the remainder of the week I'm going to focus on Acts II and III.  Also, as an added little ROW80 goal for bonus points, I'm going to work on revisions during the long weekend on a smaller manuscript I put away for awhile, just cuz I feel like I'm on a roll here, and I wrote it using the original TWN.

I have to say I'm doing so much better discpline-wise due to ROW80--meeting smaller goals and checking in twice a week with a bunch of friendly people who live it, work it, and breathe it (and occassionally bleed it) has done wonders for my productivity.  Don'tcha just LOVE stuff that actually works?

Next check-in, we continue our prevailing over the Dread Synopsis.