SSS – Sloppy Synopsis Syndrome

A typical planning day

As those who follow me on Twitter/ Facebook will have realised, my last project was, at times, a bit of a headbreaker. It took about half as long again as I expected (and planned), which has put my ongoing schedule under a lot of pressure.

What was the problem? Well, when people ask me about writing I usually summarise my process as think-write-think. That is synopsis-write-edit.

You’ll notice that I don’t include thinking as part of the writing… If I have to think and write at the same time, my pace slows down to a crawl. Not only do I get wrenched out of the creative flow, I get frustrated, I can’t think straight and so the problem takes even longer to solve.

This happened on my last project.

The cause is easy to indentify in retrospect. You can probably guess by the title of this post what that cause was. There was a line in the synopsis which blithely assumed a sequence of events in a single sentence. As it turned out, this one line (one line!) needed about 8,000 words to resolve in the actual piece. In a 30,000 word novella, that’s a big chunk of the story that I had not worked out.

I ran into similar issues in The Blades of Chaos. The synopsis called for a character to do a particular thing, but I hadn’t sat down and worked out precisely how she was going to do it. It became such a roadblock during the writing that I ended up skipping the chapter, finishing the rest of the novel and then going back to fill in the gap.  I could do this because the result of the action was known. This wasn’t the case with this latest oversight – the process by which the characters were going to achieve this aim had huge ramifications for the rest of the story.

I am sure I will repeat this error again. After all, I can be a slow learner at times, and sometimes the schedule pressures for synopsis mean that you cannot think through every detail up front. Most of the time it doesn’t matter. Now and then – at least once per project for anything longer than a short story in my experience – it will catch you out.

So, as I start writing The Crown of the Conqueror (yes, I’m writing book 2 of The Crown of the Blood before the first one is released!) I am spending a couple of days sifting through the synopsis, looking for those little assumptions that could turn into major pitfalls. It is my reckoning that the time spent doing that now will more than pay itself back when I start the actual writing later this week. If two days now saves me a week of low productivity and angst later, I’ll take it.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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