Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to Write a Synopsis

I’ve spent part of the last two days working on a 750-word synopsis, and let me tell ya, it’s a pain in the booty. A synopsis (for those who don’t know) is a brief summary of your novel, hitting the major points in the story. So I had to condense my whole novel into 750 words, which is hard to do. I’ve read a lot of writers, think it’s harder to write a synopsis than to write the book itself, and I can see why. My first synopsis, was a ten-page one, and then I got it down to two-pages. That in itself was a challenge, but doing a 750-word one was even harder. Thank God for my wonderful critique partner Valentina to go over it for me.

So how do you write a synopsis? How do you capture the spirit of your story, and the prime events that gives it life and the ability to roam free in the hearts and minds of the reader to where it stays with them long after they’ve read the last line? Each scene is important, right? It moves the story forward and has a purpose, so your natural response is to compact as much as you can into your synopsis, but you can’t. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The synopsis is a very important element to your submission package, and before you submit it, you want to make sure it’s polished to the best of your ability. But first you have to write it. Here’s how you do it. . . .

First, try not to get overwhelmed. I know it sucks ass to whittle a 90,000 + word manuscript down to a few pages–if that. But don’t get overwhelmed. Instead, take it in baby steps. Read through your novel again, and pick out the meat from each chapter, meaning what moves the story forward. Try to write it in a few sentences or less, and only pick out the key characters. The agent or editor doesn’t need to know all the characters. Once you completed that part, then take a break and hop online. Think of a movie that’s similar to your book, or a movie in the same genre. Now type it in the search engine, find the synopsis for it, and read it. I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual person, and seeing a synopsis for a movie really helps me. You can also read the blurb on the back of a book. Pretend your book is a movie, and you’re describing it to your friends. How would you describe it? Of course you wouldn’t tell them everything that happened. What you would do is mesh the important and exciting parts together to engage their attention and entice them to see it. That’s what you want to do to your synopsis–engage the reader enough to want to read your whole manuscript.

When you begin your synopsis, start with the main character and a conflict. It can be emotional or physical. Now go through what you wrote when you went through each chapter and add what’s relevant to the story and summerize it. Make sure your synopsis covers all the major plot points, and ALWAYS include the ending. You also want to inject the tone of your book into the synopsis, and keep it exciting.

Before I forget to tell you–just incase you don’t know–a synopsis is written in present tense and in the third person. Also, when you introduce a character, you have to CAPITALIZE their name, but after that, you don’t have to. And remember, weaving your characters and their main conflicts in a logical order is very important. Your synopsis should be clear on what your book is about, who are the characters the reader will care about or hate, what’s at stake, and the outcome. If you get frustrated, walk away, and then do what I said earlier–read a synopsis from a movie or a blurb off of a book. That’s what I do and it seems to help.

Speaking of help. If anybody is reading this post and does need to do a synopsis, hopefully what I said helps you. I’m by no means, a whiz at writing a synopsis. Quite the contrary. I’m always questioning whether it’s good enough or not. But then again, I do that with EVERYTHING I write. Honestly, I drive myself nuts because I’m so critical of my own work. But it’s not like I haven’t said that before, right? However, what I just told you does help me, and I wanted to share it with you.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't writing a synopsis such a pain? LOL That and query letters are absolute torture.

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