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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Synopsis + Bio = Torture!

Before Fairest of Them All was published, I was one writer among thousands hoping to catch an editor’s attention. I revised my stories eight or nine times and proofread each one meticulously because I knew editors expected polished manuscripts. I studied formatting guidelines and followed them to the letter. My margins were exact, my headers and page numbers were placed just so. A slave to every single detail, I spent countless hours creating a manuscript that was a work of art.

Flushed with success and a little woozy from switching the font size from 11 to 12 and back again 50 or so times, I grabbed my trusty market guide and turned to the first publisher on my list. Looking for contemporary young adult fiction from 50,000-70,000 words. Couldn’t be more perfect! Query with synopsis and brief author bio. How hard can that be?

A dozen or so synopses later, I can answer that question. Writing a synopsis is like painting a mural on the wings of a hornet. You have to make the most of a very small space, and there’s no room for error. All that’s required is condensing your 300-page novel into a page, a paragraph, or—my personal favorite—a single sentence. Remember to describe the main characters, setting, and plot while capturing the voice of your story. And don’t be too wordy.

Coming up with a brief bio is equally difficult. What does “brief” mean? 100 words? 200? More? Should I include my education, publishing experience, interests, significant other, pets, blood type, and/or favorite shade of nail polish? When I Googled to find some examples, I got 25,000,000 hits on author bios. Just terrific.

It’s embarrassing that I can write a 50,000-word novel but can’t come up with a coherent summary of it. Two months ago my agent asked me for a one-sentence synopsis of my upcoming book, A&L Do Summer. After ten pathetic attempts I finally wrote something she didn’t have to change--too much. I can only imagine how much hair she pulled out as she read and politely rejected each one.

That’s my sad story. Does anyone else have synopsis/bio phobia? It would really help to know I’m not alone.


sharelle said...

Been there, done that. Love your "mural on the wings of a hornet" simile. You must be a writer.

Jenny O'Connell said...

Hate, hate, hate writing a synopsis. Although when you're done it's almost like, 'gee, there really is a story there after all.' As for bios, I'm having my Web site redesigned right now and when it came to writing the 'bio' page I decided enough with bios!!! Instead all it has is things I do and don't have in common with the characters in my books. A little different way to let readers know who wrote the book without it being all me, me, me.

Jan Blazanin said...

I like that idea, Jenny. I just updated my author pages on Amazon and Amazon UK and changed those bios. I can't say they're an improvement over the old ones, but they're different.