The hammock creaks as she uncrosses her legs and stretches. A week of lounging in the dappled shade of the cherry tree has rendered her immune to the raucous cries of the crows overhead and the children tussling on the emerald grass. She closes the book with a satisfying thump and sighs.
Her doting husband approaches with yet another thick tome and a tray bearing an assortment of iced drinks. She wriggles her perfectly manicured fingers as she ponders which delectable beverage to savour. Deciding upon the frosted glass with what appears to be green and blue smoke swirling around elephant-shaped ice cubes, she tilts the brim of her sun hat over her eyes and sighs in contentment.
If you think the first week of my summer vacation resembles the above fantasy in any way (beyond no longer hearing the damn crows), you’re not from this planet. For one, the weather has been decidedly un-summery. The furnace is still coming on in the mornings, dammit! Another reason is I don’t own a hammock. Plus, my children don’t tussle, they shriek. My back yard is not an idyllic retreat, and honestly, no one would let me enjoy it even if it were.
To be fair though, my husband does pour a mean ice water.
In case you totally ignored the title of this post, I’ll mention that I have NOT been relaxing next to the pool (although I did sit on a plastic chair nearby when the kidlets took turns sticking their arms in the frigid water). No, I have been wrestling with one of the few things guaranteed to give most writers nightmares: the synopsis.
And not one synopsis, but two.
I spent two full nights writing garbage just so I could get my rambling thoughts on the page. I spent another two nights attempting to detrashify the previous evenings’ worth of slop.
If I could throw my synopses off a cliff, I would.
Some writers get to a point in their careers where they can sell a book by writing a few sample chapters and attaching a synopsis. I’m not there, and frankly, after this past week, I’m pretty sure I’d rather write the whole darned book than try to write an effective synopsis.
Because, man oh man, can I write crappy ones!
If you need senseless swill that may or may not capture the key elements of your story, and may or may not be laden with useless backstory that no one wants to know, let alone get excited about, well, I’m your go-to girl.
It doesn’t matter that I’m one of those writers who enjoys planning. Planning a novel is nothing at all like writing a synopsis. When I plan a novel, I picture the assorted scenes – I can hear the dialogue and see the action. I don’t get to write dialogue in my synopses. I’m not supposed to describe how the subtle lift of the MC’s chin marks his decision to cross a line of no return - that he’s so numb with rage he no longer cares who, or how many, he takes with him.
I can see that.
What I struggle to see is how to condense 70,000-words (living, breathing, character-driven moments of agony and ecstasy) into roughly 750 words that highlight the plot AND give away the ending in such a way that even though the reader knows exactly what is going to happen, they still want me to write the darned thing.
At times like this I remind myself that I chose to write. Not only did I willingly choose to step foot upon this journey, but I vowed to enjoy each step along the way. (Boy, do I wish I could go back in time and slap myself for that one.)
Synopses are just one step.
One teensy tiny footfall.
A fruit fly on the salad bar of writing.
(I refuse to take that metaphor further as I do not wish to contemplate the fly laying eggs and then dying somewhere among the arugula.)
I know I’ll get past these synopses and I’ll no longer have to fight the urge to bash my head against the keyboard until one of us surrenders, but until then I am doing the next best thing. I am taking the night off.
I think I might write a short story. No one asks for synopses for short stories.
Right now, an angsty vignette sounds like the perfect summer fling. Writing with no strings attached. I’ll go back to my novels and their baggage (damn synopses) tomorrow, but for tonight, I’m stepping out with a fic I may not want to call again in the morning.