Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday's Helpful Hints (The Synopsis)

This is the one I suffer through, have suffered through, will continue to suffer through. But I've found a couple of things that have helped me to write the "Dreaded Synopsis"!

First, if you are a panster, you need to finish the book. You have to know what's going to happen at the end. Most pansters I know, have no idea until they get to the middle or sometimes close to the end.

I outline so writing a synopsis should be easier, right?  To that I reply, HA!

But let us assume you have the book nearly finished and you know what's going to happen at the end. You do need to know that, for the editor is going to want to know. This "And the end is a surprise", won't cut it and won't help you sell a book. In fact, it may result in the editor refusing to even read your first three chapters. A sure fire rejection.

I've found if I break my synopsis down into sections, I can do a better job. Maybe this will help you as well.

The first paragraph of a synopsis needs to be a short description of where the story takes place. You aren't writing a novel here, you are going to give a summary so we need to know where this is happening, and maybe a hint as to what is happening, especially if you are writing a mystery, scfi, space romance, historical, be it fiction or romance. Not much description, that needs to be in the novel.

So a short paragraph telling (a synopsis is a lot more telling than showing) where, when, etc. at the beginning of your book. I think that's why they don't advise dialogue in a synopsis. Dialogue is a great way to show instead of tell.

Next comes motivation. I need to tell what is driving my characters, what they think they want and how they think they can get it, their goal. Cover the main characters, that is the hero, heroine, and the villain/s. I'll include only the secondary characters if they are central to the plot, that is if their goals will directly impact the central characters.

Next a summary of the story. I break this down into the first turning point, the result, the mid point, the second turning point, again, the result, the black moment and the conclusion. That's why I say you must know the ending.

In all, I try to keep the synopsis of a 75,000 to 80,000 word novel to around four or five pages, shorter for shorter novels, and longer if the novel is lengthy. Although I'm told that today, most publishers like a novel of around 100,000 words or less. People today say they don't have time for too big a book. (I'm only repeating what I've read! It's really up to you and your story)

Good luck and let me know if this is helpful. It works for me.

Heart-warming Romance with a Sensual Touch
Watch for "Betray Bride" coming in May from


Liz Flaherty said...

I have discovered--and I am a pantser--that if I just make little notes chapter-by-chapter, that it truly does help. Some. Synopses are still horrible.

Helpful post, Allison!

Beth Lapin said...

I just had an agent ask for a synopsis, although I thought I'd given a very nice summary in my query letter. I'm going to try your method here and see how it goes!
Good timing.

Beth Lapin
To Say Goodbye

Rita Bay said...

Hi Allison, Great info. Didn't know you had a separate blog. R

Mary Ricksen said...

Great suggestions. I do know a well known author who writes her synopsis before she writes the books. It works for her, but she is a plotter. So...

Sylvia Rochester said...

Thanks for the tips. Nothing I hate more than writing a synopsis. I'd rather have a root canal.

Liz Fountain said...

I'm working on a synopsis now, so this is timely and very helpful. Thanks!