I'm wrapping up what I hope will be my final major rewrite this week before querying. Since I'm prepping to query, I'm also putting together my "query package." This includes the hateful synopsis. I mean, writing the query is painful enough, right? But in a synopsis, you have to boil down all the details of the ENTIRE BOOK into just a single-spaced page or two. Preferably without being overly boring.
Okay, let's face it. It's probably going to be sorta boring.
And really, that's okay. Agents get how hard it is to write a synopsis, and the point of one is for them to see that your story itself doesn't fall apart after the first spectacular chapter. Which means the synopsis IS important, so you should give it the time it needs to shine. And fortunately, there are ways to make the synopsis-writing a little less painful.
1. Whether or not you plotted out your story, you can start with 7 simple sentences that hit the 7 key points of your book.
You may not have planned this out ahead of time, or even known about it, but odds are basic story structure is so embedded in you after seeing many movies and reading many books, that you have these points in your story. I HIGHLY recommend you watch Dan Wells' 7 Point Story Structure presentation on YouTube. But here are the basic points you want to hit in your synopsis.
Hook: what draws the reader in; sets your character in a position opposite of where they'll be at the end.
Plot Turn 1: the call to adventure-- the story really beings and there's no turning back for the character
Pinch 1: stakes heat up; more danger/pressure introduced
Midpoint: character discovers something new that allows them to move from reaction to action against the antagonist.
Pinch 2: stakes heat up again; often, something big is lost
Plot Turn 2: character learns the final information to destroy antagonist, often at great personal cost
Resolution: protag saves the day
Just a simple sentence that captures the essence of these points gives you a (probably way too short) synopsis!
2. Fill in the blanks
You want to make sure that you connect those seven points. Things happen between them, and if you don't give some explanation, it will make your story feel disjointed. So find those connecting elements that make the story make sense, and fill in the blanks. This is where you'll likely make your synopsis way too long. Don't sweat that.
3. Cut the extra characters and subplots you added in step 2.
This is a tough one. Sometimes, I'm adamant that a certain character or big subplot is essential to the synopsis. I hate to tell you-- it's not. Focus on THE MAIN STORY LINE. Obviously, all of your subplots and characters tie together with the main story line, but there is simply not room for them in a 1-2 page synopsis. Chop. Even if you have to fill them in to make yourself feel better, go back in and see what you can cut while still having the synopsis make sense.
4. Read it out loud.
Odds are, you're still might need to trim the synopsis down a bit, especially if you're doing a one-pager. And even if you don't, you always want to make sure you show your top writing skills. So read it out loud. Find those awkward spots, the places you can reword and tighten. Chop out the weak writing. Chop, chop, chop.
5. Send it to crit partners.
Yup, just like anything else. They can help you fine-tune what you've already done, and give you that outside opinion that will help you capture your story in as non-boring a way as possible.
And here's a bonus tip for the next time around. When I write my books, starting with my very first draft, I give every chapter/scene a heading that briefly describes what happens in that chapter. Not only does this help me stay organized while I write, but when I do my synopsis, I can pull my seven key plot points and pretty much every other point straight from those headings. It makes the synopsis first draft a cut-and-paste, piece of cake kinda deal.
So, my friends, have you written a synopsis before? Do you hate them? Do you have tips to share?
Author: Shallee Posted under: