Friday, January 14, 2011

A Milestone



First, the obligatory "pimping my stuff" quip - The Midnight Diner, Volume 3 - which contains my story "Lonely Places" - is up on Amazon.  I read it at Horrorfind 12 this year, and people seemed to like it.  Anyway, grab a copy and if you do, let me know what you think.

Second - so today is the day.   A milestone.  It could be nothing but a footnote in an otherwise unremarkable journey, or it could be THE BIG THING.  Anyway, today I send in a pitch for a series I've been working on for the past few months, a series that began as merely an idea that has now grown huge, gotten under my skin and in my head, something I'd LOVE to see come about. 

Regardless of the publisher's response, it's a milestone because I finally learned the value of writing the dreaded synopsis.  That's right.  The "book report about my book."  That thing that authors everywhere groan and gnash their teeth about, and believe you me, there's been a whole ton of groaning and gnashing of teeth these past few weeks.

AND, I have to be totally honest.  I managed pretty well because I'd already turned in a bare-bones synopsis, (which - as usual - bears little resemblance to what I'm turning in today), and was asked "Let me see more.  No worries about page length."  

Golden words, those.  Don't worry about how long your synopsis is.  I just want the whole story, with all the details.  Very freeing, let me tell you.   BUT, I can't say I've mastered the art of "writing a winning one page synopsis of your book."  Just so we're clear on that. I probably will NEVER be able to that.

However, I've really discovered the value of writing a synopsis for myself.  Usually I just write and go, let the story flow on its own.  I DID admittedly do a rough outline for Hiram Grange, but I had a time schedule, and I didn't stick to it totally, regardless.  BUT, I think I've always been a little afraid of writing a synopsis or generating an outline, because I didn't want those to become more important than the story itself.

With this current exercise, I hammered out a nice compromise.  For both books I sat down and banged out the first three or four chapters, didn't bother with the synopsis at all.  THEN, after I'd drafted and revised said chapters, I wrote the synopsis. The interplay was kinda... cool.  Writing the first three chapters off the top of my head REALLY plugged me into the characters, which is always of paramount importance to me. THAT gave me a lot of fuel to write the synopsis for each.

Writing each synopsis then made me rethink certain parts of the plot I'd established in the first few chapters that weren't very believable or sustainable.  So a back and forth ensued between the chapters and synopsis.

Lo and behold, the end product: two novel snyopsis (es?), completely and meticulously planned out to the very END.   Given the go ahead, I could start writing tomorrow and be very confident of finishing a rough draft fairly quickly.  Said rough draft might not stick to the synopsis totally, but I've learned that's not the point.  Not for me, anyway.   

A synopsis and outline is just a safety net against the even more dreaded "writers block".  In the process of writing, if I feel the story pulling itself in a different, stronger direction, I'll go with it (depending on what my editor...if this person becomes my editor...thinks about it.  That would be a new experience, but I think a good one!).  

However, the synopsis gives me landmarks and endpoints, a road map to a decently thought-out destination.  If I find a "better way" or "short cut" along my journey, so be it.  But in this case...I at least know one way to get there.

So, yeah.  Me, a fan of the synopsis.  Woulda thunk it?  

BUT.

It's something I need to get used to.  I've really enjoyed working with an editor from a New York house.  Regardless of whether or not I get the green light for this, I'd like to do it some more, and for the big boys - a synopsis is a must.  And let's be honest, here.

It's the big boys I want to run with.  I might get stomped.  But who cares?  At least I made it there to get stomped in the first place.