lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So in trying yet again to hack my synopsis down to one page, I went browsing through my substantial collection of how-to links. By far the most useful in this case was Susan Dennard's How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis. It uses a property that might just be familiar for an example, and applies a standard set of questions to reduce it to a pithy and short synopsis.

The questions per se didn't work for me, as such questions never do, because one of the first ones is always "Who is the main character and what does she want?" And for HoM, the "what does she want" part pulls the capstone off the Pit of Backstory, which cannot be explained in one sentence in any way that doesn't sound moronic. And without the backstory, there's no story, so a substantial part of my available wordcount always gets eaten by the stuff that happens before the novel actually starts.

However, the link is still an excellent example in general, and of a particular principle in specific: You don't have to tell the truth in a synopsis. Oh, you need to be somewhere in general alignment with the truth; you don't, for example, want an explosion-packed action-adventure synopsis for a gentle romance novel. But it's entirely okay to fudge some details, even to the point of outright inaccuracy.

To wit:
Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland. When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

Note the bit about Ben being his friend and mentor -- which is not true at that point in the movie. It's been a while since I've watched the source, but if I recall correctly, they'd never even met before then; they certainly didn't have an established trust relationship. (And come to think of it, the princess doesn't ask anyone to deliver the plans; the robot's supposed to do that itself. Double inaccuracy!)

However, the way it's written works fine in the synopsis. It conveys a sequence of events that functions the same way as the actual events; it serves the same dramatic purpose, in a way that's close enough that anyone reading the synopsis is unlikely to be heartbroken when a particular detail turns out to be different. And because Ben does become Luke's friend and mentor in the course of the story, the technically-inaccurate description doesn't set the synopsis-reader up for disappointment when they get to the real thing. It's not a bait-and-switch.

And that's the key. As long as the synopsis sets the reader up to expect the kind of things the story provides, it's okay if some of the details don't match up. It is in fact perfectly okay to leave out major secondary-arc developments, and even some primary-arc, as long as you can stitch the other side of the hole together in a coherent manner. And if that means, for example, that the SC decides to embrace a plan instead of being gung-ho for it all along, well, as long as it doesn't cascade-change too much else, that's just fine.

(I noted, in my passionate fit of rewriting, that that last bit could be recast as She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver them to the mysterious hermit, Ben Kenobi. -- which would be both more accurate and shorter. However, the principle still stands: You can lie in a synopsis.)

So my key phrase for the next time I go synopsizing is his friend and mentor, Ben. Because that's not the story that's told, but nobody who bought the story based on that would be upset if what they got was Star Wars.

Synopsize that!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 05:00 pm
lizvogel: What is this work of which you speak? (Cat on briefcase.) (Work)
After much fiddling and crossing things out and rewriting bits wholesale and tweaking other bits for one or two words here and there, I have finally produced a one-page synopsis of Highway of Mirrors! Okay, it's one page with a few formatting tricks (high school essay writing finally has a real-world application!), but it does in fact actually fit onto a single piece of paper without doing anything insane to it. The e-version, sans formatting and with blank lines instead of indents for paragraphs, comes out closer to a page and a half, but the people who want hard copy will get a single page and if the people who want plain-text email take the trouble to convert it to hard copy just to complain if it's over a page, they're probably not people I want to work with anyway. :-P

In the process, I think it got better; while I had to slaughter vast tracts of emotional content, I'm not sure it was working out of context anyway. And I found and fixed a couple of ambiguities that could have been confusing for someone who hasn't read the novel.

And as of today, a copy is on a slow boat to the UK, along with three chapters and a query that's also getting progressively difficult to keep to one page, hopefully to wow that agent that prompted yet another fit of synopsolizationing.

Now, how many other agents have I had on hold pending a one-page synopsis? Let me check my notes....

Oh, *bleep*

Friday, August 8th, 2014 02:24 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Once, just once, I would like to dive back into querying and not get brick-walled by some piece of documentation I don't have.

A one-page synopsis. How the *bleep* am I supposed to distill a novel's worth of grey-shades backstory and complex characterization down to one page, and still have it make any sense?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
February's goals weren't word-count goals. There were only sort-of goals at all, which may have been some of the problem. So:

Finish re-writing Highway of Mirrors synopsis: Rough draft done. I'd meant to get it done done, but I somehow lost track of the fact that the month was nearly over.

Start querying again: Not done. Obviously, since I need the synopsis for that.

De-bracket Kitchen Sink, add sub-plot: Really not done. In my defense, my alpha-reader is not in one of her lightning-fast phases, but also, de-bracketing takes an astonishing amount of time and NaNo-style writing leaves a lot of brackets.

Not on the goal list, but a noteworthy accomplishment anyway: Entered Big Deal Conference contest. Which included writing a blurb as well as selecting an excerpt, so some work there.

