Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Synopsis Q&A and Summing Up...

Gosh, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one that finds these things so all fired difficult!!! The hits on this blog have gone through the ceiling the last few days…

So, I’m going to go through some of the interesting points you guys have brought up in the comments and then try and sum up what we’ve talked about so far… Unless you come up with a billion more questions for me…

And our Poll under the ‘Watching Paint Dry’ post is currently neck and neck for Editing and The Blank Page – so this is your last chance to vote before I change subjects and then I’ll add another poll ‘cos I’ve thought up loads of things! If it works for you guys it works for me!

So, Q&A first:

I'm particularly interested in how to balance internal and external plot when writing a 2 page synopsis for the Tender line.

This is no easy feat and a problem that a lot of people, pubbed and unpubbed, have had since the Tender/Romance line changed and merged with Silhouette Romance. It also in the end helped with the demise of the old Temptation line I believe (which is now Modern Extra). Readers want a deeply satisfying read for their money. They want that rollercoaster ride. And within the short format of a Romance or a Modern Extra (Though Modx is slightly longer) – that’s not always easy to do. Hence the emphasis on the internal rather than the external which needs to carry through to your synopsis…

Think of the external as the stage setting for a play, as we’ve discussed, and what’s going on centre stage with the characters as the internal. Or if you like think of the external as the driving force behind the story. It’s what moves it on, but not what we’re watching… In Titanic with Leonardo De Caprio and Kate Winslet, the sinking ship was the external, a pretty flipping large external it has to be said but external nevertheless, and the love affair and character development of the two leads was the internal, the heart of the story. Internal emotional conflicts would then be Kate wanting to;

a) Please her mother hence marry secondary character of evil fiance or

b) Take the steps towards being an independent woman by choosing to love who she wants to love and hence car scene with Leo…

Make sense?

It was the internal that kept us riveted, otherwise we had two hours of a big hunk of metal sinking… Historically correct, but a documentary without that story at the front of it, without those characters at centre stage. When you think of that film do you think about the ship sinking or that timeless moment when the hand appeared on a steamed up window??? It’s that human element, that growth of the characters, that we’re interested in with these lines.
So when we write our story and our synopsis that’s what we want to convey. Which is why I bullet point them under those headers and save space on the explaining of things like setting, who the characters are and what they do for a living and the kind of hooks I’d see appealing to the line. So in answer to:

Do you keep those paragraph headings you have in your template (ie characters, setting, conflicts etc) or delete them and just start a new paragraph for each point?

Yes. I do keep them. But that’s just me, as I’ve said every author has their own method. In fact, I have a bit of a challenge for a few friends at the end of this blog to demonstrate that…
I find I can keep it brief and to the point that way and focus the Editor’s attention on the scenes I feel best show how my characters change and the problems they face as the story develops…

And I always get reactions to issues the syno has, that don't exist in the book…

This is a case of what I lovingly call ‘The Psychic Reader’ and what we need to do is remove the margin of error in interpretation. We are so close to our story and know what we meant to say, that we just don’t get it when someone else doesn’t read it the same way. Remember no two people think the same way, not exactly the same anyways. So sometimes I’m stunned when my synopsis/pitch is interpreted differently from what was in my mind…
Again, this is where I found this template worked for me. I had to teach myself to focus less on the little things, like a one-liner I love for instance – and more on what they want to see; which comes down to the emotional journey – again and again and again… ‘Just keep the emotion up’ is a favorite line and I always try to keep that forefront of my mind. Maybe I should write it on a post it and stick it to my screen??
The Psychic Reader will appear quite a bit in my blogs on writing… you wait and see…

I read your next entry (your synop) and do you always structure them that way with setting ,etc.? Also, I noticed you didn't put in the ending. Is that something you don't usually do either? I've always heard editors say that they need to know how it ends, and not to end the synop on a hook.

As I’ve said above, yes I do. Even with a pitch as it happens – Though I do tend to dress those up these days… ;) With the setting it’s important I feel, ‘cos I need them to know that it fits into what they want from me with a particular book – If a line wants a ‘cosmopolitan feel’ then there’s not much point in me setting it in a teeny village somewhere… And if its an office story I want to show a range of business settings… The key is to remember that setting is another backdrop, the less places you have them then the tighter you can keep the focus on the emotional/internal story. Unless of course you’re doing a story that runs from exotic location to exotic location or has ‘cosmopolitan characters’ in a teeny village – It’s all in the delivery after all… It really depends on the line. And how tight you can keep the focus on the main internals…

For me, I don’t think I’ve ever written a book that didn’t run the whole way through with three or four settings excluding the base city. First book was – village, park, house… Second – House, house, village, beach – Third – office, house, house, party in hotel… The less the better for me it would seem. But again, that’s what works for me. It’s only 55 – 60k we’ve got here gang after all and the focus has to be on the.... altogether now!

