Synopses and Proposals

As I review the Writers’ Workshop Advice Section, I’m starting to get a little bit frustrated that the names of the links on the parent advice page don’t match the titles of the pages they link to. It’s a little thing, but it makes it very hard to reference what I’m talking about! …It also makes me wonder whether one or the other was changed after the original synthesis and nobody cross-referenced…

How to Write a Novel Synopsis

Well, this starts off good: actually putting a number on length (writers do have a tendency to say “long”/”short”/”quick” and expect you to know what they mean in pages or word count) and then (yay!) an example! Although only one, and as it purports to be a synopsis example from a WW client, I have to query why only one – surely more clients are happy to support the site that has supported them, mm?

But it’s not just about showing off the love of clients: greater variety is greater advice.

Whilst the content of this page is useful, I do feel that it is grossly incomplete. I’m sure vast swathes of information could be added, but we wouldn’t want the page length to get out of control. Here are just a couple of things that it would have occurred to me to say:

  • Tell the story, the whole story, and don’t stop dead on a cliffhanger. This is not a blub.
  • Write well – everything you send to an agent is proof that you can write, not just the novel and query letter (this advice is included elsewhere, but after so much repetition is noticeably absent on this page).

How to Write a Book Proposal

“His academic qualifications to write the book in question? Precisely nil. The quality of the material is what sells the book, not any number of letters after your name.”

But it is really important to justify knowing about a subject – it’s not the be all and end all. I know that if I were to write a book about climbing, saying I was CWA qualified and had x experience teaching would help, but I doubt Joe Simpson had a problem. Different agents will put different emphases on this, and the truth is, if your book is borderline, assuring them you know what you’re talking about could make all the difference. If your book is brilliant in its own right, they won’t care.

I’ve already expressed my liking for example, but the book proposal one is rubbish. The styles of the “good” and “bad” are so different that basically it seems to say you can’t write fact in a neutral form and have to write it like a novel, which is bad advice. I don’t like to read fact books presented in that way, and lots of other people don’t either. Sometimes it’s just not appropriate for a certain kind of book. The “good” example is also long winded and doesn’t get to the point. The way I read it, it advises you to waffle. This is why a single example just won’t do. It’s hard to show “perfectlygood” and “perfectly bad” without being silly.

Writing a non-fiction synopsis by Sam Jordison

Well, this threw me. A different voice, but with an intro that runs straight into the post without a dashed line or a diferent font or a clear “here we go!” If you write it well, you’ve won half the battle.” – I agree: and differentiating between different voices is an important part of that.

It could also do with a little proofreading. The phrase “The things easy to get wrong” crops up, and as it’s talking about a synopsis (singular) not its contents (plural), I’m pretty sure there’s a missing apostrophe. If not, then it’s not easy to read. It just doesn’t bode well that expert advice on writing contains writing errors, human though we are.

And I do like this post: introducing a different voice was a good idea. Chiefly, I think, because it shows a different approach. Instead of the “just do it” attitude, we have a more empathetic tone of anecdotal excuses: “Some authors can hammer out hundreds of pages without breaking a sweat, but break down in front of the awful task of filling that single sheet of paper.”/”The difficulties are twofold. First, it’s very hard to boil down all those hours of work, research and inspiration to the kind quick frothy summary required to hold the attention of a time-pressed and quite likely bored editor (who has already read dozens of other synopses that morning). Second, selling yourself is awkward. If you’re like me and have rather a shade too much English reserve it’s hard not to feel gauche when you’re blowing your own trumpet. ”

Real feelings that real authors experience. Even if they shouldn’t. Reading advice that reminds you everyone else is struggling with the same writing and publishing problem is reassuring, especially if it then goes on to help you get out of that rut. The idea of modelling synopses on book reviews is new to me (I haven’t read this page before and it hasn’t come up elsewhere), and I am definitely going to look some up now. What I don’t know is why a review site or section isn’t linked to in this article!

If I were proofreading, I would also have deleted the last paragraph, which reads like it was thrown in at the end on a whim. Advice on brevity has been included elsewhere and better.


About RowenaFW

I am a Fish. But you wouldn't know it just from looking at me.
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