I suppose, from time to time, I might actually use this blog as a proper blog, though my general busy-ness is a great preventative measure there. Lately, I’ve been reviewing the manuscript I wrote, a novel on the shorter end of things about college-aged ghost hunters. There’s always been some disquiet about this piece because, thematically, I really love it. I can’t help but to, even if I’m exhausted of it at the same time (the curse of any novel-length project, I imagine). I kept thinking that there was something off on a structural level, something missing in the first part of the story (which I wrote several years ago) that lacked motivation, drive, stakes for the characters or the readers.
Still, the structure seemed okay to me. Rereads went on and I still liked what I’d produced. So what was wrong? When I decided to go ahead and write a synopsis out, I saw pretty quickly. There’s something about condensing a whole chapter into a single sentence and seeing those sentences side-by-side that make you think, Oh… well… how the crap do these two ideas follow? How did we get from there to here at all? I could see the gaps. And I could also see how I had neglected one simple thing.
When I approached this novel, I wrote an outline. This outline changed a lot and it existed as a perpetual Gmail draft so that I have no record of what the original looked like nor even what the final looked like (the outline was deleted). So I always had a relatively clear idea of where I was going, but not necessarily how I got there. I think that as things changed and shifted and moved, the original stakes were lost (in fact, the original narrative is nothing like the final) and I simply forgot about it. With the synopsis, I can see very clearly what the stakes should always have been. It’s so simple that I feel really dumb for not seeing it before. And it requires only a very minimal retouching of some lines here and there, and suddenly, everything makes sense and the narrative is cohesive (enough anyway).
I’m debating whether to continue calling this a work of literary fiction or to start marketing it as “young adult.” Maybe I’ll query it out as both and see what bites first.
Anyway, lesson learned: write your synopses.