The Stats Man

The star of my latest work in progress is a bit of a ‘numbers freak’. I am not one by any means but I’m definitely one for the statistics. As I pored over last month’s stats, it showed the website received 761 unique visitors. That’s up on any other months tally which says to me it is possible to build a following slow and steady. That suits me fine. There were more than 14,000 hits on the site last month too but the coolest stat for me was the number of visits per visitor which was almost exactly 4 visits. What this cool little stat tells me is that people are coming back weekly, most likely to read the latest post. I think a weekly post is about right. Any more than that and I could bore people rigid. Any less and it would look as though I was a bit half-hearted with my blogging.

My latest character is a 'Numbers Freak'.

My latest character is a ‘Numbers Freak’.

When it comes to subject matter there’s no doubt I stick to the tried and true categories of nostalgia and popular culture but I have contributed posts directly related to my writing as well. I do these in the hope that other writers might take note of my methods or they might suggest an alternative method to me. While this blog is by no means a writer’s forum, I do hope other writers visit and offer up feedback. There might well be something here that is useful to them also.

Of those 761 visitors some are writers and with that in mind I will try to provide updates when I can on my writing progress. I am about to send out a submission for work of fiction ‘number three’ which was mentioned  way back on ‘The Bigger Picture’. ‘Number four’, which was supposed to be started some time ago, is on hold until I can get these kids back to school. Would it be cruel to send them in a couple of weeks early? In any case, if the submissions are out next week then I can give myself a small pat on the back. Now for the Synopsis

For those who are new to the publisher’s submission process you will likely need to provide a sample of your work (let’s say 3-5 chapters), a cover letter (an introduction to this work) and a synopsis. A synopsis is a summary of your work and can be bloody tricky to produce. I have seen publishing houses ask for varied length synopses but mostly they are leaning toward one page now. That’s right! You have to sum up your 400 page thriller in one page – daunting isn’t it? Have no fear the engineer is here.

As I’ve said in the past, I often apply my own brand of pedantry to the writing process by applying a structured approach. For me there has to be set chapter length and a set number of chapters. There has to be natural beginnings and endings to each chapter and there has to be balance and symmetry at all times. If you, like me, need to begin with that structured approach to get it done, then follow these steps:

Step 1 – Write a chapter by chapter summary. For each chapter write a few lines summarizing the content of said chapter. This will give you approximately a half dozen pages of synopsis. I call it a ‘skeletal’ summary.

Step 2 – Write one summarizing line for each chapter and add the following labels in red at the end to the appropriate lines. (PREMISE) – The chapter which sums up the direction of the novel best. (PP1) to (PP7) – plot points. These are key moments that move the story. A half dozen or so is OK. (BLACK MOMENT) – The books lowest point, genre pending of course. (TP1) to (TP3) – turning points. These are critical moments in the story. There should be a smaller number than plot points. (RESOLUTION) – A natural conclusion, (TWIST) – A surprise . I can hear you saying, ‘how can you be so black and white?’ and I agree but the object is to get your synopsis done instead of staring at the screen.

Step 3 – Take these two documents and craft a one page summary by focusing on those specifically labelled chapters and adding a little extra where required. You should have a 500-700 word summary. Read it through and then read it through again, making subtle changes along the way to emphasize your style. What you should end up with is a concise summary that contains everything that is critical to your story. And all in one page!!

There you have it. An engineer’s approach to writing… yet again. Some publishing houses warn off sending chapter by chapter summary’s but my trick is to simply use that summary as a tool to create another. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then why not publish an eBook and bypass these archaic paper pushers altogether? To you writers out there – I hope this helps. To everyone else  – I will be back next week with pop culture references and other low brow shenanigans…maybe some dick jokes too.

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