Be Miss Snark

Hello Miss Snark (and Killer Yapp)

First off all I shall state that I am a recent reader of the blog and I think it is really not only helpful resource but a brilliant read as well. I am sure I can state on behalf of myself at least that I think its fantastic that you do this blog in your own time whilst working through your day job to. So THANK YOU!

Anyhow there was a point to this email and at this point I shall pause to get prepared for a hit or several with the clue gun. A much needed one at that.

I am currently working on a second draft of a novel that has two narrators whom break the fourth wall and talk directly to the reader. My attempt at a novel also currently uses a lot of characters reminiscing of events related to the stories present plot (for instance at one point character A reveals that character B she is pregnant. That in turn causes character B to reflect on her own child she had to put up for adoption in her childhood and reveal that to character A) . If and (hopefully) when I am ready to submit queries to agents slush piles how would it be best to include these events in a synopsis? The date order that the events happened or the order that events get revealed in the story? Or is that just horridly lazy writing and should just be scrapped?

I am curious to know your thoughts on This

Well I'm just tickled to get your email. Words however fail me. If any of the Snarklings would care to offer up some advice, feel free.


Anonymous said...


Kate Thornton said...

I like innovative uses of POV if they can be pulled off successfully.

Your synopsis - whenever you are ready to do it - may be completely different from what you envision today. And the events you mention may not belong in it.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Did I miss a joke somewhere?

Unknown said...

I would just stick with the main thrust of the plot and mention the addtional narrator without getting into any detail. It will be a lot harder to get someone to request pages for a book that sounds overly complicated. So just say enough to give a heads-up, but stick to a basic story line in the synopsis.

Anonymous said...


Ummm...good luck with the synopsis writing.

Anonymous said...

Easy to dance to... like the different colors, beat's ok, I'd give it a 7.5

Haste yee back ;-)

word ver... ccnldgiy. It's that thing hangin' off your colon.

Bernita said...

Just guessing, but I wonder if the word count breaks 180,000 words?

Anonymous said...

All I know is they used the word "hopefully"...I hate that word.

Christopher M. Park said...

To me, it seems like you are taking a very challenging route to writing your first novel. However, some of the best novels have done such, so don't necessarily let that deter you.

The way that you described the two narrators and the "reminiscing" that they do immediately make me think that this is going to have lots of problems with pacing. Make sure that there is some sort of point within the story itself to having these throwbacks to the past. Playing with time (as well as perspective) in novels can be really great and interesting, but the way that you described it makes me think long-winded memoir for whatever reason.

For the synopsis, I would simply write it in whatever way is going to be most clear to someone who has never read your book. That isn't necessarily going to correspond 100% to how the actual book is structured, but it should be as similar as possible in my (non expert) opinion.


My blog on writing

Anonymous said...

A little less use of colored emphasis plus a use of a spell checker and grammar checker might be in order.

I'm afraid that, if the novel is as difficult to read as the email was (and if I were an agent), I wouldn't be picking it up.

Dana King said...

What you describe sounds like something that might work better in a movie, and would be tricky there. The trick to getting the reader hooked is to get him/her to suspend their disbelief and "forget" they're reading a made-up story. It sounds as though your technique will constantly remind them of that.

As for the synopsis, it's only going to touch on critical plot points to show the story gets from Point A to Point Z in a somewhat logical manner. Many of the flashbacks and asides can probably be dispensed with, or rolled into the description of the part of the story where they're most relevant.

Anonymous said...

This letter rambled and had numerous punctuation errors. Probably, by the time you're ready to query agents, you will have tightened your novel up considerably and won't need to worry about how to include the characters' wool-gathering in your synopsis (that is to say, the wool-gathering might not be there anymore.)

Basically, just don't worry about it yet. You're putting the chariot before the steed. Concentrate on writing the best book you can.

Anonymous said...


"Hello Miss Snark (and Killer Yapp):

I am a recent reader of the blog; I think it is not only a helpful resource but a brilliant read as well. I think it's fantastic that you do this blog on your own time. So THANK YOU!

I am prepared for a much-needed hit from the clue gun.

I am working on a second draft of a novel that has two narrators who talk directly to the reader. My novel also features some characters who reminisce about events related to the story's plot. For instance, at one point character A reveals to character B that she is pregnant, which causes character B to reflect on the child she had to put up for adoption in her childhood and reveal the story to character A. When I am ready to submit queries to agents, how would it be best to describe these plot devices, chronological order or the order that the events get revealed in the story? Or is this just horribly lazy writing? Should I re-work it?

Thank you."

Colorful email. Very Victorian.

My advice: Join a writer's group and have some friendly folk critique your writing and your story.

Anonymous said...