And as to the ending… We’ve been focusing on the Romance and the Modern Extra Lines as these are both lines I write for. They’re category romance, and they’re all known for having a HEA – A happy ending. It’s what is expected by the reader. So I don’t always put the ending in. In fact, I don’t think I ever have. If you know the editor you’re pitching to and they’ve been fairly vocal about what they want then stick to what they say. But Richmond Editors tend to be quite invisible to new writers, unless you directly ask them directly on the eharlequin boards (they're busy clearing up after the likes of me after all!) and they’re a clever bunch… If they can see from your synopsis that you’ve done your research and you’re clued into what they want then the way I've always looked at it is they’re going to be pretty surprised if the Heroine dies at the end!

It’s all about what works for you and the line you pitch at. A story that has a heavier, more twisted plot, or a mystery interwoven through it will most likely require that you spell it out…Like I’ve said – Do your research gang!

Just out of curiosity would this story have fit the new Romance line? I'm guessing that most of the recent stories in the present Tender line would, but I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Yes, with The Wedding Surprise I believe it would. But I would probably have been asked to go into even more depth with their conflicts. They're there. And the story works. But I do feel with my last two that I’ve learnt how to make the most of every moment, particularly with Rescued: Mother To Be which is due for release next April! If you don’t learn as you go along then you’re in trouble, right? If I had to look back at my titles there would be two that I definitely think would have struggled and needed a lot more work to make it through… I’ll let those of you that know my work decide which ones… ;)

And you'll see, if you've done your research, that they have been very clever about filtering the type of stories they want through into the Silhouette Romance line from September as the change over happens… There are definite similarities!!! The very fact that there’s such a wealth of talent from both lines making up the new line-up is testimony to that fact! Is there that big a difference? Well, you the reader will best judge that as time goes on. The writers that fitted the new criteria, whose ‘voice’ best suited where the line is headed, are all still there. Will their writing change so drastically that you see a real difference? You guys tell me… I’d love to hear what you all think… I think it’s very exciting myself! And it has a wealth of opportunity for well told stories and new ways of telling the stories we’ve all loved for years…

And after reading the synopsis and extract I just had to dash to Amazon UK and buy a copy!

AHA!
Thank you! Then, you see, if you were an Editor my synopsis and partial would have done their job!!! Cos you have just requested the Full… Gotta love it when a plan comes together…

So there you go gang. That’s all my experience with synopsis writing shared with you…
Remember the most important thing is to KNOW YOUR MARKET – do your research, make sure you are giving yourself the best possible opportunity to sell! There’s no point in trying to sell meat if you know the company you’re selling to markets vegetarian meals… no point in trying to persuade a company that markets beer that your milk drink will do well for them… And the whole point of marketing your product to a company that can sell that product well worldwide and to it's best advantage is that the benefits aren't just for them...

Have a look at the lines the company currently markets and keep an ear to the ground for future plans and then hit them with the fact that you have exactly what they’re looking for!!! If you lay it out succinctly and hitting the key themes they want then, as I’ve said, the only thing you need to worry about is your writing…

And one final tip would be DON’T TIE YOURSELF UP IN KNOTS… It’s an ulcer waiting to happen. Yes do research, yes sell the key themes to them that they want, yes try and hit all of that in your synopsis, yes do the best job you can with your writing. But once you find a method of layout and a way of doing a synopsis that works for you… Calm down. Take deep breaths. Don’t sweat it cos someone else did it differently…

And on that note I’ve decided to see if we can get some of my Author friends to lay their reputation on the line by showing you what works for them! You’ll see that even once published… we still do what works for us… If you find similarities we could maybe discuss that too… And if they do anything great that I haven’t discovered yet then I’ll be stealing it right along with you… I can add more to my bullets if I want to. Cos its mine… bwahahahaha!!!

So, I’m Tagging…

Natasha Oakley – English writer for the Romance line
Ally Blake – Aussie writer for the Romance line
Nicola Marsh – Aussie writer for Romance and Modern Extra

And all new writers since 2000 as you'll know if you've done your research... And all very good friends of mine (though possibly not after this)...Lets see who we can get to come play shall we?????

Just on a side note I've done a complete website over-haul - feel free to visit and let me know what you think! I've added more new authors on the links page, new excerpts from my latest two sales and you can even enter the competition if you'd like to...

6 comments:

suefromdevon said...

Thanks for doing this, Trish. It's really helpful!

Sue Child

allyblake said...

I have an A4 peice of paper above my laptop which reads:

STRONG INTERNAL EMOTIONAL CONFLICT

As I heard that sentence so many times from my previous ed I thought it might be kinda important!

I've taken up the challenge, Trish, and have talked about my experience 'outlining' on my blog!

http://allyblake.blogspot.com

See ya there!

Nicola Marsh said...

Okay, I'll take up the tag and run with it too but won't be for a few days.
Let me get rid of this flu bug first!
Stay tuned...

Natasha said...

Oh bother! I'll play .... just got to do the daily word count first. In case my editor is looking you understand ... *g*

Natasha said...

'tis done!
http://www.natashaoakley.blogspot.com

Nicola Marsh said...

Mine's done too!

http://www.nicolamarsh.blogspot.com