Ok, so I've finally, finally got past one stage of Stealing Light: rewriting the synopsis, and it took bleedin' forever, let me tell you. The original summary was 9k, and it now stands at 22 thousand words of detailed synopsis. I now know everything that happens at every point in the book, when it happens, where it happens, why it happens.

And with any luck, I might even be able to make myself stick to it.

22 thousand words! That's about a third of the length some people's novels used to be - sometime still are. I don't really want to go back to the kind of frustration I sometimes fell into when I was working on the previous two books, where I'd look up one day and find I'd literally written myself into a corner, requiring drastic and pernickety redrafting.

Another reason for such extensive summarising is from talking with scriptwriters, and looking at the way people work in that particular field. This kind of heavily summarised 'treatment' is par for the course in that world, as it allows any possible conflicts (in terms of the way the story works) to be sorted out well in advance of anything getting filmed or performed. So now it seems much more natural to employ the same method in relation to novel writing.

I mentioned all this to someone the other day and they suggested maybe it took the spontaneity out of writing a novel. However, once you're deep into writing a book, it's anything but spontaneous. You end up writing complex summaries of what you've already written regardless, so you can get some kind of grasp on where the story is going (well, I do anyway).

I just thought it was worth mentioning because it seems like some kind of evolution, I guess, in how I write books, part of what I guess you could call a learning process. So I should get back to the actual manuscript in the next couple of days, which'll make a change. Ask me one of these days how I managed to persuade Interzone to publish a novel summary as a short story. Go on, ask.


paul f cockburn said...


How did you manage to persuade Interzone to publish a novel summary as a short story?


Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Well, I thought about writing a novel for the first time round about '93, and decided to write out a rough outline of it - and decided to 'dramatise' it so I could get a handle on how it might feel. Seemed like a good idea. Then once I tidied it up a bit, I thought, hang on ... I wonder if I can flog this? And 'Touched by an Angel' was published in Interzone about a year later. Besides, if it worked for Bruce Sterling and JG Ballard, I figured, worth a shot ...