You need to work on the synopsis more, IMO. Your story may be fantastic, but what I got of it from your description just does not grab me. Somebody saying she is preggo and someone else reflecting on her own child as a result does not strike me as the stuff of gripping story writing.

pwstrain said...

There is no clue gun of sufficient caliber to deal with this question. We're talking a clue rocket, or clue cluster bomb here.

Anonymous said...

To the anon who suggested using using a spellchecker: There are no errors in this email which a spellchecker is capable of detecting.

ORION said...

I think there is a valid question here and I hesitate to chastise any writer because of an informally written e-mail.
In a complex novel (in both structure and story line) it is not necessarily an advantage to create a long and involved hook regaling the agent with technique and involved plot lines. (Read a synopsis of Gravity's Rainbow FYI)
Distilling your novel's essence in only two or three lines in a compelling way will force you to articulate what your book really is about. Getting too convoluted may give agents all the reason they need to toss your query aside in a "not for us." manner. In any case your included pages must shine.

Unknown said...

Don't listen to these nay-saying caution jockeys, buddy.

What you need to do is make your novel even more experimental. Make it so crazy, so out there, even if the writing really blows, people will think you're an absolute frickin' genius.

So here's the Dr. Hack recipe for success:

1. Capitalize Everything For Rhetorical Emphasis When Breaking The Fourth Wall To Talk To The Reader. This Makes Them Feel Important, Special, And Loved.

2. Create an even more radical POV eyeball kick by instituting a shifting timeline. Use Ken Kesey's, "Sometimes A Great Notion," as a primer.

3. Throw in some humorous alien abductions, a la KV's "Slaughterhouse V". People will automatically get your homage to the greats, and enshrine you among the literary masters.

4. Choose an agent. Rent an apartment that gives you a good view of their office with a pair of sturdy telescoping binoculars. Study their work habits, figure out which days are their good days and bad days. Send your query so it arrives on a good day, then 'accidentally' bump into them on the street. Go out drinking. Get them drunk. Even if they can't read your piece of dogmeat, if you're a good intellectual con man, they'll figure your MS is pure gold, and they'll sell it anyway.

Kitty said...


And now for something really important: He wears Armani so well :)

Anonymous said...

This would be funny if it didn't seem earnest and have some of the worst grammar I've ever seen. Learn how to use the English language first (and some apostrophes) and THEN worry about plot structure.

BernardL said...

My advice is wait for the next 'Crapometer' so you can be insulted by a wider audience. :)

Daisy Bateman said...

I think it's some kind of coded thing, where you can arrange the colored words into a secret message to win your very own clue gun.

"Yapp prepared fourth wall reminiscing present queries synopsis horridly."

Or maybe not.

Anonymous said...

Where SOME correct punctuation would go. to correct all of it would be a nightmare.

"First off COMMA all I shall state that I am a recent reader of the blog and I think it is really not only helpful resource but a brilliant read as well QUESTION MARK. I am sure I can state on behalf of myself at least that I think its APOSTROPHE IT'S fantastic that you do this blog in your own time whilst working through your day job to. So THANK YOU!

Anyhow COMMA there was a point to this email and at this REPETETIVE point I shall pause to get prepared for a hit or several with the clue gun. A much needed one at that.

I am currently working on a second draft of a novel that has two narrators whom break the fourth wall and talk directly to the reader. My attempt at a novel also currently uses a lot of characters reminiscing of ABOUT, NOT OF events related to the stories present plot (for instance at one point character A reveals that character B she is pregnant. That COMMA in turn COMMA causes character B to reflect on her own child she had to put up for adoption in her childhood and reveal that to character A) . If and (hopefully) when I am ready to submit queries to agents APOSTROPHE slush piles how would it be best to include these events in a synopsis? The date order that the events happened or the order that events get revealed in the story? Or is that just horridly lazy writing and should just be scrapped?

JUST A FEW OF THE GLARING MISTAKES. Let's not even TALK about sentence structure.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of the sign in SF MUNI rail and bus carriages that reads, "Information gladly given but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation."

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

So maybe this writer just celebrated finishing a 90,000 novel and screwed up her (I'm thinking her with the colors) courage to ask Miss Snark a question - and most people's responses are for all intents and purposes in S*&T brown - kaka'ing all over her. That said - I am the world's worst synopisizer (hey, if the President can be the decider, I can be a synopisizer.) I can't help the author. And yes, I had a snurgly comment ready to fire off too - before I took a sec to think about how HARD the publishing process is and that I too have a zilion clue-gun attracting questions. And the Bible (NT) has FOUR POV's for the same story and it did OK.....

Anonymous said...

Say what?!!

Please say you're kidding.


Anonymous said...

Too wordy.

ilyakogan said...

I agree with Daisy.

Here is my version of the decoded message:

Present horribly prepared synopsis - curious Yapp queries fourth wall.

Mindy Tarquini said...

