Monday, March 14, 2016

A WRITER'S LIFE - The Dreaded Synopsis

A synopsis. What is a synopsis?

I've heard more groans from writers about creating synopsis than any other topic. And today I received a request to help a fellow writer with a synopsis, so I'll do my best.

Bad news first. If you're going to write you can't avoid creating synopsis. They are mandatory. 

Why mandatory?

  • It is a tool, a succinct guide to help authors nail down a story. 
  • Helpful reference tool as we work.
  • Agents and publishers require a synopsis to provide a quick glimpse at the main components of a story.
  • Reveals weaknesses and strengths of a story line.
I like writing a synopsis. The process helps me find the heart of the tale I want to tell. Often when I set out I feel lost, but by the time I complete a synopsis I am anchored. I know why I'm writing the story, where it begins, where it's going and why. I cannot create a book until I've got a synopsis completed. It is like a photograph of my tale and without it I don't possess the nuggets of truth and texture of the story I hope to create.

Sometimes all I need is one page, but my personal synopsis can be as long a ten or fifteen pages (double spaced). It depends on the project and how complicated it is. When a publisher or agent requests a synopsis they will have a required page length - generally 2 - 5 pages. Make sure to follow their guidelines.

So, what is a synopsis? It is a compressed version of your story. Think about what you'd say if you only had a couple of minutes to explain what your book is about. What would you say? That's what you need to do when creating a synopsis, only with a bit of flair. 

Everyone has their own style and expectations about what a synopsis should look like. Here's what I hope to find when I sit down and read a synopsis. 
  • Begin at the beginning with a strong opening. Make sure to include your precipitating event (what launches the story) and the place of no return. On occasion, there are exceptions to this. For the first time in all my years of writing I've included backstory in the opening of my synopsis and got a thumbs up from my agent.  :-)
  • Include your main characters soon, and when first introducing them write their names in capital letters.
  • Don't skip the middle of your tale. Include major plot twists and turns. 
  • Write in third person, active voice.
  • Avoid cliche ideas and cliche catch phrases.
  • DO NOT leave an editor or agent guessing about the end of the story. They need to know so make sure to include the resolution.
  • Every story has a core, make sure it's clearly revealed.
  • Flair. I've read many synopsis that sound like a grocery list of story ideas. This is a turn off for me. I encourage you to create a flowing expose that reveals who your characters are, unveils the story and introduces your special writing style and voice. Make it sing.
  • Sell the story. Write in such a way that the reader will fall in love with this tale and can't wait read more. 
Keep in mind that a synopsis may be your only opportunity to introduce your story to an editor or agent. It's got to be your very best writing. (no pressure here)

Okay, that's some of the basics. I'm sure you have questions, so fire away. I'll do my best to answer them. And I'm sure I've missed some important points so please don't hesitate to share.

Grace and peace to you from God,


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