For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on two things (actually, one for the most part, but I just started on the second a couple of days ago): my query letter and the synopsis.
I’ll be honest with you, I honestly did think they would be easier. I’m a newbie, I should have known better; guilty as charged. I’ve already revised my query several times, and the thing I’ve been focusing on is the main character (John Piscus – you can read a small introduction to him here) and what’s at stake for him. Every time I think the letter is in a better state than before, and every time I post it online for critique, the comments and suggestions I receive make it seem as though I’ve done it all wrong. Which for all I know, it probably is completely wrong. Last critique round, an agented writer made some valid comments, so I thought I should follow her suggestions primarily and fill in with things the rest of the other helpful commenters said. So I revised, rewrote everything, and posted it again feeling confident that this time, thanks to her and the help of so many others who provided feedback before her, I had finally nailed the damn thing and would have a lot less to worry about. All the conflict was there, every necessary bit about the main character was there, the main twist that pushed the plot forward to the point of no return was there, what could possibly be wrong, right? Right? WRONG!
The commenters thought it was worse than before.
Either I am dumb or I’ve reached the point where if I keep following suggestions from different people, the whole thing will indeed turn into an unintelligible assortment of letters put one after the other. In other words, gibberish. And yet, it can’t have reached the point of perfection so soon. It’s impossible. They must be right. This thing takes time, yes? Months of working on those two paragraphs that will cause the potential agent to say “I’d like to have a look at that. Sure, why not?” Months of rearranging those 250-300 words within their sentences in such a way that they will be the most melodious thing anyone has ever read. It can’t be ready in a matter of a couple of weeks. No way!
That was when I decided to take a break. It was time to work on something unrelated to the query. Kind of. And thus I had a look at my synopsis. I know that some agents won’t ask for one, but I thought it would be better to have it ready and handy for those who would ask it. It shouldn’t be a problem; after all anyone who uses the snowflake method knows that one of the first steps is having the synopsis ready beforehand.
From drafting the story all this time ago to having completed the novel, I had changed the story, the plot, and the characters twice after I finished the first draft and once more before that, after I had finished outlining (are you seeing where this is going, folks?). Newbie writer as I am, I never updated my outline after I finished the novel. I just left it there for the future me to remember how different my story was when I first conceived it.
Here’s an insider’s tip. You ready folks? This is all the wisdom of the world. You sure you’re ready? Here goes: don’t do that. Yeah. Don’t. If you outline, save yourself the trouble and update that outline as you go along. Your future self will thank you. Learn from my mistakes.
So what stage have you reached with your WIP?