What's with all the pretty colors? Am I missing something?

benjamin royan saari said...

Wait, this was a joke e-mail, right?


litagent said...

Punctuation and spelling errors are easy to fix. I actually love this sort of thing if it's done well. I've found that it's best to do a straight-forward, chronological synopsis with a sentence or two explaining the narrative arc (or helix if that be the case.)

Anonymous said...

People are being WAY too nice to this questioner. Let's turn the snarking up to full blast and pretend it's Sobol who submitted the question.

Anonymous said...

Open your document in WORD. Take out all the adverbs in your book. (easy with 'search and replace' with the 'ly' setting.) Then take all all proper names except those of the Hero and Heroine. Underline the name of the villain in red.

Then open 'Instant Synopsis' in your WORD Tools bar.
Select all.
Hit 'Instant Synopsis'.

Any more questions?

Anonymous said...

Okay, my comment was mean-spirited and out of line. I apologize. Who am I to criticize any way.

Even though I have yet to snag an agent (It's about the writing, stupid.), several have actually commented on how well I write a query letter. (At least I have that part right.) I also believe it may be easier for those of us who have written non-fiction articles to write a synopsis. (Novel-writing is another story.)

For the query, after you toss out your pitch, i.e., Blah Blah is the story of a fifty-year old woman who goes on a cross-continent quest, risking life and limb to find the child she gave up for adoption 25 years ago.

Told in first person narrative, with a POV that alternates between Susie and her daughter Barbie, "The Quest" (90,000 word literary fiction) is the story of Susie's journey through war-torn Iraq, searching for her child after she learns the girl is married to an abusive terrorist who plans to turn the girl into a human bomb.

As she travels through the back country of Iraq, Susie recalls her daughter Barbie's first five years.

Barbie has no idea her mother is trying to find her. As her mother closes in, Barbie agrees to wear the bomb, beaten and raped into submission by her husband. Knowing she is going to die, Barbie recalls happier days when she was still living with her mother.

Barbie and her mother share their hopes and fears when they speak directly to the reader.

Here's how it might work to do a synopsis.

Go thru your ms one chapter at a time. Reading only the first/last paragraph, try to summarize what happens in that chapter using only one sentence. e.g. When she learns her best friend is pregnant,Susie recalls, vividly, the day twenty-five years ago, when she endured thirty hours of labor to bring Barbie into the world.

Do this for every chapter. Use the sentences to write a running narrative that tells the story. Leave out any unnecessary details and combine sentences where possible. Try to fit the entire thing, single-spaced with paragraphs indented, on one page. You will probably have to write a closing sentence to tie it all together.

Good luck.

And to anonymous grammarian - Leave my punctuation the hell alone. This is a blog reply, not a submission package you dork!

Anonymous said...

A few extraneous that's would really make this work.

Jeanne said...

I was going to say: I HATE novels where the narrator speaks to the audience much less TWO narrators. Then I remembered, The Pale Blue Eye, up for an Edgar this year. So I take it back since Bayard does both and his novel is wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Boy, you Snarklings don't like anything that doesn't have a dead body, a serial killer, or a pair of Jimmy Choos, do you?

Serious literary novels often move all over the place. The Ice Storm; Breath, Eyes, Memory; Billy Dead, The Lovely Bones...

I think the synopsis should tell the main event your story hangs on (and you have to have a good one -- that's key), then say how this event causes the characters to re-examine their lives or whatever. The things your characters remember should influence what they're doing now, otherwise you have a mess, not a novel.

Good luck with it. And yes, there's an audience for books that don't have a killer on the loose or a Boyfriend Who Can't Commit.

Anonymous said...

Delilah, great response. It's wonderful when we take a moment to give advice that we all might make use of.

To those of you who rip the presentation of the question apart and say that the person is in no position to even ask it...how useless for everyone. Yes, don't ask questions about querying on a Q&A site until you are a good enough writer to begin querying. No questions unless you're ready to publish! We mock and shame questioners here.

I'm grumpy today.

Anonymous said...

*close eyes. deep breath.*

Takes a nip of gin, and gazes at picture of George Clooney for strength.

Takes another nip of gin.

I'm glad you find my blog helpful. Keep coming.

You need to redraft. Then redraft again. And then, maybe, start to think about writing a synopsis.

Ask Killer Yapp nicely, and he may direct you to the Crapometer of Synopses.

- KY: Don't. Like. Parrrentheses. Rrrff!

The fact that you have more than one narrator using the second person suggests to me that you have drafted an attempt at a novel when an attempt at a play might have been more fruitful.

Reminiscing can work well in plays. So can soliloquys, or apostrophes to the audience.

If you wish to stick at your novel, keep in mind Hemingway's iceberg rule. Give your characters hefty backstories if you wish but consider whether your story might have more power if they remained unvoiced.

