I’m now over my compulsive refreshing of Amazon Rankings after last week’s frankly fascinating flurry of ascents (descents) into the heights (depths) of the charts. One last note: I also found it interesting that movement on the Amazon charts did not necessarily result in a comparable degree of success in the B&N.com charts. This probably has to do with a combination of differing demographics of who buys from B&N versus Amazon, and particularly in one case, when an author really concentrates on Amazon and ignores B&N. In any event, it was, anecdotally, my most retweeted post, and thanks to everyone for reacting. (And to Harry Potter’s Psychiatrist, neither the author nor I organized the Goodreads giveaway, and I suspect there will be others.)
This week’s particularly hectic. I’m two weeks out from my son’s Bar Mitzvah, so much of my free time is being spent talking to caterers and figuring out table seating charts. We’re also noticing that the boy’s formerly high and clear voice is beginning to waver a bit as he sings. Given that he just surpassed my wife in height (she's not Manute Bol, but it's a milestone nonetheless), we’re hoping like crazy that it doesn’t change any more between now and the beginning of June.
So just a quick word today on synopses, which are on my mind because I had to ask two of my clients to supply them for editors who requested them. The reason I didn’t have their synopses on file is very simple: I hate synopses, and don’t include them in my submission requirements.
When I was in college in the late 1980s, I took a course in Derridian deconstruction, which dealt with a number of arcane philosophies of literature and politics. One of the things it taught me was to take a text—complex, filled with the ebbs and flows of drama or plot—and break it down into its fundamental, chronological components. For my final paper I took Absalom, Absalom, broke it down into its plot elements, imposed Derridian Differance (with an a), and…sucked all the life out of Faulkner’s masterpiece. (Aside: I reread my paper four years after graduation, and didn’t understand one word. But it was, of course, very impressive.)
And that’s my problem with synopses: They take an author’s labor and break it down into dry plot elements. We want to read a story, be transported along. We don’t simply want to know what happens. We want to know in the author’s sweet time. It’s why I hate reading synopses, and most authors hate writing them. I feel that a letter with a paragraph or two with the idea of the book—genre, basic characterizations, length—and the first five pages, gives me a much better sense of whether I have an author I want to work with than two pages of “and then they find the daughter dead in the bathtub. And then the maid screams. And then the police come…”
OK, off my soapbox. Back to seating charts.