Recently I went through the exercise of distilling a 500+ page novel down into an entertaining 20 double-spaced pages. Dang. It’s not a place for my ramblin’ style; it’s all about being to the point, moving along, yet still creating sympathy for at least one character and providing a good read. At the heart of it is the question, “If I could have written it in twenty pages, don’t you think I would have?”
But it has been a rewarding exercise. That came home tonight as I worked through the comments from people who provided feedback for the synopsis. The most magical moments were when I read comments that forced me to distill into a few words the key moments in the book. With that understanding I can look back on the big fat pile of prose and see where I missed opportunities, or simply didn’t articulate what I meant to say. There are now parts of the synopsis that serve as criticism of the larger work. When I am sure the distilled ideas of the synopsis are sharply represented in the novel, I’ll feel much better about the whole work.
I have read long, disjointed, incoherent works from established writers, and I wonder if the novel would have been different if the writer had been forced to write a synopsis. It’s a hell of a chore, and when I’m big-time and I don’t have to do it any more I’m sure I won’t. So please, when the third novel comes out with my name bigger than the title on the cover, but you read it and it kind of sucks, drop me an email and say, “maybe you should write a synopsis of the next one, and pass it around.”
Seeing the holes in the story I feel better about it than ever. I am filled with an arrogant self-deception, an optimism that says if I fix all the problems all that’s left is art. It’s a silly conceit when put that way, but the business is 90% perspiration, right?
One thing I’d like to ask the real writers is, “How do you keep the art through endless revisions?”
All right, I rambling now, in a muddled way, and it’s time to stop.