Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Writing The Dreaded Synopsis

I stumbled across a web site recently that advertises, among other things, a "synopsis wizard." It apparently takes information that you've already entered and formats it into a workable synopsis. Here's a disclaimer: I haven't tried it. Maybe it would work for me, maybe not. What I'd prefer would be a "synopsis genie" who'd appear when I rubbed my hand over the computer monitor, ready to take my ideas for the next great American novel and turn them into a three-page synopsis that would immediately grab the attention of an editor and result in my being offered what the Muppet Movie called the "standard rich-and-famous contract."

For those of you who have neither a synopsis genie nor synopsis wizard, I would like to give you some advice that comes from writer Therese Walsh, one of the contributors to Writer Unboxed. In a recent post, she shares some of the things she learned while at a New York seminar that featured a number of agents. Here are some of the points she makes:

* The synopsis should provide a snapshot of what your book is about.
* Be sure your synopsis is an accurate distillation of your story and holds together all major plot points, internal and external conflicts, and character arcs.
* It doesn’t have to be chronological (”first this happened, and then that, and then…”). Weave your synopsis in a way that’ll read most smoothly to an outsider.
* If the flashbacks are WHAT happens, the info should be in the synopsis, but if the flashbacks merely explain WHY something happens, leave the info out.
* Always include the ending to your story, no matter what.

In my experience (researchers always say that when they don't have scientific evidence on their side)--in my experience, I end up writing the synopsis at least twice: once before I start the book and once after the second draft is completed. If there are many more drafts (and there generally are at least one or two more), further fine-tuning is necessary.

Happy writing. I'm off to polish a synopsis.

1 comment:

Anne Mateer said...

Good info on writing the synopsis. I always struggle with that and these are some good tips I hadn't heard before.