Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Hardest Way to Write a Short Synopsis

Try to condense a long one.  That was the comment of  Tony Perona at an Indy Author Fair, in Indianapolis.  He, S.M. Harding, and Terence Faherty led a session on marketing the mystery.  Harding suggested telling yourself you have to summarize your story in something like 300 words, no matter what.  Her advice was met with skepticism, and there was a time I would have been skeptical, too.

How can the complexity of your mystery, the depth of the characters, the beauty of the setting be told in a few hundred words?

Try. If you can't make your point cogently, it will be hard for someone to want to read your book.

The synopsis is your hope to hook a potential agent or publisher. These busy people need to be able to capture the idea of your story quickly (including the ending). You want to surprise your readers, not your publisher.

What finally helped me learn the art of condensing something I was very close to was to force myself to write what I thought should go on the back cover of a paperback.  That's the chance to convince a bookstore to stock your book and a reader to plop down the money to buy it. True, the purpose is to entice rather than inform, but the rigor of condensing is similar.

I looked at the initial  synopsis that I wrote for Appraisal for Murder, first in the Jolie Gentil series. It read more like a summary. Once I wrote the lengthy piece, it was hard to part with some of the words, and took a long time to cut the length. 

Now, I start with the book flap version, so to speak, and add as few words as possible.

The more you practice writing brief synopses, the easier it becomes.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a product description (the blurb you write for Amazon or BN to promote you book) and the synopsis for a potential agent or publisher. As with all writing, audience is everything.
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

No Pulitzer -- You Decide!

There were three finalists for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction:  Train Dreams, by Dennis Johnson; Swamplandia, by Karen Russell; and The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace.  No prize was awarded.  Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, said that, "The three books were fully considered, but in the end, none mustered the mandatory majority for granting a prize, so no prize was awarded."  That's the only explanation.

This has not happened since 1977.  Prior to 2012, the longest time between nonselections was between 1920 and 1941.  In 1941, the committee recommended For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway.  However, the president of Columbia University (which administers the Pulitzers) said the book was offensive, so there was no award that year. 

The Muncie (Indiana) Public Library wants to pick up where the Pulitzer jurors left off.  The Kennedy Book Club is reading the books (one per month in September, October, and November) and we'll vote.  It's the least we can do.

We just finished Train Dreams, one of the most memorable books I've read.  And it's a novella.  We're on to Swamplandia.

I'll keep my friends posted.  All advice is welcome as we make this very weighty decision.  And we will decide.
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