Total score 0.5 out of 3, plus 1 extra credit; not an impressive tally. I don't feel all that bad about it, though; the work that I did get done (the synopsis) is good work, and I think I may have broken a mental barrier with it. Plus, I did just finish a novel last month; one is perhaps entitled to a bit of a rest, after that.

Only a bit, however. So, March's goals:
- revise Kitchen Sink (de-bracket, add sub-plot, other revisions as necessary)
- finish the bloody HoM synopsis
- query at least one agent

Also, do some writing, even if it's just fanfic. Because I am a happier person when I am making new words.

Goal Status

Friday, February 15th, 2013 01:22 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
So, I'm back from Capricon, and almost recovered. (Exhausted doesn't even begin to cover it.) On balance, it was fun, although both the consuite and the (lack of) writing track were disappointing. Gophered my legs off. Highlights were probably hanging out with people representing other cons, specifically the Cafe Capricon/MuseCon folks and the Minneapolis in 2073 bid.

Capricon was a goal-deadline, so let's see how I did:

- Finish rough draft of Kitchen Sink: done. It has an end. I tied up the dangling scenes that weren't related to the subplot-to-be-added, and made a start on de-bracketing.

- Revise "Off The Map": done. I had the interesting experience of going over all the workshop feedback and realizing almost all of it was wrong. Or rather, I don't think the things people were suggesting would have fixed the problem they were identifying. Putting in brand names, describing the kind of car, etc. was their way of asking to be grounded in the setting, but all those things would have come too late; I already had grounding-points half a page in, but by that point readers have made their own assumptions and will not be shifted. The grounding has to happen right at the beginning, before the reader has a chance to build up something else in their head. (Those suggestions would also have made it some other kind of story entirely, which is why I was kicking so hard.) I don't know if what I did instead will work (need fresh betas), but at least it's still the story I'm writing.

Status: Win!

Goal #3, which does not have a fixed deadline, is to get back on the querying horse. As happens every time I try this, I discovered I needed more prep work; the synopsis I thought was done... wasn't. Or, it is, but six bloody pages is just too long. I tried cutting it down, even got a fresh pair of eyes on it, but the result was thoroughly unsatisfactory and still too long. So I'm rewriting it again.

And out of desperation, I'm writing it backwards. I started with what I want the last line to be, then asked, "What has to happen for that to make sense?" and wrote that line. And so forth. It seems to be working; I'm at Chapter 8 of 15 (from back to front) and somewhere around the 500-word mark. (The same material was 1300 words in the previous version.) It may still run a bit over the two-page target when done, but a plot fueled by complex character motivations which are in turn fueled by deep backstory does not summarize easily.

Other than finishing the synopsis (tentative deadline = end of this month) and starting querying again, I do not currently have specific writing goals. This is a bad state for me to be in. I want to at least de-bracket Kitchen Sink before moving on; haven't decided if I should tackle the subplot as well, or rest it for a bit first. There's the Haley novel to be resurrected. Whither the writer?
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
August didn't really have a goal, other than to finish the fscking synopsis. Which is still not done. The outline, while a useful tool, wasn't getting the synopsizing anywhere, so instead I tried walking around the pond while telling the story to a voice recorder. This worked better; at least, it produced something vaguely coherent that didn't just reiterate the same phrasing as last time. Unfortunately, it was also way the hell too long, and missed a couple of key points on the why-this-story-exists front. But at least it gave me something to revise. So, been revising that. Which still ain't done, but progress is being made. Remembering that it's the "ethical plot" that matters is helping; an awful lot of the action stuff got cut last night. As it should be.

So, August didn't have a goal. I officially gave myself permission to take a break, quota-wise. (I meant to announce that here, but I took a break from that, too.) I'd intended to muck around with a Doctor Who story that's been waiting patiently for my brain to emerge from the depths of the novel, but that story's a creepy mood-piece sort-of-horror thing, and that just wasn't where I wanted to go right now. So, not much writing has happened this month, fanfic or otherwise.

I did, however, knock out one little original short story; not necessarily up to publishable snuff, but I like it. Also poked briefly at the post-novel novella. So, for the record:

short story: 1890
post-novel novella: 147
Total new words in August = 2037

For September, I'm continuing in take-a-break mode. Or rather, I'm continuing in don't-sweat-wordcounts mode, while doing my damnedest to finish the fscking synopsis, and throwing in some prompt fic, fanfic, and assorted messing-about to keep the writing muscles in condition. Current plan is to continue like this for October, then decide for certain if I'm going to do NaNo. And then after that, it's back to serious work on the 2nd novel.

