Being away from my work for an extended time messes with my head. In the not-so-distant past, I can remember a time when I was writing several days a week, on target, and totally immersed in the story. Now, I can’t seem to get back to that space. I write. It fumbles about. The plot wanders, and the characters have all been dosed with Valium behind my back. They’re dead weight that I have to lug forward instead of brilliant sprites running headlong into the story so fast that my fingers can barely skip across the keyboard after them.
I suppose the amount of time away it takes for your brain to disconnect from the story is different for everyone. Honestly, a week or two is enough to throw me off, and I don’t always know how to get back. Recently, though, I had a stroke of luck. I was trying to find my way back into my book when some of my writing friends decided we should all take a look at the singular evil that is a synopsis.
Now, I love the teasers on book jackets, but I have always loathed the idea of the synopsis. It’s like the book jacket teaser sans the teasing. You have a great plot twist? A killer ending? Awesome. You put it all in your synopsis, give away your best secrets, and any old schmo can read in two pages, in just a few a short minutes, the story you’ve spent a year on, two years, three . . . You know, let’s just not talk about how long that manuscript took.
So, the synopsis. A singular, but necessary, evil.
But I’m in the middle of a book, so I don’t really need one yet. In fact, I’ve really only got vague ideas of the remaining parts of my book, so I REALLY don’t need to bother with that yet. Or do I?
Turns out the synopsis, which is pure evil in the hands of all others, in my hands, is absolute gold. Now, please don’t misunderstand. This is not the synopsis I will use to market the book. If I’m honest, it’s not superior quality. In fact, it might even stink. But the questions I had to ask to create it have given me this lovely portal through which I can re-enter my story. Questions like:
-What makes my world special?
-What is the point of having so-and-so as my main character? Why is she interesting?
-What is the epic arc of the story? The big picture beyond my main character’s smaller struggles?
-What is the emotional arc of the story? The heart of it?
All of this boiled down to a page or two is remarkably helpful in that, in this huge story, there is a single line running through it that holds it up and is vital. Writer and blogger Chuck Wendig calls these story pieces tent poles. In two pages, I can see where the story is strong and where it is vague. I can see what will need a week of story-crafting boot camp and what won’t. Most importantly, I can see my character again. Think her thoughts, hear her heartbeat, look through her eyes. I can get back in her head.
And that means I’m back in the game.
I’ll still probably give myself the luxury of going through some notes, revising some previously written pages, and sinking deeper into the text. But I can write new scenes too, and the characters are back to moving under their own power again. And, seriously, I’m hiding the Valium this time. How do they keep getting their hands on it?