I've cut the grass, hoovered the carpets, hung out the washing and walked the dog but I can't put it off any longer. It's time to write the dreaded synopsis.
But I thought you'd already done that for your RNA industry appointments and NWS submission, I hear you say... and you're right, I did. The difference is, this time I have to fit it onto one page. ONE PAGE!
The problem is this: my novel has a dual timeline - alternating between one character and another one year earlier (both stories have equal weight). Readers will have sympathy for one more than the other... so how should the synopsis be set out?
My attempt for my one-to-ones at the RNA conference was three pages long (yes, really) and probably bored the pants off the editors I met with. One said, "I love your writing and idea... but not your synopsis."
It wasn't that she didn't like the story - she did (so much in fact that she asked to see the whole thing once finished). The problem was the way the synopsis was set out. I had written each character's story separately starting with the events that happened a year earlier. Unfortunately this was the story written from the POV of my less sympathetic character. My nicer character's story came next and and I hadn't made it clear that the chapters would be alternating between the two, with the nicer character's POV always coming first. Are you lost? Yes, so was the editor... so now that my novel is ready to be sent out into the big, wide world I have to make this synopsis work for me.
I've been making a list of agents I'd like to approach and most are requesting one pagers. Knowing I needed help with the dual timeframe thingy, I turned to my author friends on Facebook - posing the question of how best to structure my dual timeframe in just one page.
What lovely generous people. I have been inundated with advice and I shall quote the most useful here.
- Maintain two working synopsis (one for each story)
- Use lots of signposts so its clear whose story it is e.g. In 1937...
- Look at each chapter and use the key words
- Read Nicola Morgan's book, Write a Great Synopsis
- Read Emma Darwin's great blog post, Relax it's Only a Synopsis!
- Read Louise Rose-Innes' great blog post, How to Write a Synopsis
- Ask the lovely Kath McGurl who writes dual timeframe novels how she did hers (I did and she was wonderfully helpful)
I won't pretend that with all this advice, writing my one pager has been easy but I now have a synopsis that seems to be working for me. The only problem is it's one page and one paragraph long! Time to get out the pruners.