Most of us have heard the groans of authors when it comes to writing a synopsis. I don't think I've ever heard or read of an author saying, "Oh, that's easy. You just do this, this and that—it's done." Uh, right. That's why we hear grown people almost in tears over it. Also why some authors won’t query agents or publishers requiring a synopsis.
I've look at a lot of sources—agent websites, writing websites, books and some pointers from my writing group. None of who have said, "Oh, easy-peasy." I admit that I've allowed that negative connotation influence me. I think the problem is, we have to confine our synopsis to one, maybe two pages. That should be simple, right? Two pages max. The problem comes in when we are talking about condensing a hundred thousand word document into one or two pages. Tell the story in one or two pages? Are you nuts? At that point we're looking at a mountain we have to take down with spoons and put it into two wheelbarrows. Not so easy.
I read an interesting quote by the author of A Higher Justice with regards to writing one. He said, "The goal is not to explain the entire book. The goal is to get the editor, agent, or reader hooked enough to read the sample chapters and see the market potential." I was always under the impression that we were supposed to tell the whole book and that was my stumbling block.
To overcome that mental picture of a mountainous mass to condense, I've decided to break it into workable sections. I'm only looking at it section by section. Not quite so daunting then.
The opening hook—the opening sentences should pull the reader into the synopsis.
Plot highlights—detailing major scene of the story. Incident, reaction, and decision. There were some suggestions under this point, which I found interesting and helpful, in identifying those major scenes.
Quick sketches of the main characters—their motivations and conflicts, especially with each other.
- Do I need this scene to make the primary plot hang together?
- Do I need this scene for the ending to make sense?
Core Conflicts—No conflict, no story. Makes sense to me. There were some traditional categories of conflict, which I'd never heard of.
- Person vs nature
- Person vs society
- Person vs self
The Conclusion—tying up the loose ends without a cliffhanger. Editors and agents are not fond of guessing. You have to spell out your ending.
The argument is, if a writer can address these key elements, the synopsis shouldn't be too hard to write. I'm not convinced of this, but I'm going to try it. For sure, these points outlined here help an author to be sure all the essentials are addressed in your story, whatever the length of it is. I'll work on the elements and then when I'm comfortable with that, I'll work on the structure.
What are your thoughts on this? What have you found that works in writing a synopsis? Any good resources you’d recommend?
Any success stories?
I'm married to a spitzy Italian. We have a ranch out beyond the back 40 where I raise kids, dogs, horses, cats, and have been known to raise a bit of hell, now and then. I have a good sense of humor and am an observer of life and a bit of a philosopher. I see the nuances—they intrigue me.
I’m a Marketing Rep by profession and write fiction. I have written several mainstream Romance novels one of which I’ve out on a partial request. I’ve written and published various articles on Promotion and Publicity, Marketing, Writing, and the Publishing industry.
Aside from conducting various writing discussions and doing numerous guest blogging engagements, each week I promote and share authors’ stories, on the laughter, glitches, triumphs, and fun that writers and authors face in pursuit of their ambition to write—Over Coffee.