The most dreaded word in a writer’s vocabulary. Except maybe for pitch. But it’s definitely above query.
The thing about a synopsis is, it can’t just be a play-by-play of the book, because that would be boring. It has to be as interesting as your writing so any potential readers will know why the book is slap-across-the-face awesome. I’m…I’m not sure where I was going with that.
Type “writing a synopsis for a novel” in your search engine, and you’ll get twenty five million results (give or take a million). Most of the ones I’ve read give guidelines along the lines of “Who is the main character?” or “Describe what forces your main character to change.” Yes, they expect us to come up with something interesting with dull prompts like that. I wonder how they’d react if I said “I force the main character to change by writing the novel.”
|Probably like this.|
And then we have the ones that advise going through the novel, writing down everything important that happens, and turning that into a synopsis. It sounds like good advice, but in practice, not so useful because then you have a bunch of sentences and no idea how to connect them into a coherent, engaging piece of writing.
Okay, so the guidelines are as useful as someone slamming you upside the head with a wooden board. No fear. There actually are some good ones out there. Susan Dennard did an amazing article on synopses at Publishing Crawl. First she gives some basic info, then some reminders about what is especially needed for a synopsis (only three named characters, tell the ending), then she gives an actual example of how to write one. She uses Star Wars as her basis, making it easy to follow since pretty much everyone has seen that movie. Instead of frustrating, impossible to define questions, she asks for fill in the blanks for things like “Protagonist Intro” and “Winning seems imminent, but…”. In short, it’s not what people want. It’s how to do it.
Anyway, if you want to know how to do a synopsis, go here. The other important piece of advice I remember (though I don’t remember where I got it from): get beta readers for your synopsis, too. From people who haven’t read your book, so you know if it’s enticing and informative.
That’s all the wisdom* I have. What are your thoughts on synopses? Any advice?
*And by wisdom, I mean stuff I learned from other people’s blogs.