IWC Media have just announced details of the 6th Coming Up initiative for new writers. I've been zealously checking IWC's website for this information since the end of last year - I went to a Script Factory SCENE event on which Eileen Quinn of IWC was a panel member and she mentioned Coming Up (I posted a report for this onWritewords as there was some useful information for writers. You can read it here but you'll need to be a Writewords member). It's an excellent opportunity for new writers without a primetime television credit, and previous winners have gone on to have work commissioned for the BBC while one winner, Andrea Arnold, won an academy award for her short film Wasp. At the time I remember thinking it was a great thing that to enter, you "only" had to write a 1 to 2 page synopsis in the first instance. I set to work on my synopsis and after several attempts, came to a grinding halt. I had forgotten the trouble I have with synopses.
Writing a synopsis is not made any easier by the lack of a clear definition of what a synopsis is. Different companies and organisations obviously have vastly different ideas about how they define a synopsis. As I mentioned in a previous post, I've also been working on a 40-word synopsis for the Open Eye submissions. To my mind, a synopsis should give an overview of the story to its conclusion. In script reading terms, a synopsis is usually (though not exclusively, again different companies have different guidelines) kept to under 500 words and covers the main plot, main characters and the subplot. 40-words is more akin to my definition of a logline - a summary of the story in one or two sentences. Perhaps the reason there is such fervent debate among writers about the definition of these industry terms is because they are getting different explanations from different organisations - over on the writewords site for example, in the synopsis and outline group there seems to be a firmly rooted belief that a synopsis should not tell too much of the story. Perhaps it's the script reader in me, but I always want to know how the story begins, how it develops and how it is resolved.
Thankfully, the guidelines for Coming Up are fairly clear about what they want from the synopsis. I've made quite a bit of progress with mine but now feel I'm at the stage where I need to dive in and write a draft of the script and resolve any problems that way. Then I'll write my synopsis again and when I do, I will certainly be consulting these two excellentarticles about synopses on Writer's Dock. In the first article, Pam McCutcheon lists the top ten synopsis mistakes, and she nails my two personal weaknesses at numbers 4 and 5 respectively: Too much detail, and not enough emotion. The former isn't so much a problem because I'll always go back and cut things down once I've got a draft of something, and I'm a fairly ruthless self-editor. The latter is a problem, however, as I tend to write emotional, character driven stories. While I don't feel I have any difficulty conveying the emotion in the script, getting that emotion into the synopsis enough to hook the reader is something I have doubts about. Still, I will persevere!
If anyone out there reading this is planning on submitting something for either Open Eye or Coming Up, remember the deadlines: Open Eye is just around the corner on 13th March (you can email submissions, which saves the postage time) and Coming Up is 18th April. Good luck!
Red Road The Devil Wears Prada Little Miss Sunshine Away From Her The Departed Stranger than Fiction Mean Creek Switchblade Romance Somersault Keane The Wind That Shakes The Barley United 93 Breakfast On Pluto
So far this year I've read
Stuart: A Life Backwards, Alexander Masters Tilt (play), Ailis Ni Riain Comfort Woman, Nora Okja Keller The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan Stasiland, Anna Funder Starter for Ten, David Nicolls Night, Elie Weisel Silver Bay, Jojo Moyes Noise, Hari Kunzru In Cold Blood, Truman Capote Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller The Vanishing Hitchhiker, Ian Harold Brunvand The Courage to Create, Rollo May Bad Behaviour, Mary Gaitskill If You Want To Write, Brenda Ueland