Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Writing a Synopsis...

My first "publishable" novel, I'd set out to write to be just that... a "publishable" novel. Described by editors (who've since rejected it), it was a bit of a mash-up of genre, part historical fiction, part fantasy myth, and part hard science fiction. It took me a good three years to write and many revisions to arrive at a finished product worthy of querying. So off I went...

I'll get into the details of the process I went through to acquire an agent in a later post, but for this post I wanted to concentrate on synopsis writing. As every writer knows, writing a synopsis for your opus is an unfulfilling pain in the ass. Everybody hates it. It's an exercise where you have to extract your novel's plot in a succinct narrative in almost outline fashion. None of your well-thought-out prose is included,none of the nuance or theme is incorporated, its just pure plotting... a watering down of your novel to pure extract. *yawn*

But for agents and editors, it is sadly essential, whether they read the thing or not, and I'll tell you why. Reading your manuscript is a long time-involved process. To make a "yay" or "nay" decision on your MS, to be able to essential 'skim' the remainder of your novel by reading the synopsis, is an important time saver in the world of publishing. So, when writing a synposis, care must be taken to insure all the plot elements are incorporated to construct the plotting. You have to 'finish the novel' for folks who may've only read the first two chapters.

Synopsis are typical written in third person present tense. Minor details not pertaining to the central plot are left out.. basically these are the cliff notes for your novel. Spoilers are also included, it isn't meant to be a dust jacket cover. It's an outline. So here, in gory detail, is my synopsis for my novel THE TORSTIEN DISPATCH.

In the year 1917, Lt. ROWAN GUTHRIE, a British war hero, is killed on deployment in the Italian Alps. His body is exhumed a thousand years later by the Æsiri, a neo-Polynesian race with a curious devotion to Norse paganism and necromancy. The dogma of their ancient holy book, The Edda has come to pass. The Earth is locked in a struggle against the forces of a new ice age called Fimbulwinter, while the epic battle of Ragnarok looms.

