30 August, 2011

Mission: Impossible

Or, Mission: Mildly Annoying.

I have done it.  The Impossible.  I only took my 80,000 word manuscript and reduced it to ten pages of chapter summary.  I then managed to squeeze my baby down to one - count'em one - page.

It was hard.  Really hard.  You have to leave out sooooo much.  So many little details are missing.  Little things it actually gave me a pang to strip away.  I think the story is compelling, exciting, etc.  But those things that really make a character rounded, their imperfections and the details that show I really truly thought obsessively about the book for the past ten months, it hurts to dismiss those.

It has been almost a year, now that I think about it.  I wrote the original 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month.  Then I took a break for about a month to let it percolate and decide if it was worth anything.  50, 000 words seems like a lot, but I am ridiculously verbose.  I overwrite all the time, then have to slash lots of things out and build the meat of the plot back up again.

Then comes the hard part, aside from the letting your baby go into the ruthless and brutally honest world of agent-ness.  In order to even pique an agent's interest, you have to have a one page summary.  Some want even less, a paragraph or two in a business letter.  Gak!

Here's what I did:

1.  Grumble and complain and whine.  Husband was not impressed.
2.  Sit down and write a summary for each chapter of what happens.  Turns out, this is good because then I saw how wonkified some of my chapters were regarding length and action.  I hate it when doing what you're supposed to is the best thing for you....
3.  Tighten up the chapter summary.  It will be too long and sound stupid.  Ignore that.
4.  Whine and complain some more.  Found someone new to gripe to: Sister was not impressed either.
5.  Take the best sentences from each chapter summary, tighten them up and put them in a good order.
6.  get sister to read it, though she hasn't read the manuscript.  She says, yeah sure that makes sense.  I might want to read this book.
7.  re-read obsessively.
8.  Still be torn by doubt and indecision.

So, yeah.  That's my awesome strategy for writing one page summaries.  I wish I had some cool trick or method.  Mostly, stare at the computer screen until your eyes hurt and then go play Little Big Planet for a while.  It helps.

E. T.