The Very Dreadful Synopsis

on February 2, 2012

On Tuesday, I got an email that many writer’s dread.

The copy department wants a synopsis.

This is particularly dire when you, the author, DID actually send in a (very) brief synopsis weeks ago. They want more.

This doesn’t surprise me because I only sent them one long paragraph that I wrote as if it were back cover copy, with a few more details. I know there are formulas that people use, and I can write a log line, and I can put together the premise and backstory very easily, but I have no idea until I’m in my character’s shoes what they are actually going to do.

From this synopsis the copy department will be writing the back cover copy. And while the author (usually) gets to review and edit the cover copy, if there are errors of story they sometimes end up being released. Sure, they’ll be fixed for print, but it can take weeks to have the correct cover copy replicate to all the online sites. Sometimes they never do. Some on-line e-tailers have the never approved, mistakening released cover for KILLING FEAR … or the original cover for THE PREY that was pulled six months before release date because booksellers wanted more movement on the cover.

THE PREY - original cover

THE PREY - Released



While the cover issues weren’t really anyone’s fault–the covers needed to be changed for a variety of reasons–back cover copy seems to stay longer in cyberspace and is harder to change. Don’t ask me why!

So I REALLY need to get my synopsis in order because I only have a few dozen very rough pages for STALKED that I know aren’t going to make it past the next two weeks. The deeper I get into the story, the more I realize the opening is all wrong.

I put that aside to work on the synopsis and thinking about where the story was going, or rather, where I THINK the story is going.

To be honest, my rough drafts and my final drafts have little to no resemblance.

In the first draft of THE PREY–the one that Ballantine bought and my editor gave me notes on–FBI Agent Quinn Peterson dies in an explosion near the end of the book. After reading the notes, I resurrected him. Good thing, because he ended up being the hero of THE HUNT. And while the first 300 pages didn’t drastically change in that first book, the last 150 pages were totally rewritten. The ending was completely different.

SILENCED 4.24.12

SILENCED will be my 18th book. Instead of the ending changing–that, more or less, stayed the same–the first half of the book was drastically rewritten. The premise changed (somewhat.) In my editorial letter, my editor wisely pointed out that the story started in the wrong place. I kept referring back to a pivotal event that had happened one week before. Why not write that scene?

I did. It’s now chapter two.

That’s why I was terrified about writing the synopsis for STALKED. I know my first 100 pages are going to be rewritten. They may even be completely deleted. I’ve rewritten the openings of all my books multiple times, both in my drafts and after editorial notes. (I’m sure there’s some deep psychological reason for this, but for me, the first act is just damn hard to write. It takes me twice as long to write the first 150 pages as it does to write the last 300.)

STALKED 10.30.12

But I wrote the expanded synopsis. It went from roughly 250 words to 1300. And when I got to the end, I realized that I had a little problem. While I didn’t know how the story unfolded, I THOUGHT I knew who the killer was.

I don’t. As I thought about the killer as I envisioned him, I “tracked” him down as Lucy would. And I realized … he’s innocent. Yes, the murder has everything–and nothing–to do with him, but he’s not a killer.

In the synopsis, I wrote:

Lucy pulls the files of the people she thinks are most likely to have a connection to this case, and the answer is immediately clear.

I really, really hope that when (if) this scene actually happens, that the answer is clear to Lucy, because I have no effing idea.

The synopsis for STALKED is truly dreadful. But one good thing came out of writing it: excitement. I’m truly excited to find out what happens after Lucy finds the dead body of her favorite instructor at Quantico.

I just ordered a case of LOVE ME TO DEATH to give away at an event. But I’m going to give away FIVE copies here. BETTER, I’m going to let YOU give the copies away. If you comment and win, you get to choose any book from my backlist for YOU, and I’ll also send a friend a copy of Lucy’s first book, LOVE ME TO DEATH–signed, giving you credit for the gift. AND if more than 100 people comment, I’ll give away TEN packages. (Yes, you can see that I’m being very competitive with Rocki and Lori who always get over 100 comments, so just once I’d love to beat them. Hahahaha.)

So let me ask you a question: which is more important, the cover or cover copy? Can you see why I begged to have the KILLING FEAR cover tweaked?

SILENCED is now up for pre-order! Visit my website for all the links, cover copy, and an excerpt.