Turns out writing the novel was the easy part. Trying to write a synopsis is much harder! But the conventions of the publishing world require this as a necessity. Agents and publishers, it would seem, rarely have time even to breathe these days, let alone read unsolicited manuscripts. So the condensed, yet enticing, whilst also extremely informative, version is essential to get their attention.
Synopses (lovely word) are not like book blurbs. Apparently, you have to include the entire plot – denouement and all – in your synopsis. Something you would never want to do on the jacket of your paperback. Encouraging a publisher to read your completed book is an entirely different feat from encouraging a reader to do so.
I mean, I might persuade you to purchase my novel by a few short sentences, such as: Who is the girl in the red coat? Why has she disappeared? And how is she the connection between a murdered singing star, a corrupt police officer and an international conspiracy? Two DI’s – Gavin Pearce and Katriona McShannon – collaborate in a case based on a true event. A case which threatens to spiral out of control and end both their careers, if not their lives.
A publisher, however, wants to know the exact details of what happens in, sometimes, not many more words. The latest website I visited requested only 250! How on earth am I going to reduce two and a half years writing into so few words and not miss out on essential plot twists and turns?
Do I choose to overlook some of the ‘lesser characters? Like Tom, my forensic scientist, with his brilliant and unpredictable mind, and his cheerfully spontaneous approach to life – a bit like a male version of Abby. (Any NCIS fans out there?) Or Elayne, Katriona’s beautiful partner, a talented and innovative architect, whose turbulent childhood has gained her exquisite insights into understanding humanity – insights which inform her much-sought-after houses. Or the quiet and dependable Charlie, Gavin’s right-hand man, who is always unperturbed by even the most shocking discoveries the two officers uncover.
Not to mention the panoramic scenes set on the mysterious Isle of Skye with its stunning scenery and magical energy, which has a profound effect on everyone who visits, and is now the home of the enigmatic Katriona. Or the emotional – as well as physical – journey that Helen, my young singer, undertakes as she tries to make sense of a world that has dramatically fallen apart, leaving her in a complete state of panic and with no-one to turn to for help.
You see my dilemma. As a person who loves words – and details, descriptions and dialogue – trimming down a huge story into a nutshell that still includes a deliberately complicated plot in all its convolutions, feels like an impossible task.
The trick, I suppose, is see it rather as a challenge – to take the Star Trek approach. What is it Picard says? Let’s work the problem. Good advice. Well, that may be my challenge for this week. Please drop in again to see how it went!