Saturday, April 21, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing: Synopsis

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

S is for Synopsis

Did you write an outline for your novel? If you didn't start with one, go write one now. Yes, post-novel. It will make writing your synopsis so much easier.

You know what happens in your novel, but now that you're ready to publish or submit your novel for publication, you're going to have to start telling other people what your novel is about. Coherently. The way to do that is to boil down that whole novel into a few pages. If you've never done this before, it might sound impossible. It's not. I promise.

With that outline in hand, write two to three sentences about each chapter. What important steps to does your main character take and why? What will happen if they don't succeed? If big things happen to supporting characters, mention that too. Try to be as conscience as possible. It doesn't have to be super pretty. This stage is only for you. You've just created a synopsis for each chapter. That wasn't so hard, was it?

Now, take those pages and read them through. Consider how to tell your story in brief to someone who hasn't read it yet, using the map you've written for yourself. You have a main character who has a goal. There is some opposing force. There are stakes. There may be secondary characters or multiple main characters who have important roles in the main plot or big subplots. Don't try to get into detail, but you do need to cover the highlights from beginning to end and make it sound engaging. Aim for three pages maximum.

Got the novel down to three pages? Groovy. Now make it one page.

Take that one page and that's what you can work from to create your query letter or back cover blurb. Both of these should not contain the end or the whole plot, but do need to have some of the information you have in your hand and they also need to be engaging. We'll cover those more on X day.

Congratulations, you made it through the step man writers dread. Once you've done this a time or two, it gets easier and involves far less hair pulling and slamming of your head against the desk. 

Do you like or dread writing your synopsis?

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  1. Hi Jean - it's the kind of thing I find so difficult ... but you've put it so well here ... start and reduce, and repeat ... til the synopsis is just about ready - cheers Hilary

  2. I struggled with synopses, as do a lot of people. Having a chapter summary is a good way to get you there. It's also a useful tool (even if you don't outline ahead of time) when it comes to revisions.

    You mentioned blurbs and queries. It's worth emphasizing that they should not reveal all (they are there to entice people to read) whereas a synopsis should include how the story ends (it tells the agent or editor whether you have a complete and coherent story).

    1. Good point. I think I did cover that on another day, but it looks like I missed it here. Thanks for bringing that up.

  3. I seem to have given some small synopsis on my blog about the book I'm currently working on. Just not a complete one.


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