One of my favorite movies is Big Trouble in Little China. Aside from one great line after another ("Oh. My. God. What is that? Don't tell me!!") and delectably perfect over-the-top acting (Kurt Russell is incredible), there are constant and valuable references to various Hells. The Hell Of Being Cut To Pieces or the Hell of Boiling Oil. The notion of hundreds of Hells of varying specificities makes perfect sense to me. It seems the most apt way of describing life so much of the time.
At the moment, I'm in the Hell of the Unrelenting Synopsis.
My agent asked for a synopsis for Chasing Smoke last week. 500-1,000 words she said. She also said, "I know they're so easy to write (ow! Ouch! Lightning!)" Yeah. Ouch.
So here's my question. Does anyone like writing synopses? Raise your hand.
That's so, er, hard to believe. Ahem.
My synopsis is currently sitting at 2,000 words, and I've only covered about a third of the novel. At this rate, it'll be six times longer than she wants, assuming I actually finish the damned thing ("the damned thing" being what I call it when I'm in a good mood, i.e. when I'm not actually working on it or thinking about it or remembering that it's still not done).
I was bemoaning the damned thing conundrum to my daughter, and she observed, "the author is probably the worst person to write the synopsis. You're too invested in the details of your story."
Exactly. If I wanted to write a short version of the story, I'd have written a short version of the story. In a synopsis, by necessity you have to leave a lot out, skim the surface, focus on the highlights. Assign varying degrees of importance to different aspects of the story. But here's the thing. If I didn't think it was important, I wouldn't have written it, and if I didn't feel like the best way to tell the story was to dramatize the events, I'd have written an essay. The lesson that gets beaten into writers over and over again is show, don't tell. The synopsis is the very essence of telling, not showing. It's anathema! Get thee down, Synopsis!
Of course, I know I can do it. I did it with Lost Dog. I wrote an elevator pitch, two sentences. And I wrote a short summary, about three paragraphs. And I wrote a full synopsis, about two-and-a-half pages long. So, sure, it's doable.
But it's hell, lemme tell ya.
The Hell of the Unrelenting Synopsis.