Friday, February 24, 2012

To Sum Up

Among the writing assignments I have today is one involving the novel I’m working on, the first draft of which I have completed.

There’s still a way to go on this sucker, with much revising to do as well as a few additional scenes to include. But I’ve written the first version of the last chapter, which is satisfying in its own right.

My assignment today is to write a 50-word synopsis of the book, a “pitch” such as I might include in a query letter soliciting an agent or in other contexts. Not an easy thing to do, although I think I have a good idea of how I’m going to say it. My first novel, Same Difference, was just over 100,000 words long. This one will be shorter, but getting it all down to two or three sentences remains a challenge.

I’m unsure at the moment how I plan to go about publishing this one. I may not even get to the stage of trying to get an agent -- I didn’t use one for the first novel -- and even if I do, I may or may not be trying to get one via the query letter route. But I think it’s still a good exercise to try to boil it all down to a quick, understandable synopsis. In fact, I can tell already it will be a useful exercise when it comes to the revising, having focused my thoughts a bit more sharply regarding what the novel is really about.

When it comes to writing well, summarizing is often an underrated skill. Just about every kind of writing requires a least some form of summary, and a lot of times it takes more creative muscle to grasp the “gist” of something that has already been written than to write something wholly new or original.

A lot of people reading this site probably frequent other poker-related sites where summaries of the day’s news are regularly posted. You know, like PokerNews’ “Nightly Turbo,” the “Daily Rewind” at PokerStrategy, BLUFF Magazine’s “The Week That Was” and the like. Michael Gentile’s “This Week in Poker Podcasts” for PokerFuse can be listed, too, as an another example of the form.

Barry Carter recently wrote about these “news in brief”-type articles amid that series of posts about poker media I was recommending a while back. Such articles may appear relatively simple to pull together, but often require a lot of effort to be done effectively, with some of the hardest decisions being of the editorial variety where one has to be judicious when selecting what to include and what to leave out.

Of course, summarizing your own stuff presents a different challenge, too, since even great writers often have occasional blind spots when it comes to reading and evaluating their own work. But like I say, it can be a useful -- even enlightening -- exercise for a writer.

Here... for practice I’ll try boiling down this 500-word post to 10:

While summarizing his novel, Shamus procrastinates by writing about summarizing.

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Blogger PokerLawyer said...

I can't wait to read the new book! Also, that Robert Frost quote is one of my favorites. Good stuff

2/25/2012 10:47 AM  

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