Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Synopsis to blow the synapses

It truly sucks when you are working on something and your computers dies, leaving you to scramble with “works in progress” cuz you can’t get to them. Ugh!

Well, be that as it may, I wanted to complete this blog, so rather than wait, I’m just gonna start again. It’s probably not a bad thing; some of my best work is done on the fly. :o)

Since writing the blogs on queries, I realized that another equally important element of the query letter is..... (drum-roll please)..…the synopsis!

Yup, that’s right, that thing we hate even more than the query letter itself. And, why do we dislike it so? Well, let’s be honest, trying to explain a 300 page (or more) novel in a few pages makes a root canal seem like fun. How do we just keep to the highlights and still do our work justice? There’s always so much more you want to tell. But let’s face it, it’s easy to get bogged down with details that confuse and make a person’s eyes roll back in their head.

Not good. I’m just saying…

So, what can we do?

First and foremost, get it into our heads that it’s a necessary evil.

There. No getting passed it.


Get the goods -- go to the agent’s/publisher’s website and follow their instructions. How many pages does it need to be? Formatting. They might even give you an example or two that show you how they like them to be written. That would be ideal! Since there are many ways to write a synopsis, if you are lucky and the agent/publisher grants you this insight -- you are aces!

If the agent/publisher doesn’t give you examples of what they like, then one handy trick is to check out their published authors’ websites. You might just strike it lucky and find that one of them blogged about synopses and used their own letter as an example.


Otherwise, if all else fails, check out some “how-to” websites. My favourite is Writing-World.com. This website is great for so many writing elements. The most awesome thing about this particular blog is that the author demonstrates the different kinds of synopses:

  1. A single sentence.
  2. A single paragraph.
  3. A single page or shorter.
  4. The expanded version.

Love it!

In my writing career, I have utilized every one of these. But the one I use all the time is the single sentence synopsis. Think of how many times you are asked: “What’s your story about?”

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

That little one-liner is gonna be your golden ticket! Okay, maybe not a true golden ticket, but when you have a great one-liner ready, eyes rolling back in the head will be a thing of the past. And that’s very good.

I like to have my one-liner ready even as I am working on a novel, cuz the moment you mention that you are working on something, people always ask what it’s about. If your story evolves in a different direction that changes your one-liner, so be it. I’ve always said that I am but a venue, my stories write themselves. They only need me to get them into the computer. :o)

I actually rather like figuring out the one-line synopsis. As to the others, I dread them like everyone else and leave them until the last minute....I know...my bad. But thankfully in this computer age, everything is at our fingertips, so finding a format that works for you is easy.

In the words of Dee-Ann in her blog on writing-world.com, “My recommendation would be to find as many different descriptions of synopsis writing as possible and experiment. Eventually you'll find a way that works really well for you.”

Great advice!