Doing the synopsis spin

I suppose I should not have been surprised when my legs went all wobbly doing the ‘synopsis spin’. writers_block_400[1]I had seen and heard ominous missives from writers about it and the reams of advice online how to do it. But, like everything, it’s not until you have to get the shovel out and started digging, that the pain hits you and your head starts to spin.

While it has been difficult, I also found it rewarding and exciting. I had been playing around with a one-or-two line ‘back of the book’ type blurb and this more or less has remained my opening line, or two lines as it turned out. But the rest of the synopsis has been a real test. I can understand why some writers (experienced ones) write their synopsis before their novel. I, like many others, banged out a mountain of a novel and then began the torturous journey of sculpting it into some sort of coherent, and engaging, shape and, then, the synopsis.

I read a rough draft out at a writers’ groups and got great advice and tips. Needless to say there is conflicting advice – for example whether to spell out the exact ending – but it’s not a science. (I am going to give the ending.)

I’ve had to hone my plot, identify clearly what is my main character’s conflict, what are his flaws, what is at stake and what/who is standing in his way and how it resolves. I’ve tried, (but may have have fallen short) to follow the advice to focus on the emotional twists and turns for the character and the broader appeal of the novel, rather than a mere plot outline.

Loads of rewrites later and I eventually thought I was there. But No! Other issues came up. I realised going through my chapters that my second character has almost as many chapters as my main character. On dear! So I had to take out chunks and put in a paragraph on her and subsequent references.

After booking two days off work to write it, I finished it and sent it off to another group of writers.

Along with this 300-word synopsis (about a page), I also wrote a longer two-and-a-half page plot synopsis, breaking the novel into three parts. This has focused my mind on what I need to do as I continue my revisions, what structural changes are needed, how some chapters will have to go and others created and how the whole thing needs to be tightened.


About Cormac O'Keeffe

I've written a novel. And, it's going to be published. This April. Mad, or what? It's entitled 'Black Water' and is a crime novel set in Dublin's gangland, along the evocative Grand Canal. This blog is about that bumpy journey, which is about to get really exciting. You'll also find some photography on this blog, particularly snaps that relate to my novel, much of it centred along the canal. There are also some reviews, both fiction and non-fiction, many of them published in the Irish Examiner, a daily national newspaper in Ireland. I work as security correspondent there and have specialist interests in crime, drugs, policing, the justice system, communities and human rights. Both my personal life and my professional life have fed into my novel, or, rather, have been poured into it. My novel was granted a literature bursary by the Irish Arts Council in September 2014 and my journalistic work has won multiple awards from the Law Society of Ireland over many years, most recently in 2015.
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2 Responses to Doing the synopsis spin

  1. Susan Condon says:

    It is hard to do, Cormac, and I agree with everything you’ve said. I hated giving away the ending too, but apparently it’s required for submissions! Best of luck with it all – hope to catch you next month if not before 🙂

  2. CJ O'Keeffe says:

    Thanks Susan. Just after doing the last blog, I got advice on my synopsis and have gone back to the drawing board, again!

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