Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Synopsis Hell

I'm sorry I haven't posted in almost two weeks, but there have been a lot of little problems. And of course they all come at once. Life would simply be boring if it didn't happen that way. But, alas I'm back.

The title says it all. As I'm doing some final editing on The Doves Cove Murders (was Spirit Writer), I'm also beginning the vicious process of drafting my synopsis.

I have written a synopsis once before, and seeing as how that one at the very least got me a request of my full WIP-I must have done something right (I think). So I figured I'd post how I go about writing up a synopsis. This isn't going to work for everyone. I don't have the perfect formula for doing this.

It's all about condensing your story. (And it's a royal pain in the butt. Yet, when you have the finished product, it's well worth the effort!) The only way I can condense a 55K story into a two page synopsis (or whatever the requirements are for each publisher/editor/agent) is to do it in baby steps.

'So, I'll have to rewrite this darn thing several times?' you say? You bet you will. All I do is take each scene and write one sentence describing what's going on. Can't do just one? That's fine. Do two sentences, but no more than that or you'll be in editing hell instead. (Keep in mind you'll have to take this and condense it even more!). Go through your entire story writing down these sentences.

Once you're done, you do NOT get to string the sentences together and call it a synopsis. Unless you are real good at doing this, please don't string them together just yet.

Now, set that all aside. Breathe. Enjoy the sun. Then, back to work. This step you can do first before going through your story and writing those sentences, but I prefer to do it after. The first paragraph is going to be the PUNCH! