I did more or less meet my goal of having the rewrite done by World Fantasy Convention. I say "more or less" because I was still monkeying with the climax yesterday, and I was hoping that the version called "done" for today would be an even more polished version. I have a pitch, kind of, and a synopsis, in a way, and I almost typed synapse just there, which makes me laugh. I have a synapse! Just one.
Really, I do have these things — a novel, a pitch, a synopsis — what I don't have is confidence in any of them. Of the three, I am probably happiest with the novel itself. That's the art form that I feel like I understand. I have been reading novels my whole life, I only started reading pitches and synopses… about a year ago. Years ago I made a short-lived and half-hearted attempt to start this process for my first completed novel, then quickly gave up when I decided that queries and synopses were stupid and I couldn't write them and the novel was stupid anyway so who cares.
My head is swimming now with contradictory and useless advice. I think I like pitches slightly more than synopses, maybe because I'm more familiar with them, because they are similar to book jacket copy. Synopses aren't really like anything. Based on the samples I've read, every novel ever written starts to sound ridiculous when presented in that manner.
I've been toying with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo and starting with the pitch. Just to see how it turns out.
I just finished Save the Cat and its sequel Save the Cat Goes to the Movies by Blake Snyder and that is his advice. Start with your logline or pitch and fine-tune that one or two sentence description until it is as tight as possible, then write from there. As though the pitch were the DNA and the script – or in this case the story/novel – was the expression embodied.
His books are geared for and steeped in someone working in the Hollywood system doing movies, but I noticed that most of what he says applies to ‘regular’ writing as well, or at least gives a useful perspective on the core elements of telling a good story. If you aren’t familiar with Snyder already I would really recommend checking his stuff out (from the library even, that’s what I did – but I liked the books enough I’m saving up for my own copies).
Not to mention he provides an excellent introduction to a framework and jargon for discussing movies that has been really useful in crystalizing some of how I think about films when I’m trying to review/talk about them. And they are entertaining and fun to read, IMuHO.
One of the things I’ve come to realize about “classic” novels is how often they have a very tight Hollywood-ish pitch at the core of them, which is somewhat obscured by the fact that older writing styles had a lot more indirect sentences and diversions and digressions and things like that along the way.
The problem with starting with the pitch is that the process of turning a concept into a novel isn’t always straightforward. I rely a lot on the process of discovery, where I kind of figure out what the story is about by the act of writing it.
I do think it would be easier for me now after writing this particular novel, though. My previous forays into novel-construction were not very plot driven, because plot is hard. So I didn’t have a lot of practice going from the “okay, this has to happen, how do I make it happen in an interesting and plausible way?”
Oh, and thanks for the link! I think his advice is going to be useful and I love the titles.
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