Monday, January 14, 2013

Reducing 300 pages to 3 & Walking Through Hellfire blurb revisited

Sorry for missing my weekly Saturday post, but it was my anniversary. The duke and I completely forgot because Little Two was up all night with sniffles and it left us both brainless after my RWA meeting was over. (Okay, I'll be honest. I went to the meeting brainless that morning.) :D
So, since forgetting everything was the order of the day, it seems I forgot the blog too. To make up for it, I'm including both topics in one blog.

Reducing 300 pages to 3.

I had to rewrite my synopsis recently. I've always sucked at writing a synopsis because I have trouble getting an entire 300+ page MS down to 2-5 pages. Kristen Nelsen, a wonderful agent, suggests a blurb should only be about the inciting incident, but that didn't help me with the synopsis. To find some answers, I read a chapter on the synopsis in a romance writing guide (sorry I don't have a link/title. I checked it out from the library.) That chapter had a sample synopsis done so well that I had an epiphany about how to write a synopsis or a blurb. I'm going to share the lightning that struck me and hope it helps all of you.

I had always looked at it like condensing, but that's not it. You have to look at it like telling a story to a friend. 

Say you were on your way to work and got into an accident with a hunky guy who then asked to buy you coffee to make up for it.
There's the novel -- the sleepover version, where you spend hours talking about it as you do your nails and give each other facials.
In this version, you can go into exactly how blue his eyes were and whether or not the coffee thing was a date, or just repentance.

There's the synopsis. -- the campfire version, where you have some time to tell the tale, but it has to be short and pithy, or you'll lose your audience.
In this version, you can take time to talk about the accident and the things he said afterwards, but you can't discuss his hair color or the fact that he didn't have a ring (or a ring tan line).

There's the blurb. -- the facebook version, where you want to relate a story to your friends on facebook. Most will keep reading for a few paragraphs, but after that you've lost them to farmville.
In this version, you give the most important parts of the accident and the aftermath, making the story sound exciting without going into great detail about anything.

There's the elevator pitch. -- the excuse to the boss version, where you have to explain yourself quickly, but thoroughly.
 In this version, you tell your boss the bare bones. You might even leave out the coffee afterwards. It's one or two lines, pure and simple. Something akin to, "Sorry I'm late boss, but this guy in a Jag ran a red light and plowed into me."
For Terminator, to give another example, it might be, "Sarah Connor's life is changed forever when she's ambushed by a man claiming to be from the future and an evil robot in a human disguise."

Once I started looking at the task of the synopsis, blurb, pitch, etc... as separate stories, the way to tell them became clearer and easier.

On to the blurb --

I thought it would be nice--since we discovered how to write a blurb and then actively rewrote my old blurb--for me to share how things are going. I was surprised to find a great deal of interest based on the new blurb.

  • I think including the eye catching headers helped. 

I remember being at a hands-on workshop on querying at my first convention. One of the editors said she'd been pitched once that King George IV wore pink tights, and that was the one thing she remembered from the pitch. The motto for the workshop became "show us the pink tights." My headers were pieces of my pink tights, and including them drew attention to them.

  • I think keeping it shorter helped.

 Agents don't have a lot of time. You want to pull them in, not bore them into taking a cat nap. We writers want to catch their attention before they get a chance to reject us, or take that nap. I think a shorter query blurb is a great way to insure only the most eye catching parts of the main plot are included in the query. I've decided to aim for less than 200 words from now on. (For the blurb portion, not the whole query.)

  • I think trying to include my voice helped.
That chapter I mentioned above, also helped me in one way other way. Her first paragraph began with a line deep in her voice.

The first line of my synopsis used to be.
The Duke of Addiston informs Emilia she will no longer be a chambermaid. She will pass personal messages within a club.

Now it's.

The late 18th century witnessed the birth of secret societies like the Illuminati, the Ancient Order of Foresters, and the Lords of Mann. A chilly October evening in 1795, England marked Emilia Marley's descent into this world of debauchery. 

 Personally, I think the second one is not only more interesting, but it showcases my voice better, and also introduces not only the book, but the entire series.

  • And I hope it helped you too. 
 Here's another great link that might help.

Feel free to share experiences or advice. I'd love either. 
Good luck and good querying.


  1. Great post, Robin! I find the synopsis one of the hardest things to write. (Okay....maybe the hardest thing to write.) I love this analogy and am totally using the next time I have to write/revise a synopsis.

  2. I'm glad I was able to help. Happy writing.