But to repeat: writing a riveting synopsis only enters the ballpark once you have written an unputdownable novel.

Kicks off stilettoes, stretches and spritzes the venus nitwat-trap next to the computer. KY resumes deleting e-mailed queries.


imp said...

To the letter writer: I think Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down," which uses four switching narrators, might be helpful to you. I think they break the 4th Wall (or I could just think that because I listened to the audiobook and felt like the characters were speaking right to me.) Read and compare, you know? (Plus, the book is pretty great. I think, anyway.)

But I agree w/Brady: Talk about the main thrust of the novel without trying to reorder the whole thing chronologically.

Anonymous said...

Fire Lindsay Lohan and get a real editor. Alternatively, have a native speaker of English look over your letter, any letter. Ever.


Anonymous said...

Dear Nitwit,

Shut up. Read the blog daily for several months at least. Read other writing blogs. Write your novel. Join a critique group. Make the group read your novel. Listen to what they say. Invest in a Writer's Market book. Then and only then feel free to ask a question.

With love and best wishes,

Miss Snark Substitute

Deborah Niemann said...

Have you, by any chance, been watching any of those TV shows (like "The Office") where the characters talk to the audience? If I understand what you are proposing, it sounds like it would be better suited to a screenplay, rather than a novel. People who love to read should write books. People who love to watch movies and television should write screenplays. As they say, write what you know. This doesn't sound like a novel to me.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a little mean-spirited to fire up the snark rockets so quickly for a new reader of this blog. I would hate to see someone run for the hills or worse, feel like she should give up writing just because she received a dose of snark for which she was unprepared.

And despite the perkiness of the post, it was a valid question. I would recommend trying to write the synopsis in the style of the novel, keeping all the storylines intertwined, rather than make the synopsis more static with each story arc set apart from one another.

Anonymous said...

Okay, snarklings. About this talking to the audience thing, apparently none of you have read Michel Faber's "The Crimson Petal and the White."

The protagonist talks to her readers throughout the book. And I think it's a rather fetching approach.

Blogless Troll said...

Hey, thanks for not posting my comment. That's five in a row you've censored.

merper said...

Why are people having such visceral reactions to this? I mean other than the typos and the roundabout sentences. Is there some sort of inside joke here? And what's with the colored words?

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear!

It looks like I have been Snarked. As the sender of the above email, I can hold my hands up and admit that it was well deserved to. That’s very much the risk with not checking through what I was typing. A silly mistake enough at the best of times, let alone when asking for advice.

Thank you Miss Snark for making my spelling mistakes and bad word choices clear. At least I hope that was you and not how I wrote the email otherwise I am beyond redemption. For those Snarklings who took the time to correct my pathetic attempts at grammar It is something I shall take away with me to help me improve.

I hope it give you all a laugh. I have read through the responses, and finding a lot of them helpful. The rest I am getting a giggle out of. You really do speak the truth and I appreciate that.

I shall say it now. I am very much a nit twit. I deserved much worse than what I got. I also got conformation of what I thought though, The style and way it is written is complicated, wacky and should just be scrapped.

When the Crapometer comes around next I would be more than willing to submit it for the rip apart. (That is if Miss Snark has not blacklisted me as someone deserving of not being allowed to submit-I would not blame her in the least!)

By the way to answer the questions it currently stands at about 50180 words which is way too short, or way too long. The flashbacks are not the main plot at all, (In fact yes it actually does involve an attempted murder heaven help me.) I will admit that that it would at the moment work better as a script. It was probably my crap way of explaining it that made it seem much worse than it is.

I Will take the advice about writing circles though,harsh critics are people I am rapidly learning to listen to and it can only help me improve right?

Again thank you for your comments Snarklings and for not being as mean as I honestly expected you to be.

*I shall scurry back to the my corner of England now where I shall hang my head in shame!*

Miss Snark said...

the colored ink was in the email. I wasn't sure what it meant either.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark

That was not my intention for the words to appear in Green.

I will now risk an much more deserved round of Snark for being dumb as well as a nit twit.

I am Really very very sorry about the green words and erm everything. I really am a Muppet.

*Hangs head with even greater Shame.*

ORION said...

Angela take heart. Don't scrap something on the basis of what commenters say.
You sound like you can learn.
That is not being a nitwit.
If I had listened to all the commenters on Kristin Nelson's blog last June I might have scrapped my novel LOTTERY because they all said (including Kristin) that the lottery premise is so very overdone.
And I would not have gotten my significant deal from Putnam just this December.
So take heart and keep writing.
I think it sounds interesting.

McKoala said...

Angela that's an outstandingly gracious response. There's nothing wrong with a good snarking, but some of the remarks here have been pretty mean-spirited. You've risen above it all. All the best with your writing future.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Dear dog! Pass the gin pail, por favor!

