Writing Rollercoaster

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It was a bumpy ride last week, folks. First P had his surgery and seemed to be doing well, then he got a post-op infection. I hauled him off to our family doctor, where IV meds and re-operation were hinted at, and he wanted to see P again in less than 24 hours, he was just that concerned.  🙁

Fortunately, P has turned the corner, and although his once-formidable stamina (get your mind out of the gutter, folks) is but a memory at this point, I’m pleased to report he’s definitely on the mend. 🙂

All those emotional ups and downs would have been more than enough for me, but there’s context to this story. I had a writing conference I planned to attend this last weekend.

Crazy to even contemplate, huh? My husband had been through surgery only four days prior, and I was contemplating leaving town???

But the conference had been booked months before P’s surgery date was set, and since it featured an agent I’ve heard fantastic things about and an editor who buys similar books to mine, P and I had talked it over. He wanted me to go. Extended family would pitch in, if required.

So I’d spend days crafting a synopsis that was to be workshopped this last Saturday, and while doing so, I had imagined a plethora of outcomes: At one extreme were my peers rolling on the floor, helpless with laughter at both my story and my clumsy attempt to distill it into a synopsis.  At the other, the agent and editor so dazzled they asked for a full.  Guess which one I was rooting for?

By Thursday, when I knew I couldn’t attend, I was torn between acute disappointment and staggering relief. Then P turned the corner and pushed me to go, if only for dinner Friday evening.

The idea had merit. I wouldn’t be able to/have to pitch; I’d get to actually meet the guests of honor and see if they were people I’d like to work with some day; and I’d still get my synopsis critiqued.  As for P, my family was willing to be my eyes and ears at home for the evening and I wouldn’t be gone long enough to miss a significant relapse.

So I did it. I showered, dressed in business attire, drove the three hours south, battled Calgary’s notorious construction traffic. I even arrived a smidgeon early and used the time to check my e-mail…only to learn that my synopsis had not been received.

Okay. Disappointing news, right? Except by the end of the dinner – which I enjoyed very much – I had the agent’s card in my wallet and instructions to mail my synopsis for private feedback. It seemed the best of both worlds.

Then I got the news last night from a writing friend: there had been a communication glitch about the communication glitch about the paperwork. You following that? Not only had my synopsis arrived, but it had already been critiqued. My friend had the papers to prove it.

Aaaaand the gist, after all that: My synopsis is… confusing, too detailed, and – worst of all – lacks voice.  Ugh!

You know what? I’m sure all these things are true. In a few days, I’ll dust myself off and have a long, hard look at the feedback. I’ll figure out where I need to do better and ask you guys for resources you can recommend about synopsis-writing, because obviously the ones I’ve found haven’t managed to penetrate my thick skull. 

(Actually, since we’re already here, I’d love to have those references in the comments below.)

But not today. Today is for sipping my ginger tea while I’m squashed under the comforting weight of Pepper, the largest cat in the house. While her purr rumbles through my body, I’ll listen to some Enya, and eventually work my way into something energetic and uplifting. Quite possibly I’ll even bake some muffins.

Yup. Whereas most Mondays I can’t wait to bite into the routine and feel productive, today’s biggest decision will likely be between oatbran raisin and double chocolate pumpkin.  ‘Cause I’ve finished the rollercoaster ride for the moment, folks. It’s safe to eat now without worrying about vomitting on other people below. Right?

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18 Replies to “Writing Rollercoaster”

  1. Sorry to hear the news. Hard to imagine you lacking in voice. Synopsis writing’s a whole different beast, ain’t it? Sounds like you just need a little bit of time to step back and relax.

    PS – my father’s got a post-op infection, too — maybe it’s something about the procedure.

    1. Thanks, Bane. 🙂 One thing I know about myself is I have the ability to be doggedly persistent. I’ll get back on this horse and soon. Just not today.

      In the meantime if you have any suggestions for where to go on synopsis-writing, I’m all ears.

      1. RE: synopsis writing advice — ditto … actually, I’m beginning to think that nobody’s got a solidified approach to this. Queries are more cut and dry (relatively), methinks, and synopses are mostly a guessing game (of pick your poison).

        Personally, I’ve found my best approach to be writing a full synopsis (not worrying about pages, but trying to keep it succinct) and then distilling to a single double-spaced page (incredibly painful)… and then working backward from that to a 2 – 3 page longer version.

        A romance one I like (FYI, I’m not a romancianado, so I have no idea if this is outdated, etc.), which you’ve probably seen, can be found at:


        1. “Romancianado”. Ha! I love it. And thank you for the reference. I haven’t seen this one and will devour it when I’m ready for round – what is this now? – anyway, when I’m ready for another go.

  2. I’m tired out just reading about that rollercoaster ride… I think I’ll go find a cat to sit under. Pass me a muffin, will you?

    Sorry to hear about your synopsis. If you use MS Word, have you tried using the autosummary tool?

  3. Wow, what a week. You enjoy the kitty, Jan – and I’d go for the chocolate pumpkin muffins, but that’s me.

    Oatbran raisin sounds vaguely doctor-prescribed.

    Synopses are tough – I have yet to master it, too. Like Bane, I find it hard to believe that you’d lack voice in any of your writing, but synopses aren’t true writing exactly. It’s difficult to make summaries come alive, but that’s what they must do.

    I lack voice in my queries and synopses, too… which is why I’ve decided to ignore them for a while. Too frustrating.

    Good luck!

    1. Good. Another member of the Sisterhood of Synopsis Avoidance.

      And about the oatbran, would I change your mind if I said it featured crystallized ginger…?

  4. Donna and you others, do you know you are the best? Seriously? I was floundering for a blog post for this morning, and the events of the last week loomed so freaking large I couldn’t find room to write anything else. Yet I felt this post would come off as complete self-indulgence. (Well, it was, but you all tolerated it.)

    Instead, I’ve been given poor-baby’s, some resources sent my way, and a sense of community. Thank you, all. I’m truly humbled.

  5. Oh, J, I hear ya! This silly business always seems like one step forward and ten back. I’m sorry to say that doesn’t always change once published. I can e-mail you my synopsis anytime. Not that it’s perfect, but it might help. Have some tea, (I’d have something stronger!) and relax. Your computer will be there tomorrow. My first conference was In Calgary. Both the agent and editor HATED my book. I went back to my room and cried. 7 months later that book sold, so NEVER give up Hope! (get it???)

    1. Michelle, hahaha. How fortuitous that I’ve been writing a series on hope, huh?

      Don’t worry, I have no plans to quit. And I would very much appreciate seeing your synopsis when you have time. Thanks for the offer!

  6. (((Jan)))

    I have not tackled the synopsis beast, and my newbiness is showing: you have to get VOICE in there, too?

    But I’d be happy to help you cut out detail. I sail under the banner “Write tight!”

    Glad you have a plan of (in)action.


    1. Yup, MJ, voice is key in a query. In the synopses I’ve seen, not so much. But I will take you up on your offer when I’m ready for another go. Thank you!

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