Fun With Outlines

Monday, July 16th, 2012 08:55 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
I'm working on writing an after-the-fact outline for the novel. This was suggested to me as a way to get a grip on what needs to go in the synopsis: for each scene, note what happens and whether it pertains to the "relationship plot" or the "action plot". I've added "ethical plot" to the mix, since I figured out that that's really where the heart of the story lies. (And the action plot has subsets... I'm not good at this putting-in-a-box stuff.)

I'm combining this with another suggestion I picked up somewhere (possibly also Pat Wrede), of tagging each scene as to whether it advances Characterization, Plot, or Backstory. (I think the original breakdown was Character, Plot, and Setting, but that was for a fantasy novel in an invented world. And really, the backstory is the setting, for mine.) The point being that a scene must do at least one of these things, and it's better if it can do more than one.

I'm finding several things in the process, most of which are not exactly earth-shattering revelations:

- Apparently I never write a scene that doesn't have at least a little character development in it.

- I'm pretty good at multi-purpose scenes. Five chapters in, I've only found one short scene that does only one thing (characterization, of course). Many hit all three.

- The line between Character and Backstory gets really blurry, as does the line between Backstory and Plot. This is especially true if the A-plot is emotional rather than action-oriented: Does why the characters split up go under character (because it's who they are that made it a splitting-up-level issue) or backstory (because it's part of how they got to where the novel is) or plot (because getting them back together is the main plot goal, and that requires making the splitting-up reason no longer a deal-breaker)?

- Despite my fondness for what are sometimes called "jump cuts" but which I think of simply as scene breaks, I have at least two chapters that are one big uninterrupted scene. (This is not a problem; I think they work fine as is. I'm just surprised.) I'm having to tag sub-scenes for the outline.

I'm simultaneously doing a love list for the novel. It's getting self-indulgently long, but all the revision- and query-misery aside, there's still a lot in this novel that makes me really happy. And I keep getting sucked into the prose and forgetting to analyze. Yes, my own prose. That may sound arrogant, but darn it, I actually am pretty good at this stringing-words-together thing. It's good to be reminded of that, when I'm immersed in things like querying that I'm really not good at.


Saturday, May 12th, 2012 01:18 pm
lizvogel: Good / Bad (Good Bad)
Judging from the responses, my query is either so brilliant that everyone was struck dumb with awe, or so awful that no one could find the words to express it.

Despite that, I'm going ahead and posting the synopsis. For the uninitiated, a synopsis is like the query-blurb's big brother. It's longer (opinions vary on how much so), more detailed, and does spoil the ending. There are several uses for a synopsis; one of the more common is to show whether an author can sustain a story through to a satisfying ending. (Sample pages, when submitted, are always from the beginning of the book; many writers can make an interesting start, but drop the ball before they get to the end.)

So, with spoiler warnings for an as-yet-unpublished novel, I'd love to hear what you think of this. Does it sound interesting? What's your impression of the characters? Does the plot sound like it holds up all the way to the end? What bits make you say "Cool!" -- or "WTF?" In short, would you read this book? )

ETA: I would have thought this was self-evident, but evidently not: I'm looking for constructive criticism here. That does not have to be positive. However, if you don't like the genre and can't get past that to evaluate an individual instance of it, it's probably safe to assume that yours are not the comments I'm looking for.

lizvogel: lizvogel's fandoms.  The short list. (Fandom Epilepsy)
So last week I popped onto Amazon to add a CD to the wish list. I'd been wanting to relisten to this CD for days, and was quite surprised to discover that I did not in fact own it. (That explains why none of the tracks are in my WinAmp rotation, at least.)

While I was there, I glanced at the list, as one does, and noticed that the last three sets of The Sandbaggers were marked as "only 1 (or 2) left - order soon!" Now, I'm not at all sure that that's not a marketing gimmick on Amazon's part... but I also know that the last time I believed the "more coming soon" addendum, more never came. And there's few things worse for a completist-minded fan than having half a series....

So yeah, I bought 'em.

This is generating a post because I promised myself these discs as my reward for sending a certain number of queries. I have not sent anything like that many queries; indeed, the querying process is still bogged down in trying to create a version I'm actually happy with. Which is where the rationalization generator comes in. So one set is my reward for getting my synopsis done (at least for values of done that involve a beginning, an end, and all the bits in between), and done in time for the local writers conference this past weekend. Another set can be my reward for going to said conference. (One would think that going to a writers conference would be its own reward; one would be wrong. But that's another post.)

I'm not sure what the third set is for. Perhaps it could be a reward for finishing revisions on chapter 9b-soon-to-be-10? Mind you, I'd have to finish 'em first. But that's something I might be able to accomplish by the time the box arrives, if the shipping isn't too expeditious. Other suggestions are welcome in comments.

If only I could do queries like I can do rationalizations, I'd have an agent by now.

I also bought the CD while I was at it. Because, at that point, why not?




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