You lost me at First of all I shall state...

Anonymous said...

Having more than one narrator rarely works. Breaking the fourth wall never works. Your query and synopsis had better be top notch, because you're starting with two strikes against you.

I don't think your timeline problem is relevant, and here's why:

You've got a two page synopsis, give or take. If there is so little actual plot in your novel that Character A's memories of pregnancy need to go in that synopsis, you've got a bigger problem on your hands than what order to put things in. Conversely, if Character A's long-lost child shows up on her doorstep, we can figure out she was pregnant once without a trip down memory lane being included in the synopsis.

If you do have to put it in the synopsis, introduce the information in the same order as it is introduced in the book, unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.

Mindy Tarquini said...

Hell's bells, Angela! I just wanted to know what the pretty colors were about. I wondered if it were a code, something Da Vinciesque, that I was too dim to comprehend. Probably had more to do with a character that Miss Snark's mail client interprets as 'green' for whatever strange reason that Miss Snark's mail client does that, than anything that happened in the typing of it.

All you did was ask a question about how to write a synopsis for a novel in which the story proceeds in an atypical way. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if the synopsis is this much of a stymy, you're not ready to write the synopsis yet. Perhaps the work isn't well-defined enough, either on paper, or in your mind, or both.

Soooo...go back to work. Outline what happens in the novel, maybe do a flow chart. People love flow charts. Then see if you have an irredeemable mess or a work of hidden genius you've yet to illuminate.

And have fun. That's why you're writing, correct? Because you enjoy it?

Twill said...

delialh (delilah?) -

There is no one on this blog who is capable of telling you whether your work as written is "complicated, wacky and should just be scrapped." We haven't read it -- it may be *genius*! If you took that opinion away from reading the comments, you should read again.

What they are trying to tell you, in various ways, is that writing is a profession that you must treat seriously, at all times, even if you are joking. Assuming you want to be taken seriously.

First: As a writer, your words are your calling card. If you write sloppy questions, people will make assumptions about your other writing.

Fair or not, it is in your power to affect their perceptions. Use it to your advantage.

Second: Other people's time is valuable, especially people whom you would like to influence.
That means: write clearly and succinctly; write to the best of your ability.

Save the reader effort and time, and it will be appreciated. They may not even know that it took you two hours to get the email just right. But the quality of the writing and the ease of reading it will make people willing to read more.

Third: The word "synopsis" is used for at least three different things. Start from the question of "What is the purpose of *this* synopsis?"

If the purpose of the synopsis is to help you understand the structure of your story, so that you can improve your story, then it doesn't matter to anyone but yourself what form it's in. Write it in quatrains if it helps you focus.

If the purpose of the synopsis is to sell the book to an agent or a publisher, then it should *generally* be written in third person, present tense, and cover all the events of the book at a high level. Aim for one to two paragraphs per chapter, but don't let the guideline be a straight jacket. Final length 8-20 pages depending on ... stuff.

And give it the closest tone you can to the tone in the book.

Likewise, if the purpose of the synopsis is to sell the story to Hollywood, there is a slightly different format that sounds exactly like the second one above but has different emphasis. The difference is immaterial at your point in the process.

There are more kinds. Figure out what the purpose of the one you are writing is. Then write to that purpose.

And make every paragraph that you write the best that you can make it. Except when it's just a placeholder for the brilliant thing you'll write later, in which case drop it in and move on, because you can't afford to wait for the right word when you haven't met quota yet.

Anonymous said...

ohmigod! bad sign! the evil green word virus guy is loose!!

Anonymous said...

When an agent asks for a synopsis they usually specify length, usually one or two pages. When they ask for a "detailed synopsis" I believe it means something in the neighborhood of twenty or so pages.

Anonymous said...

"I am currently working on a second draft of a novel that has two narrators whom break the fourth wall"

So them break that wall, do them?

Anonymous said...

A twenty page synopsis? That sounds like a non-fiction proposal. If someone requested that for my novel, I'd have to pass. Let them read the damn pages or forget it.

Anonymous said...

One thing for sure, you have a unique voice. I like it. It's different and rather endearing. Join a writer's group to help you work out some of the errors in grammar and punctuation. Even the roundabout sentences can work if used like spice. They can add to the voice. Just don't do it too much or it can become overwhelming. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep asking questions. And don't let anyone tell you what you can't do. You can break absolutely any "rule" so long as you can show you are doing it on purpose and are in control of your work (consistent grammar and punctuation will help that)and it works for your story. Write and rewrite your synopsis in several different ways and show those to a critique group too so you can see how others are interpreting your story. Good luck.

harrietcat said...

