CV’s & Synopsis’ & Applications, OH MY!

2 Aug

Current Status: Freaked out

Food Consumed: Raspberry lemonade

On The iPod: Life on Earth; Band of Heroes

Word Count: 1,000

I’m in the middle of writing an application for an upcoming writer’s retreat and I am literally freaking out. I have no idea what I’m doing. I have the manuscript part done – I guess you could call that the important part. As for the CV and the synopsis the retreat is asking for… yeah, I’m stumped.

I think my biggest problem is that I don’t know what to tell them and what to leave out. What do you put in a writer’s CV, anyway?

The Writer’s CV

I’ve just googled the kind of content that should be included in a writer’s CV (because I seriously had no idea what to write AT ALL), and this is what I’ve come up with so far (please correct me if any of this sounds wrong):

– Your Writing Bio: a brief 150-200 piece touching on your successes as a writer, your future expectations, as well as a short introduction about yourself and the kinds of areas you like to write in.

– Comments: a listing of any testimonials you have received, either from industry giants or fellow writers (basically the kinds of things you find on the back cover of novels).

– Awards/Achievements: if you’ve won any kind of writing competition, no matter how small, this is where you mention your win. Also mention any highly commended or notable shortlistings.

– Publications: if you’ve ever had any of your work published – be it short stories, poems, or even reviews or newspaper articles – this is where you list those kinds of achievements. Unfortunately for the aspiring writer, blog reviews don’t count.

– Education: got a bachelor’s degree floating around in your drawer, but it’s not a writing-related degree? Who cares – list it anyway! Any kind of self-education counts and should be listed on your CV (though a degree in creative writing or english lit would certainly look a lot better to an agent or publisher than a degree in science).

– Work Experience: no matter what you’ve been doing with your life while you’ve been struggling away with your novel, list it here. This section is all about life experience.

What’s in a Synopsis?

Contrary to popular belief, a synopsis is NOT:

– a short story version of your manuscript

– a teaser

– a book blurb

– a piece of creative writing.

In short, a synopsis is one giant, two-page SPOILER that only your editor/agent/retreat judge should see. It’s all business, so the synopsis should be free of any creative flair that your manuscript has. It should cover the basic structure of the novel’s plot and character developement, and TELL rather than show exactly what your manuscript is all about.

Blunt writing is what makes a good synopsis, so keep it short and leave the fluffly stuff for the novel.

Phew! I’m glad I googled. I suddenly feel a lot less overwhelmed now that I have a better understanding on it all. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m about to write the perfect CV and synopsis. As with everything in the world, practice makes perfect.

I’m off to practice! (And finish the application!!)

What do you think should be in a writer’s CV and what should be left out? Is my blunt approach to synopsis writing how you would do it? Please discuss in the comments.


11 Responses to “CV’s & Synopsis’ & Applications, OH MY!”

  1. Lila 02/08/2010 at 4:24 pm #

    I’m not quite in the same position you are (in terms of applying to competitions and retreats), but the entire process sounds intimidating. And ironically, I’m working on college applications, so I’m working on my resume right now, too (I’m assuming that a CV is the same thing as a resume, right?).

    Anyway, I’m glad you got it all listed out, and I hope you get in! 🙂

    • thewritingant 03/08/2010 at 7:52 am #

      Yes, resume is the same thing as a CV (I actually call it a “resume,” too, but the writer’s retreat calls for a “CV” which is why I listed it as such here, but it’s basically comparing apples to apples).

      The process is pretty intimidating, though I’ve never applied to college so I imagine that’s about on a par with this on the intimidation level. Good luck with your applications, too! 🙂

  2. Karen Tyrrell 02/08/2010 at 4:31 pm #

    Hi Amber,
    I think you can make your synopsis as creative as you can showing you do know the most important plot lines to your story. But you have to spill all the intrigue to your story. No secrets allowed.
    I wish you luck with your application … Karen :))

    • thewritingant 03/08/2010 at 7:54 am #

      Thanks, Karen. 🙂 Spilling all the intrigue is hard for me. I like to keep the secrets going until the very end with everything I write, so it’s certainly a different kind of writing, and one I’ve never done before.

      I’m actually looking forward to writing the synopsis, though. I think it’ll help highlight any plot holes I have, listing it all down from start to finish they way it should be.

      Thanks for the luck! xx a

  3. Carol Ann Hoel 03/08/2010 at 2:22 am #

    From the description of Synopsis, I should merely describe the structure, plot, and character development of the story. I have not looked at my manuscript from that point of view. Perhaps I should do so and reduce my findings to words and sentences for such a time as I may need it. Thank you for sharing your research with us.

    • thewritingant 03/08/2010 at 7:55 am #

      I haven’t looked at mine from that POV, either, not even in the early days (as I pantsed the first draft instead of plotted it out). It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I’m kind of looking forward to it.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  4. miss ali 03/08/2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Fantastic research Amber! Really well done! I love all the info you have given here- it is more than I usually find in one place at a time, in short-concise detail. Great post! Hope you go really well with it and if it helps, at this stage my writing credentials would read like this:

    great work! xxx

    • thewritingant 03/08/2010 at 7:33 pm #

      Thanks, lovely! I hope this post helps others as much as it helped me to find it all – I really was at my wit’s end, I had no idea where to even start.

      This kind of thing is so daunting to new writers, and getting it right is paramount if you want to get noticed in the literary world.

      After September you will be able to put in those panels we sit in at BWF to your CV. Every little bit counts, leave nothing out!

      xx a

  5. Anna 08/08/2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Whew, and I thought acting resumes were the crazy ones! Best of luck with this, Amber. 🙂 I’m sure you’ll do fine! Seeing you write about this process tells me that you’re willing to go the extra distance, which means you’ll do fine in my books. 😉

    • thewritingant 08/08/2010 at 8:06 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment, Anna! It’s great to see you on here again – yay! 😀

      Writing the CV and synopsis was really difficult for me. I’m pretty happy with how my CV has turned out (in fact, I may post it for con-crit after I send my application away), but I’m not so sure I “nailed” the synopsis the way I wanted. I thought two pages would be PLENTY to write down my plot, but when it came to the crunch it was SO HARD to make it fit. I guess that means I probably rambled a little too much in some parts. 😛

      Thanks for your wonderful encouragement! xx a


  1. My Elevator Pitch « The Writing Ant - 03/08/2010

    […] literally kept drawing a blank whenever I thought about it – kinda like when I thought about writing my CV or my synopsis, total mind […]

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