Last week, the lovely Margaret Yang taught us all how to write a wonderful one-page synopsis. This week, she tackles why we writers need to just write the synopsis already and stop complaining about it. Margaret is the author of the short story Good Fences. Her novel, Fate’s Mirror, debuts today. Congratulations, Margaret, and take it away!
I went to my favorite grocery store today, which has a Starbucks right inside it, perfect for my crazy busy life. My grocery list was long, but the line for coffee was short. Feeling lucky, I ordered a tall mocha frappuccino, the kind they whip up in a blender.
“Oh not another one,” the barista sighed. “Those are hard. I’ve been making them all day. I’m here all by myself . . .” He looked longingly at the hot brewed coffee and then shuffled slowly to the refrigerator to get the pitcher of cold blender mix. “And it’s not even real coffee.”
“Never mind. Thanks anyway,” I said. I put away my money and walked out.
I raced through the grocery aisles, pitching stuff into my cart, angry because I didn’t get my frozen mocha. Sure, I would have gotten one eventually, if I’d been willing to both wait and endure the barista’s whining. I was also bewildered. It was 93 degrees outside. What did he expect people to order? If you work at a coffee bar that sells frozen blender coffees, you are going to be making frozen blender coffees.
I was putting some laundry soap in my cart when the barista walked up to me carrying a large, beautiful frappuccino with whipped cream peaks drizzled in chocolate. “There you are!” he said, handing it over. “I couldn’t just let you leave.” I apologized to him, although I’m not sure why. Changing your mind about a business transaction isn’t wrong, especially since he hadn’t started preparing it yet. I reached for my wallet to pay, but he waved me off and went back to work.
I plunged the straw through the whipped cream into the heavenly mocha below, but stopped with it halfway to my mouth. I couldn’t bring myself to even try it. What if the barista had spit in it or done something else horrible? Odds are, probably not, but why take a chance, especially since it was free? I found the nearest garbage can and dumped the whole thing.
I’ve heard that many baristas dislike making frappuccinos. A lot.
Just like many writers dislike writing synopses. A lot.
When faced with writing a synopsis, the first thing we writers do is complain. I’ve already written the entire novel! Now you want me to do what? How can anyone get the sense of my novel from something all sweetened and diluted? (It’s not even real coffee!) Plus, it’s really, really hard. I don’t want to make it. I’m here all by myself…
But I’m the customer—or the editor—on the other side of the counter. I am angry and bewildered. The barista knew when he started working that he’d be expected to make frappuccinos just as we writers know we will write synopses. It’s just part of the job, and every job has unpleasant parts. What’s the big deal? Throw the coffee and some flavoring and ice into the blender and turn it on! And if it’s lumpy, make it pretty with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
A friend of mine published her first novel with a commercial press. When it came time for the second novel, her editor asked to see the first 100 pages and a synopsis. Guess what my friend said? “Oh, not another one. Those are hard. I’m here all by myself…” My friend eventually banged out a synopsis and reluctantly handed it in without any beta reads or proofreading.
It got rejected just as quickly as I threw away my beautiful frappuccino that day in the grocery store. I doubt my friend spit in her synopsis, just like I doubt the barista spit in my coffee, but you just never know.