Funny, but useless

When I wrote up the first synopsis of "Verbosity's Vengeance", it ran to about 8000 words over 15 pages. This was a thumbnail sketch of each scene.

I cut it to 4000 words, then to 2000, then to 1000, then to about 900, which let it fit onto 3 pages. This was my goal all along, since a 3-page synopsis is about as much as anyone in the publishing industry has any interest in reading.

What I discovered in the process was interesting. First, I'm a long-winded SOB, in love with adjectives and blind to my own verbal excesses. I had to let the thing sit untouched for a couple of  weeks before I could even see how to pare it down further from 2000 words.

Second, I had to cut all reference to a couple of supporting characters, then cut out references to one subplot. It all fit, but I felt that something essential to the overall book was lost.

Third, one of the subplots (and its driving supporting character) is now looking rather superfluous. I was able to cut and cut and cut the descriptions of those scenes until they more or less boil down to "X and Y talk about stuff so X can feel better about doing what he was going to do anyway." The action of the main plot stops while the MC is on one ruminative digression after another.

Was a death sentence more clearly warranted?

It's a shame, because in many ways, this supporting character is one of my favorites. Wry, sardonic and wise, he's a humanizing touch that helps to illustrate the MC's history and private ambitions. The interactions deepen the MC and make him more than a cardboard superhero-in-disguise.

I'm going to have to figure out a way to retain these touches, but jettison all the talking over cups of coffee. I just wish I'd had this long night of troubled insomnia a while ago, before I'd started sending this book out to slush piles.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Having not read the novel, I can't agree or disagree over the utility of those scenes. However, I have a disdain for the way certain things appear in the synopsis format. A synopsis of Hamlet would be pretty short, but we all know Shakespeare made every scene's indulgence work.

    If those cup-of-coffee scenes really serve no other purpose, then I can endorse clipping them back, and I'm sorry if it costs you exchanges you loved. Killing you darlings sucks almost every time. On the upside, perhaps this will reduce the book from 108,000 to something a little more conventionally sellable?

    1. Yeah, that's the danger. The synopsis tells what happens, from which (I presume) an agent or publisher can extract a thumbs-up/thumbs-down gut feeling even without the brilliant sheen of my scintillating prose. If an architect can look at a clear third of an acre near good schools and see a wonderful dream home, maybe that's how it works with novel synopses.

      On the upside, perhaps this will reduce the book from 108,000 to something a little more conventionally sellable?

      Right now, the book is at about 112,800 words, not 108,000. This is on the high side for a science fiction book, so rationality would prompt me to make more cuts.

  2. Yet, there's Heinlein's 3rd rule of writing: You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

    Not one, I regret, I'm good at keeping. I'm still going through Not by Dark Alone - lat night I changed 3 words. I'm sure it was good to change them. But I am not so sure that not changing them would have made the story unreadable either.

    Regarding your subplot, and the supporting could be that your readers might find them as much a delight as you did. It's not always about the plot racing along. There is a case to be made for relaxed storytelling. A balance must be struck, for sure, but pacing allows for rest periods as well as anything else.

    John referenced "Hamlet" - it's a four-hour play. It can't all be go...go...go until everyone dies at the end. The audience needs breathers along the way (as do the actors.)

    "I'm a long-winded SOB, in love with adjectives and blind to my own verbal excesses."

    Welcome to the club! :) Pull up a chair and let me tell you about the time when I...

    1. So true. Others joined in later to remind me of the perils of endless rewriting.

      The chunks I would cut are low on action, high on personality and backstory.

  3. I have read the book, or at least an earlier incarnation of it. Have you looked at how you can make that supporting character more integral to the story? Perhaps change some of your MC's interactions with, say, a less-human character into interaction with that supporting character?

    I think killing that character (or maybe any of them) would lessen the "who's that evil man behind the mask?" mystery for your readers.

    That assumes, of course, that I'm reading between your lines correctly.

    1. I can be explicit: it's the MC's mentor who was to get the ax. Your suggestion is a good one - splitting the screen time up might solve another problem I identified with a different slow scene involving that non-human character.

  4. o.k. then - your "African or European?" tweet response led me to this - happy about that - wow - so much good stuff can be got thru twitter - you are definitely a find for me - keeping with it all is impossible, but I can touch base, as it were, and so to speak, and of course, the near obligatory LOL attachment .... I have given up almost tho not entirely, on grammer, punctuation and the usual impositions of the laden mind on our language - we have so many ways to communicate - without the conventions - the unladen mind, I am told at this moment - is a mind free of all aspects (genres) of pre-meditation...
    and more anon

    1. Welcome aboard, Wayne! I used to be an iron-clad proscriptivist about punctuation, but am getting more tolerant as the years go by. 8-)


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