Stump the Purdy Marmot: Writing Answers (Part II)

marmotenhancedAlthough the Great King Marmot is still stunned in his sawdust skull at the news of SyFy (Or, “Sigh…Fie!”), he will now answer the questions that have manifested in his absence. (As King–see his colorful crown–he is entitled to talk in the third person.) Already, he has felt the sun upon his haunches. A single mote of light has entered into his left eye, where before there was no optic nerve. And yet he has received this light and seen it. The awakening has begun…as has the Paint-enhancing…To the questions! Avaunt!

Bill Ectric says:
Most Devine Mr. M (and why have we all assumed this hallowed stance? Well, anyway…) My supplication relates to Marty Stephenson’s question. When a publisher asks for an outline, do they literally want the format of I. A. 1. a…etc? Or more of a synopsis? Also, I have recently been asked by a publisher to provide a synopsis of my novel, and I feel strongly that a synopsis will not do the story justice. I assume I should do exactly what the publisher asks, regardless of my trepidation. Also, of course, the sysnopsis will be a spoiler for the ending. I suppose publishers understand and expect the spoiler, and after all, it IS at the end of the synopsis, so maybe it’s not technically a spolier, but still, I feel as if the publisher will not experience the same impact from the ending as someone who read the entire book, and therefore, will not appreciate the ending.

Dear Bill:
A synopsis is a shifty, drifty thing that differs depending on whether the book be finished or not. I have nibbled upon synopses upwards of 14 double-spaced pages and others a tasty four. A synopsis should not be confused with a mathematical formula. It must convey the spine of your tale, some sense of the drama and characters, and some sense of the tail, too. But not so much that it makes the reading experience moot. A moot reading experience can be exasperating or even deadly. Or worse. But I must confess, this question on the ordering and marching of troops requires diagrams and other precisions impossible in a blog entry. But there is another question: if you cannot create a synopsis for your story, do you know your story? And will the reader? (May I also suggest this useful tool for such a technical question? It is more magical than mere marmot.)

The Marmot

J M McDermott says:
Dear Marmot, are there any contagious diseases available to writers, to lace inside our manuscripts, that will somehow bypass our wonderful agents and publishers and attack only our readers?

Dear J.M. McDermott:
Simply rub your entire body over each manuscript before you send it out. You know you want to.
Evil Monkey
The Marmot

Alex Carnegie says:
Marmot-sama: Some “nuts & bolts” writing questions here, of which I am aware there’s probably no one right answer:
(1)Any tips on achieving and maintaining a higher level of pace in a novel?
(2) Any tips on how to get the reader to ‘invest’ in the text – in terms of interest, emotion, etc?
(3) Finally, what would you say is the most effective way of writing from the perspective (not necessarily using the first person though) of a non-human who doesn’t understand any human concepts, but without resorting to stupid descriptions (e.g. “the biped perched upon on a four-legged wooden object” for “he sat on a chair”)
Thank you very much, your furryness

Dear Alex:
I am not Japanese.
(1) Do not leave in any unnecessary scenes. Begin each scene as late as possible and end it at the moment of highest dramatic potential. Write enough in your rough draft that you have plenty to play with when it comes time to shape the material. More importantly, understand that pace comes in part from the reader’s desire to find out what happens next. If you begin with a telepathic conversation about mice between a corn chip and a discarded corn husk, this will be difficult.
(2) Do not write any characters the reader doesn’t care about. Bwaaahahahaha…The answer to your question is tactical. It varies from text to text. First, you must care about the people you are writing about, even if “care” means loathe on some level, while remembering that a monster does not consider him/herself a monster. Then you must deliver that emotional investment to the reader in words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters that are coherent and interesting. I know this answer is useless, but it is still an answer.
(3) Like writing about sex, this is less about the terminology than it is about inhabiting the moment and letting us understand the alienness of the perspective. The point would be, in most cases, to be as inobtrusive as possible and not get bogged down in made-up words, and to yourself go out into the world for awhile and pretend you are an alien. (Without doing anything that the cops could arrest you for.) I also recommend the campy but somewhat useful Marmot from Another Planet. That is all.
The Marmot

Marty Stephenson says:
Oh Great Marmot Who is Many to All, All at Once: Speaking of dead writers, which were (are?) your best teachers?

Dear Marty:
Vladimir Marmokov. Edward Marmotmore. Marcel Marmot. Angela Marmot. John Irvmot. And too many other marmots to mention.
The Marmot


  1. says

    @ Bill:

    I recently wrote a synopsis (two page pitch) for a 170 page graphic novel script. And the condensed story was better than the _actual_ story. Now, in my mind, THAT is a problem.

    So, if that doesn’t happen to you, I think you’re good. ; )

  2. says

    Oh, now that explains the funky smell coming from my review copy of Last Dragon! Now I understand why the dogs went crazy!

  3. says

    Had I previously beheld The Marmot in full royal regalia, I certainly would not have mocked the appropriateness of a high liturgical form of address.

    Now, I knew The Marmot would pose the “if you cannot create a synopsis for your story, do you know your story and will the reader?” question, but I decided to plow ahead anyway, throwing pride to the wind for the sake of carping writers everywhere.

    The link you provided is great! I may be complicating the process unnecessarily . Marg Gilks says “The synopsis is your sales pitch. Think of it as the jacket blurb for your novel.” I think I’ve written a good blurb, so I’m gonna do something I should have done two days ago: Email the publisher for some clarification.