A tip of the gin pail (no, I'm not wearing it on my head...ok, fine, a cliched tip of the hat) to Angela for taking some serious snark very very well. But really, enough with the "oh I'm too dumb to deserve to submit to the crapometer" (paraphrasing). We all make mistakes. Often they are much stupider mistakes than somehow writing random words in green, or not checking our grammar. If you can accept criticism, and use it to improve your novel and query letter, you are most definitely NOT a nitwit. Good luck!

Chris Eldin said...

Please, Miss Snark. Can't you hear the cries for help? SynopsEs in need of a snark-a-haul.

I can't be Brady Westwater and come right out and ask. I don't want the public flogging.

Is there a "tipping" point for you?
A certain number of nitwit questions that will make you throw your arms into the air and say "These snarklings need another crap-o-meter!"

Curious and hopeful.....

Anonymous said...

Whilst. whilst, whilst, whilst, whilst, whilst. I couldn't get past whilst. Very sorry.

J m mcdermott said...

i just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer's debut, and this weird book included quite a lot of experimentation in form.

And the weirdness works.

but, a synopsis doesn't have to include all the broken points of view, or the three different narrators - two of them writing through their thick accents - and, of course the synopsis does not include the many fantastical elements that appear from time to time.

"A young translator and his grandfather escort an American writer in the Ukraine. They search for the woman who saved the writer's Jewish grandfather during World War II."

What's the big picture? If all of your experimentation is well-written, it will be self-explanatory.

That's my opinion, anyway. My opinion and 2.20 in Euro gets you a one way bus ticket on the Wiesbaden metro.

Anonymous said...

Angela, that is too funny that your email contained the colored words.

MS-is that what you meant when you said you could see the emails that people scrapped? Your email program can pick up the words that were changed? That's freaking awesome! I want one of those.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and to Grammar Pest -

I doubt many of us missed the enormous problems, assuming we're speaking da english, in that email, issues so extensive, I don't believe any of us who frequent Miss Snark's blog feel we can correct them in a simple, arrogant reponse.

The sender sounded to me as if they were imbued with joy at the writing process. My initial snarky response served no purpose other than to dash the writer's hopes. In recompense, I plan a few extra licks with the old beaded whip over the next several days.

Anonymous said...

Miss Angela -- If you aren't seeking commercial success and this is how you really want to write, then keep learning and writing, darling. And remember Clifton Fadiman's review of Faulkner's masterpiece, Abaslom, Abaslom:

"The final blowup of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent."

Who knows, maybe you are creating a new style - "Stream of Crayolaness."

ryan field said...

Angela...You get huge points just for signing your name, and please take all comments from blog pages with tongue-in-cheek.

Brenda said...

Hey! There's another Brenda!

Kara Lennox said...

Feeding Frenzy!

Angela, you go, girl. When you sell your book, come back here and gloat.

Oh, and for the record, just write your synopsis as if you were telling a good friend what your book is about. Don't worry overly much about details.

Anonymous said...

"Whilst" is British. It's formal and stilted to American ears, but perfectly common British English.

Nancy Beck said...


Don't hang your head in shame; just continue writing your book. It doesn't matter if you decide, after it's finished, that it'll never see the light of day. But until you actually write, THE END, how would you know if it's worth it to revise it? Sometimes you know to abandon a few chapters in; sometimes you don't. I once abandoned a story by the 3rd or 4th chapter; reading it a few years later, I was right to do that because it sucked.

But I don't think it's necessarily something you can pick up on right away, esp. if you haven't been writing fiction for very long. (And don't we all have issues with some or a lot of the processes of writing? Grammar, spelling, whatever?)

So keep writing it. Finish it. Put it away for a month or so. Go through it with fresh eyes. Do you like most of what you see? If so, start the revision process. Put it away for a couple of weeks and come back to it. Revise again.

At this point, you might want to consider an online or in-person critique group. Or not. Your choice, of course.

If you don't like what you see after you've put it away the first time, put it aside and work on something else. You can always come back to it at a later date, if you decide you want to. Who knows? Maybe you'll cannibalize that story, taking character names or snippits of dialogue or something.

As for synopses...do a google search. I won't say that examples abound, but here are a couple to start with:



Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Snarkalicious, you appear to have increased the national gin consumption by threefold, given the number of snarklings that refer to taking a little nip for strength or nerves. Me, I prefer a good whiskey any day.

Anonymous said...

Why is it always that the neophytes who seek to "break the rules" haven't taken the time to read the requisite theory and praxis and actually learn the rules they wish to break? (and, while they're at it, find out why, in less primitive visceral terms, why they wish to break them?) oh, i forgot. that would require actually knowing how to read and think. i would throw a query or synopsis like this directly in the delete folder. i can't take anyone seriously, regardless of commitment to the craft, who doesn't know the difference between who and whom. jeez. my 12-year-old could construct a better email, and doesn't have to rely on spellcheck in order to do so.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by all the comments suggesting that the format is in some way odd or experimental. It's common (and good) writing to embed relevant backstory into the present action. Asking the question, "Where should my embedded backstory go in the synopsis--chronology order, or the order in which it's revealed in the book?" is thoughtful. Sure, the colored words were amusing, but the question was a good one. Seriously, I don't get why the claws came out here.