Rowan awakens into the bizarre and alien world of the Æsiri through a reanimation process alled ‘Skikk', a technique implemented by the city-state of Midgard’s Skjærsild institute. As he grows used to his new form, he begins to explore the Æsiri’s bifurcated conurbation and its desperate plight. It is a metropolis under siege by the illusive Vanir, denizens of Ytter Midgard, the dystopian counterpart to Ny Midgard's shining towers. In order to acquaint himself with the Æsiri’s struggle, SIGURD ASPERHEIM, a brooding and weirdly ill Ny Æsiri lieutenant, escorts Rowan into the bedlam of Ytter Midgard. In the ensuing street battle Rowan quietly recovers an encrypted data crystal from a dead Vanir, marked with the name 'Torstein Amundsen'.
Rowan is recruited by the Skjærsild leadership to lead a fallen legion of mythic Einherjar to battle the elusive Vanir on the rusted wastes of Asgard, formerly known as Mars. Before deployment, Rowan leaves for the Æsiri island archipelago of Heimdall to continue his combat training and physiological conditioning. His haunted custodian RAGNA, a Ny Æsiri girl with a troubled and mysterious past, accompanies him.
 On the tropical island of Forst Fodt, Rowan undergoes additional fine-tuning of his undead cadaver supervised by Dr. VIDAR AMUNDSEN. Rowan learns from Vidar, the grand nephew of the long deceased Torstein Amundsen, that his great uncle was a dissident of Midgard's current totalitarian regime, the Tyrians. He also learns of Torstein's scientific legacy, studying the climatological affects of Fimbulwinter's wintry onslaught.
As Rowan trains to become an Einherjar, he grows increasingly attached and attracted to Ragna, glomming to the hope that after Ragnarok he can return to Earth, exploit Vidar’s new ‘hyper-Skikk’ process, and become a living feeling man once again. In Forst Fodt's jungles, Rowan encounters a bizarre simulacrum Vidar calls ENGEL, a robotic avatar programmed to mimic Ragna's mannerisms, communicating in a strange musical cant only he can understand. Deployed as his personal bodyguard and minder, Engel is to accompany Rowan to Asgard where Ragna cannot. Before Rowan departs Forst Fodt, he gives Vidar the 'Torstein' data archive for reasons he can't quite explain.
Rowan says goodbye to a melancholy Ragna and travels to the desolate island of Bifrost, a proving ground where the Einherjar 3rd Wave legions are trained before crossing to Asgard. Shocked and stupefied, he meets a resurrected but barely phased Sigurd, with whom he shares a joint command. Rowan’s and Sigurd’s armies battle each other in simulated scenarios meant to mimic Asgard's battlefields. Overcome by arrogance and a disturbing nonchalant approach to military training rigor, it is soon obvious Sigurd has little interest in honing his tactics. Rowan's suspicions are provoked.
After an audacious assassination bid by a Vanir saboteur, Rowan attempts to collect as much tactical intelligence on the cagey Vanir as possible. He learns of the curious 'Lahg 17' event, a close encounter with the Vanir after an infiltration and brief seizure of a high-gain communication hub. Due to the relentless jamming of the Vanir’s radio signals on Asgard by the 2nd Wave, Rowan suspects the raid was to transmit the 'Torstein Dispatch' to Earth. From grainy footage he notices the Vanir are Caucasian like himself and not of Æsiri pedigree.
Rowan's Einherjar Valkyries crash-land in enemy territory upon decent to Asgard, a disaster that Sigurd has frustratingly little will to investigate. Arriving at the Spartan redoubt of Valhalla, Rowan discovers its thermal derricks are nearly depleted, adding to a pre-existing energy premium that has reduced Asgard to intractable trench warfare.
Rowan decides Sigurd's brazen disregard for tactics and logistics is part of grander conspiracy and challenges him to a 'falskniv' duel in protest, as is Einherjar tradition. After Rowan loses the contest, he decides it is finally time to subvert Sigurd's command. During the 3rd Wave’s initial offensive, Rowan undermines the rear rank’s energy reserves and rushes the battlefield with Sigurd impotent to stop him. Disastrously underestimating the Vanir's ominous firepower, Rowan's Einherjar are quickly dismembered and annihilated, the remnants succumbing to a sinister battle fatigue known as 'draugarism'.
 Once assigned to protect Rowan on Asgard, Engel betrays and strands him behind enemy lines in a coma state. He awakens in the custody of the Vanir and quickly discovers that contrary to the myth of an apocalyptic final battle, Ragnarok is in fact a colonial rebellion waged by a people called the Islanders. Rowan meets KRISTJANA, an officer in the Island Colony Defense who briefs him on the history of their struggle…
…Energy rich on Asgard's Povinis Mons escarpment, the Islanders established the colony over two hundred years prior. One of their chief advocates in Ny Midgard politics was Torstein Amundsen, a frequent visiting scientist and emissary to the colony. Once the despotic Tyrians overthrew the old Midgard republic, the Islanders initiated a war of succession to free themselves from Tyrian control. A group of Ny Æsiri loyalist, the legendary ‘1st Wave’, attempted to quell the Islander rebellion but were routed and driven back to 'Valhalla' to suffocate…
 After learning of the insurgency, the Islanders are eager to aid the downtrodden inhabitants of Ytter Midgard (the native Mindre Æsiri) in the hopes that it will provoke the fall of the Tyrian regime. Rowan comes to realize the Vanir don’t actually exist; the notion of the much-maligned Æsiri adversary is nothing but propaganda perpetuated by the Tyrians to rally the Ny Æsiri people.
The Torstein Dispatch’s intended recipients are the Mindre Æsiri guerilla leadership and their Ny Æsiri sympathizers. Included in the dispatch’s data package is a collection of contraband technical and tactical information designed to help the partisans defeat their oppressors. The data also includes Torstein Amundsen's climatological science, a manifesto meant to function as a political weapon against the Tyrians.
Kristjana explains that the crux of Torstein’s theory dismisses the notion of a planet-wide 'ice death', instead advocating the idea that the current ice age is nearing its end; Fimbulwinter is nothing more than misinformation used by the Tyrians to continue their state of emergency. Rowan tells Kristjana he has unwittingly delivered the Islander's 'Torstein Dispatch' to Vidar. Kristjana is elated the information has made it into the hands of a sympathetic kinsman, but Rowan has his doubts.
During transit from the forward bunker to the Islander arcologies, Rowan and Kristjana are ambushed and taken prisoner by Engel. She drags them back to the Valhalla prison cordons where Sigurd reveals his true plan for glory and victory. As Skjærsild’s guinea pig, Sigurd injected himself with an experimental synthetic disease (a byproduct of Vidar's hyper-Skikk experiments) to test its deadly effectiveness. Once contagious, Sigurd administered the 'sykmaskin' to Rowan and his legionnaires, implementing a covert plan to insure their capture by the ‘Vanir’. With the scheme a success and the plague released on the Islanders, Rowan realizes he's been Sigurd's unwitting pawn, completely manipulated by lies and unrequited desires.
Attempting to force Rowan to spill the secrets of the Torstein Dispatch, Sigurd tempts him with the sykmaskin antidote as Kristjana slowly dies from the disease. Managing to escape, Rowan tries to administer the remedy to Kristjana but she refuses, instead telling Rowan to make for the Islander front lines in hopes their scientists can recreate the cure. Kristjana asks Rowan to end her suffering, which he does, guilt-ridden and ashamed.
En route back to Islander territory, Rowan is intercepted by Engel but manages to defeat the automaton Savatuese using primitive means. In her death throws, she detonates a grenade, smashing the antidote vial. Energy death consumes Rowan, the fate of Mindre Æsiri and Islander rebellion now in the hands of Vidar Amundsen.