Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions


Novels, Novels, Novels

May 23, 2009 by Richard Wright in Journal, Writing

One thing I loathe writing, to the point of psychopathy, is the book synopsis. Theoretically, this is the most powerful weapon in a writer’s arsenal, a core part of the pitch. It tells the story of the plot, in sufficient detail from start to finish that the publisher knows what the book’s about, including key twists and the finale. Usually, it’s a page or two long, but if it excites the editor reading it, you’re halfway to a sale (the other half, of course, is having a decent novel to start with).

And bloody hell, they’re hard. Distilling the novel to such trivial brevity is a nightmare. What do you keep? What do you throw away? How do you describe it in such a way that there’s still some weight to it, some power? I’m rubbish at them, although I’ve just done another one, and tossed it at an unsuspecting publisher.

At the moment, I have too many novels at home, and not enough trying to batter through slush piles. I realised the other day, starting my fourth novel, that I need to go back and address books two and three first. Thy Fearful Symmetry still needs a good home, hence today’s synopsis. Craven Place needs a thorough redraft, which is my next task. I think it’s nearly to the point where a publisher could reasonably consider it, and I have to hold myself back from the new novel long enough to get things in motion.

Yet the new novel calls, and I hate leaving it cooling when I should be embracing the heat of the moment. All the more reason to get Symmetry and Craven on the move quick smart.

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  1. JackieMay 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I hate having to take care of old stuff first, too. When you want to write, you should be able to just write!

    See, I LOVE the challenge of writing a really descriptive and succinct synopsis. And most books really need TWO — a paragraph or two, when writing to someone about it, or to market your story elsewhere, where space is an issue, and then a longer one for someone who is definitely interested in more details. I believe, personally, that two pages is too long. One page is perfect, especially if it has a kick-ass opening paragraph.

    If you need an editor, you know where to find me! πŸ˜‰

  2. Richard WrightMay 27, 2009 at 11:17 pmAuthor

    Over on Facebook, my friend Jude suggested I get someone else to write it. I’d then read it, decide they missed the point entirely, and rewrite it better. Not a bad idea, but time’s passing πŸ˜‰

    That said, if it comes back, I may drop you a line. The problem I have with the synopsis is that it isn’t really a sales pitch, while at the same time being a sales pitch. It’s a pared back, no frills, detailed summary of the action, point by point, but still has to communicate the scope, drama, and other high points of the novel. Nightmare. I sold Cuckoo without one, but that was more chance than skill, I think.

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