Monday, October 6, 2014

Help! Synopsis!

 Elizabeth S. Brinton in 2002.

There is no word in the English language I dislike more than the word synopsis. Tasked with writing one for my current novel, I started the way I begin most intimidating chores, I asked Google. Of course, this is not the first time, nor, hopefully, will it be the last, where I agonize over this dreaded concept. At first I looked for agents who did not require one. However, once gave myself a severe talking to, I proceeded to the reference shelf, to Google, to any help section within my grasp and got a refresher course. There is no simple solution.

There are a ton of books on the market about how to get published, how to write a query letter, how to write a synopsis, and how to get an agent. I believe I have read most of them. Usually, I am overwhelmed, in a near state of panic, and wonder if I can get through the process with any self- esteem left intact. Because I am an author, I prefer to live in a fantasy world. Would my flimsy little bubble burst right before my eyes? Not this time. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that if the hard work of figuring out what story you plan to tell is done in the early stages, these finishing stages are far less intimidating.

 To my everlasting surprise, I could hardly write fast enough. It just came flying out. As I had worked the plot-line, scene by scene, and had a big chart up on the wall of my old study, I think the trick may be in the narrative itself. Do not let any submission guideline intimidate you. We may not even know how these things come about, but for whatever reason it seems much easier this time. One tip suggested that a writer should follow the narrative arc. That was the spark that enabled me to pick up my pen. Yes, I wrote it longhand. Scribbled would be a better word.

Literary agents have to be admired. They stay in business. They maintain the same address. Instead of whining about how impersonal the process seems, why wouldn't I look at it as something I plan to make happen. All the guidelines are different. Some want a query only; others prefer a few pages of the novel which is a great thing, in my humble opinion. Most require a synopsis, and who can blame them? Well then, a synopsis I will deliver. I may revise it a hundred times; I may whine and wail, but I can promise one thing. I will not give up.

My search revealed another nugget of good news. I'll be honest. I fear rejection. I fear a loss of confidence and a total tail-spin. Because of the volume of submissions, making one's chances even more scant, a new process has evolved. They don't seem to bother with rejection letters anymore. Instead of trying to tell you why they are turning you down,  the prevailing winds are blowing in the direction of, “we will contact you if we are interested.” So the solution is to keep on doing whatever it is you do. Start a new project, or paint your laundry room, or knit a hat, or whatever it takes, but just keep going. Over the years, I have learned one thing about myself. I happen to like writing. I don't seem to tire of it. How does the saying go? Make art. While others try to figure out if they like it or not, whether they will buy it or not, make more art. Jazz musicians refer to playing in the shadows. Here is a piece of advice I read on Twitter. It came from Julian Lennon. He wrote, “That time you think you just wasted, wasn't wasted.”


Jennifer Rova said...

Excellent advice. Maybe you should write an advice column because you have such good insight. Good luck with your novel!

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

Thank you. I would love to write an advice column. Ann Landers had 250 housecoats. I don't even think they make them anymore. How would a person feel confident dispensing advice wearing a housecoat? That fact always intrigued me.