The Process of Summary


When I first started reading the Corrections I never really imagined I would learn all that much from the process of reading and blogging about a book. After all, I had kind of done so, many times before. All throughout grade school we were required to read a certain number of books each trimester and we were required to summarize what we had read. The summary part was always something I struggled with. How does one condense an entire novel into a few pages? Or even 1 page? I think it’s honestly one of the most difficult skills, but one that’s the most important, especially when it comes to publishing. You have to be able to talk about your book in a way that makes people want to read it, but more than that, most literary agents and publishers want to see a summary of what’s going on, in depth. So how do you break it down?

One of the things I’ve learned throughout this process is to break it down chapter by chapter. Giving yourself a short one to two sentence summary of what happens in each chapter allows you to see on a single page (or a few pages) what’s going on. From there you can visually decide what needs to be included in the overall summary or what can be put to the side. For example, each Reading Franzen blog post I write, begins with me writing down thoughts in a notebook as I’m reading. More often than not, the notes themselves won’t end up verbatim in the blogpost, but it allows me to have the general idea of what I’m going to say when I’m writing the post up later. It also helps me organize my ideas and try to get a handle on what I’m reading. There really isn’t much in the way of plot, with what I’m reading currently, which makes it difficult to summarize beyond a paragraph or so, or even a few sentences in the case of Part IV.

The process has given me an entirely new way to look at summarizing my work and to ensure that I give myself plenty of notes to work from before I ever start summarizing, or even writing.

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