Miss Snark said...

The reason this is a question that boggles the mind is that there was an entire crapometer devoted to the care and feeding of synopses, and there have been MANY posts on this exact question.

The weird colors were ...weird too, but it sounds like that was just translation error betwixt email programs.

Anonymous said...

Angela, what a good sport you are.

I'm always shocked by the vitriol that comes out in comment trails like this one. As if everybody here made it through round one of the COM?

ssas said...

My opinion and experience tells me that the impossible-to-write synopsis reflects a book with a lot of problems.

Kim said...

Angela, I give you all the props in the world for having the balls to give a name instead of remaining anonymous. Even if it isn't your real name, it took guts...

Don't let the mean-spirited commentors get to you - nobody's perfect with spelling or grammar, no matter how much they might like to think otherwise.

I admit, my eyes glazed over a little and a bit of a fog rolled over my brain, but if you put the synopsis away for a while, work on something else, and come back to it, you'll probably find the way to summarize without so much confusions. (pauses to catch breath... could I use more commas???)

Keep at it, you'll get it.

Anonymous said...

Who the fuck dug 'whilst' out of the Bard's grave when he wasn't looking?

For God's sake, put it back. Along with 'alas' and 'amongst' and any other pretentious usage.

Anonymous said...

My opinion would be to write a synopsis on your main plot (it does have a main plot, right?) and mention the subplots through the window of that main synopsis, so to speak.

"Chance tells Emily of how he intends to ask for his girlfriend's hand in marriage, causing Emily to reminisce about the time she was proposed to. When Emily had just turned 22..." et cetera.

Something like that.

Anonymous said...

One of the Anonymouses accused the writer of pretentious usage.

Not at all. I realized immediately that the person who wrote the email to Miss Snark was a Brit. Even when Brits leave home to move to, say, Canada, most of them still speak this way. They aren't guilty of "pretentious usage"--this is just one of the British dialects.

There were some grammatical glitches. And the writer should read that handy little guide--Eats, Shoots, and Leaves--by her fellow Brit.

(And thanks, Angela, for the confirmation of my working hypothesis about your home country.)

Twill said...

Sad to say--

when expounding upon the subject of taking care in writing, spelling, and presentation--

so as to make a professional impression--

I spelled Angela's name


There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Hey Twill - I like the name Angela much better. Maybe I'll change to that for a wee little time.

Anonymous said...

To the two "whilst"-hating anonymice: you're Brit bashing and displaying your colonial nitwithood. You need to get out more.

Angela, welcome. We were all in your trainers once.

David Isaak said...

To whoever wrote: "Having more than one narrator rarely works. Breaking the fourth wall never works."

If you're going to

1) be a self-righteous twit, and
2) make wild generalizations that anyone well-read can refute with only a moment's thought, and
3) go on at some length

then in my opinion you really should show enough courage not to hide behind "anonymous". (And don't claim it's because you don't have a blogger account. You can still identify yourself in the body of the e-mail.)

Breaking the fourth wall NEVER works? Nabokov, Douglas Adams, Wodehouse, William Goldman, Italo Calvino, Lemony Snicket, Vonnegut, John Barth, Donald Barthelme--man, I could go on and on, and without reaching back to the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was common practice.

More than one narrator "rarely" works? I don't know how you define "rarely", but Faulkner did it successfully, Didion did it successfully, Diana Wagman did it successfully...oh, why even bother?

I can only hope the original poster ignores you, as what you said is just silly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the feedback and advice regarding my question. I have found it helpful and I shall be making good use of it. In addition, thank you to those who made me feel welcome. I really appreciate that.

I would like to clear a point or two up though. As Snarklings have pointed out “Whilst” was not me attempting to be precocious or pretentious, it is a word that is commonly used in everyday speak where I come from. As is amongst and Alas is slowly making a comeback into people’s vocab. Just for the record if, any of you have seen the film Billy Elliot, that is based in the same area I was born and bred. It was not my intention to come across as a pretentious twat; it is just the way I talk.
For those who said I was gracious and a good sport again thank you. IMO if you are going to ask a question in a public forum then you just have to be a good sport. That goes double in a forum such as this, where commenters are brutally honest. There is very little point asking and then not accepting what is said, especially when people have took the time to help me. Everyone who replied has their right to their opinion and besides life is too short to argue. Especially when it is the matter of cultural differences and educational standards. I am thinking of the poster who commented about her Twelve-year-old son writing a better email. Going on the assumption that you are not from the UK, I am sure he could because the standards of education in the UK are not up to scratch. That is not me making an excuse it is just me stating a fact.

