Monday, April 07, 2008

Summary

by Brenda Roger

I've been struggling, for over a week now, to write a two paragraph summary of my work-in-progress. I was prepared for the request of a synopsis. That has existed for years. In what is surely an effort not to waste anymore of her time, an agent has reqested that those wishing to meet with her at an upcoming conference fill out a form that includes a two paragraph summary of their manuscript. I have decided to treat this as a marketing project rather than a writing one. My work-in-progress is called Clutching at Her Throat. Tell me what you think of my effort. Only honesty will help. I've been through many painting and drawing critique's and yesterday, I competed in a horse show where a seven year old on an overweight pony cleaned the floor with me. Yep, that's right, I have no pride left. Go for it.

There are certain people you innately trust, your doctor, your accountant and your lawyer, to name a few. For many women, their seamstress is included in that unique group of individuals upon whose services and discretion she can rely.

Just days after penning these words in an article entitled, Fitting Room Confessions, for the local newspaper of her Pennsylvania town, dressmaker, Vivien Everett, finds one of her clients dead. With the approaching deadline of a museum gala for which she will dress some of the most notable women in town, Vivien is at the center of the gossip as well as the investigation. Detective Thomas Misselli learns that Vivien is a conduit for crucial information about the young victim’s life. Unfortunately, the killer sees her that way too.

In a business heavily dependent on a social acceptance, Vivien’s situation is further complicated when the list of suspects includes the town’s favorite son, the chaplain and president of the Catholic college in town, and even the victim’s own father. With a marriage on shaky ground and a fledgling business, Vivien Everett helps Detective Misselli piece together a pattern of secrets past, petty larceny, and even a suspicious clergyman.

10 comments:

jennieb said...

Brenda,
First off, let me preface by saying that I'm no expert, and that I know how difficult it is to do what you're trying to do. Synopses, outlines, and summaries are damned hard to write.

That said, two things struck me. 1) You have three paragraphs, not two, and 2) You're trying to squeeze in too much information.

For instance, the museum gala probably doesn't matter for purposes of the summary, since you don't mention it again. I'm not sure the fact that the town is in PA matters, either, unless the setting is significant somehow, but then you should mention why.

Who's the agent? Anyone we know?

Joyce said...

As Jennie said, these are really hard to do! I think you have a good start, but I agree this needs whittled down some more.

You can cut the excerpt at the beginning and just say something like, Days after penning an article in her local newspaper, dressmaker Vivien Everett finds the body, etc. All you need is enough to intrigue the agent.

Here's the summary I use, which I've cut to ONE paragraph: "When martial arts instructor and ex-cop Summer Evans discovers the body of a developer and casino proponent on the battlefield at Gettysburg, she worries about the consequences to her friend, Christopher Danchek, who is an outspoken opponent of any development near the battlefield. When Chris is arrested for the murder on negligible evidence, Summer's search for the killer reveals a Confederate burial pit, a stolen journal from 1863, an FBI agent with an agenda, and a killer who won't hesitate to murder again."

JennieB said...

Very nice, Joyce. But you can get rid of 'who is' and go directly from Christopher Danchek to 'an outspoken opponent', with of course a comma. ;-)

I agree with Joyce, Brenda. The quote from the article is nice, but for purposes of a two-paragraph summary, it takes up too much space. Joyce's suggestion makes a lot of sense.

ramona said...

Brenda, good luck. These things are so tough.

I recently went to a Pitch workshop run by Lauren Mosko of Writers Digest books. The premise was, if you are (lucky enough to get) stuck in an elevator with an editor or agent, what's your one sentence pitch? She made everyone in the group hammer one out. It was hard! Hearing everyone's efforts was very illuminating.

Two good how-to sources: Evan Marshall's Getting Your Novel Published, and Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. The last one has an exercise page on this exact thing.

Ps - Joyce, is the FBI agent handsome? Sexy? Adding that one word would let us know there is a potential romance. Lauren taught us that, too.

Joyce said...

Thanks, JB!

Ramona, the FBI agent is very sexy. I sometimes use "a hot FBI agent with an agenda" depending on the circumstances.

Annette said...

Brenda, you're getting some terrific advice here. Very enlightening. I have nothing to offer other than sympathy regarding the seven year old with the fat pony. Those kids on old ponies are tough! I've been whipped by my fair share of them. Don't let it get you down.

Mystery Maiden said...

Ooh, the summary - tough!! You're off to a great start though - good luck. You've had some excellent advice here though, so I think you'll be fine. The story sounds very interesting as well!

:)
Leigh Clements
The Mystery Maiden
Shot In The Dark Mysteries/Your Date With Death
www.shotinthedarkmysteries.com
www.yourdatewithdeath.com

NL Gassert said...

""Just days after penning an article entitled, Fitting Room Confessions, for her local newspaper, dressmaker Vivien Everett finds one of her clients dead. As if the approaching deadline of a museum gala for which she will dress some of the most notable women in town isn’t stressful enough, Vivien’s life is further complicated by the list of suspects that includes the town’s favorite son, the chaplain and president of the Catholic college, and even the victim’s own father.

When Vivien becomes the center of the gossip, Detective Thomas Misselli learns that Vivien is a conduit for crucial information about the young victim’s life. Unfortunately, the killer sees her that way too.""

The article reference can still go, but I actually like it for its title. I’m not happy with the list of suspects, though. I can’t figure out if the town’s favorite son is the chaplain who is also the college president or if those are three different people. I would reword that sentence. I cut the last sentence, because I wasn’t sure what genre this is, and also: Vivien and Thomas cannot piece together a suspicious clergyman!

All in all, I thought this was a great effort. I hate nothing more than coming up with these short descriptive summary paragraphs. I know how difficult they are to write. Kudos to you. And shame on that kid with the fat pony. Pft. You’ll kick their asses next time.

brenda said...

Thank you! Fresh eyes were such a HUGE help! I wish we could have a conversation just about sexy FBI agents. It would be much more exciting. Thanks again. I've got the red pen out.

JennieB said...

Brenda,
if you'd like to bounce your final effort off someone, after you've wielded the red pen, feel free to email me.

Yeah, a conversation just about sexy FBI-agents would be good. Joyce...?