The Two Scariest Words in Publishing – Synopsis and Outline

Emily Dickinson. She lived quietly. Wrote a few things between the beginning and the end.  Died. Had her brother and his lover publish her poems. Then became famous.  Personally I’d like to get published while I’m still alive. Fortune and glory isn’t really my goal. Telling a good story that people enjoy reading is. So, unlike Emily Dickinson, I’m putting what I have to offer out there.

I’m playing it safe and leaving no stone unturned. To that end I’ve self-published the first of a twelve part series –  Memoirs of a Gigolo, I’m signed with two small publishers – The Wild Rose Press and Liquid Silver Books, and I’m going to take a stab at once again trying to court an agent. This isn’t my first voyage of the damned – I’ve tried traveling this road before – I usually get hit by a couple of cars (big American made cars, not tiny little Japanese hybrids) then give up.

After a bit of email repartee with a friend that has not only an agent and a publisher, but also a couple of best sellers racked up on his score card and very little tolerance for my “incessant pissing and moaning” about the injustice of the publishing world when I refuse to “suck it up and play the game”, I’m going to try to tackle a synopsis and outline that might get me some airtime with an agent.

I’ve finished a manuscript that ticks every box for me. It’s topical. It’s well written. I’m passionate about the characters. It has commercial appeal. I love it. It’s YA dystopian with a Hunger Games meets 1984 vibe. I’m too paranoid to give up any details. I get like that when I really like something I’ve produced. I clutch my manuscript to my chest and start looking over my shoulder. I will say I’ve drawn extensively from my knowledge of ancient Persia and modern day Islamic nations, found a character that turns from a lump of coal into a diamond under pressure, and then added a healthy dose of the more things change the more they stay the same.  I think it’s worthy of publication. More than that. I think I have a break-out novel on my laptop. I’ve read what a lot of the publishers that deal strictly in YA have to offer and it stands up compared to other works.

So what next? I must confront the blank page and write a synopsis & outline. Then it’s time to open the proverbial kimono to the world to be told either yes, I have nice boobies or no, my bottom is flabby. Because that’s what it’s like.  As marvelous as I know my manuscript is, unfortunately I can’t walk into Simon & Schuster or Scholastic and hold a gun to the receptionists head until she calls an editor to disarm me. Even if she did call an editor and got them to come down to the lobby, I’d have to turn the gun on the editor and then I’d have to wait while they read my brilliant manuscript, my arm going numb from holding up the gun for so long… let’s just say it’s not done.

So I need to write a synopsis & outline. I really really really don’t want to. I never know what to write. How to condense 100k words into a couple of pages? It’s not like I haven’t tried. I even have a file filled with rejection letters from agents on my laptop. My famous writer friend that has no tolerance for my “whinging and f***ing moaning” doesn’t mind letting me know that he “sucked it up and f***ing did it”, so I have to too. He hated it. Everyone hates it. I have yet to find the writer, published or not, that finds either of these tasks less than daunting. But it has to be done. There is no way around it unless you’ve already proven yourself and the dynamic has shifted.

I’m no quitter, and I don’t really take rejection on the nose, but I’m not great at selling myself. If there was another way, I’d grab it. But I don’t think there is. So I’m off to write a synopsis and outline.

Manuscript Peddling: Only Slighlty Preferable to Being Waterboarded

Writing isn’t the hard part of being a writer. That’s the easy part. I have more ideas than I’ll ever put down. Getting published…. that’s the hard part. Imagine engaging yourself in an activity that purposefully invites criticism and rejection on a daily basis. It’s masochistic.

I’m in the process of flogging my latest manuscript. I used to keep rejection letters when they were actual letters. Now I just delete and move on. It’s part of the business. Even if it does feel personal after the umpteenth rejection, ultimately it isn’t. It is what it is. Frustrating. Unkind. Demoralizing. Impersonal. There is no business that will kill you quicker with hope than publishing.

Because of my location it’s difficult for me to get to the majority of writers conventions. That’s where the money is. That’s where you meet the agents and publishers and can sell your idea, your love for it, and your enthusiasm in person. I really would have no problem wrestling an editor to the ground and forcing her to read my manuscript. Every time I’ve had an opportunity to get a publisher by the proverbial throat and force them to read what I’ve written I’ve walked away successful. It’s just a matter of getting their attention.

The blossoming of the internet has made the process of selling my ideas infinitely easier than it was eight or so years ago. Back then I would have to buy hundreds of dollars worth of postage when I was in the states and smuggle it through customs (FYI it’s taxable). Then I would have to prepare submission packages complete with the SASE. I received more requests for partials and fulls back then than I do now. The reason is (confirmed by several people in the know) because now that agents and publishers have opened up the doors to electronic submissions they get bombarded. When it took some work to get your work into anyone’s hands, writers tended not to shot-gun out submissions like they do now.

Despair comes with the territory. Then you have a moment. A shining, validating, golden moment. Sort of like when you’re learning to golf and you’ve just about convinced yourself you can’t hit the ball then you drive that sucker like Annika Sorenstam. There is no giving up. You’ve tasted how delicious it can be if you just keep whacking away at it. You can’t give up. Those moments are the ones that pull you back in. I had one of those moments. There are harder, more painful, horrible fates in the world than having to face an inbox full of rejection emails. Waterboarding comes to mind.