Angela (Yes that is my real name, glad to do my bit for the alcohol industry and is about to hunt down all the books people mentioned.)

Deb said...

A very wise editor (mine) once said, "With these opinions of mine, throw out whatever goes CLUNK in your heart/mind/spirit, and take the rest to do your revisions."

I think your plan can work, provided it's written very tight and provided you have a story to tell.

It all starts and stops with story. Nail that, and you'll have something worth re-synopsizing (is that a word?).


Anonymous said...

for any rule in writing, one can always find numerous published examples of the opposite. that's hardly enough to disprove the rule. just because something gets published doesn't automatically mean it works, or it's correct, or it peremptorily solves the problem. of course, getting an amateur to understand this would be like trying to get a rottweiler to consider taking up a PhD program as a hobby instead of mauling small children. writers who have spent years and years developing their craft know why the rules exist and also know that the reason nabokov and faulkner were able to get away with certain things have little to do with the so-called transgression. but again, why would i expect any of you to know that?

Kim said...

Argh!!! Stupid Blogger ate my comment!

I'll try to recreate it...

I use the word amongst on occasion, does that make ME pretentious? And no, I'm not British (but I am Irish, is that close enough?)

I should clarify my eye-glaze comment from before, because it wasn't supposed to be quite so bitchy. I've been living in the fog of cold medicine for the last week, so even the cereal box reads like a cryptogram.

Wasn't Faulkner's 'The Sound and the Fury' told from four viewpoints? I've tried to read it more than once, but my eyes glaze over at that, as well.

Anyhow, Angela, you handled the snarkier snarks just fine. Good luck! (Raises mug of Ther-Flu)

Anonymous said...

Usage issues:

An Anonymous recommended Truss's __Eats, Shoots and Leaves__. Note the punctuation. Truss omits the serial comma. That drives me stark raving crazy. The title of a book on punctuation--improperly punctuated! Makes me positively postal. (Yeah, some modern journalists gave up the serial comma, but they're horribly wrong.)

And brave Author Angela, I suggest using the term twit not twat. In America, the second term is very dirty. You'd only use it in situations where you'd use the lowest language you know. I assume you don't particularly want to get down and dirty on us...but I'd understand if you did.

David Isaak said...

anonahole said:

"for any rule in writing, one can always find numerous published examples of the opposite. that's hardly enough to disprove the rule."

On the contrary. When someone makes a statement like "Breaking the fourth wall NEVER works", even ONE published example is exactly enough to disprove the rule. Period.

And before you say that only writers with vast experience can break the rules successfully, I note than Lemony Snicket broke the fourth wall in his very first book, and that his asides were one of the features praised by critics.

As to: "but again, why would i expect any of you to know that?"

Who the hell are you and who do you think you're talking to on this forum? A number of us have been writing for many years and have published books; and I'm willing to stack my academic credentials up against yours any time.

You sure picked an appropriate pseudonym!

Anonymous said...

Good luck with this. Try to convey a sense in your query that this novel is innovative in its voice. Conceptually, your novel has been done before; make it sound as though you've done it better, and you may get a chance to send in a full.
You might start by remembering the difference among too, to, and two, things the spellchecker won't help you with.

Twill said...

anonahole -

The form Angela mentions is obviously a difficult one. Posters have stated helpful examples where it was done well.

Regarding her actual work, most of us are simply reserving judgment on something we have not read. Maybe it's well written, maybe badly. The only thing we have to go on is an obviously informal, off-the-cuff sample from a person who wrote with a question.

I would not assume, based upon the sample you just gave us, that all of your prose is bulky, run-on, argumentative, unkind, self-righteous or narcicistic. I assume that, once fully edited, your works may sparkle with actual wit. And I assume that in person you do not exhibit those qualities either.

I try to be truthful, helpful and kind-- in that order. Being all three is usually possible.

Kate Thornton said...

Angela, you are a good sport.

I often enjoy reading Miss Snark's blog and the comments of the snarklings. I recognize a great many of them from other blogs and fora.

But I do take advice here (unless it is Miss Snark's) with a grain of salt, especially anything offered anonymously.

Again, you are a good sport - keep on writing!

Anonymous said...

but again, why would i expect any of you to know that?

This from someone who apparently doesn't know what a capital frickin' letter is??

Anonymous said...

An "anonymous" complained about the "missing" comma in the title of "Eats Shoots and Leaves". Has he/she read the book, or even the blurb? The title is based on a joke about a panda who wrongly inserts the serial comma and uses that as an explanation for having shot someone - the version in the title (habits of the panda in the wild) is correct!

Talk about needing the cluegun...