I am not a synopsis guru, nor the son of one.
But a few agents in my god-tier require them.
So, I am posed with the choice:
A) Whine & lazily avoid composing a synopsis, thus eliminating any chance of representation by those amazing agents – OR –
B) Research, work hard, and enjoy the synopsis element of a process which will help me see my publishing goals realized.
Last night, I chose Option B. I whipped out a damn good synopsis in about two hours. The process went uber-smoothly compared to my attempts with previous novels, and I believe I know why. I may draw friendly fire for this next statement…
If you find it difficult to summarize your story in synopsis form,
your story may be inherently flawed.
Once again, I am no guru, but a synopsis is basically an outline of your novel in paragraph form. If that outline is not clear, if the quintessential arc is more of a wriggly squiggle, if the tension doesn’t mount until cresting at a point of inevitable release–then, perhaps, you have discovered the reason a synopsis seems insufferable.
Of course, none of us deals with issues such as those…
So, what to do if you’re positive your story is as strong as it can be, yet the synopsis is still kicking your ass? Well, quit whining and make it happen! Also, research. There are tons of how-to guides and advice articles to scoot you on your way. Congealing & gleaning highlights from a few of these, I will add my non-guru voice to the chorus.
Lucas’s Compendium of Synopsis Writing Wisdom
– First, there are no hard & fast rules, but a few guidelines can make synopsis creation easier.
– Before you dive in, keep the touchpoints of motivation, emotion, and conflict in the forefront of your mind.
– Write in third-person, present-tense.
– The standard synopsis length seems to be 1-2 pages. Squeeze it into 1 short page if possible.
– Use strong verbs and adjectives (not too many!) to effectively express the plot points in the fewest words possible.
– Hit these key points: Hook, Stakes, Intro of the MC, Inciting Incident, Midpoint Twist, Climax, Resolution. (Some sources suggest allotting a single paragraph to each of these elements.)
– Ensure your characters are presented with personality and come across as sympathetic.
– An economy of words is key. Only include the true essentials. Wisely select only the most necessary of subplots–if any.
– Yes, the synopsis should give away the ending.
– The writing shouldn’t be flowery, but shouldn’t bore the poor agent/editor to tears either. Strike a balance somewhere between a technical manual and a book report.
– Just as with a novel or query, revise, revise, revise.
– Run your synopsis by your betas & CPs. Ask them to point out clarity issues or extraneous info.
– Embrace the process. Dreading and whining will only make it harder.
– Keep your end goal in mind! Compared to drafting & revising an entire novel, creating the synopsis is a straight-up, cupcake endeavor.
I couldn’t see it before, but now I totally understand why some agents require a synopsis. By comparing the end result of my latest attempt with previous ones, I can clearly see the strengths in my current story. I didn’t stumble over defining the essential stakes, core conflicts, etc. These items rang out crystal clear. And, so, I draw the conclusion that this novel is far tighter than my previous ones, and contains the elements a great, marketable novel should.
But hey, what do I know? Like I said, I aint no guru.
Nevertheless, the creation of this synopsis didn’t hurt. Not even a tiny bit. Maybe my Compendium will help your process flow along as smooth as silk.
Synopsis-hungry god-tier agents, here I come.
What say ye? Do you avoid querying agents who require a synopsis? Does the mere thought of synopsis writing make you cringe? Have you found a structure which works for you? What tips would you pass on to fellow writers?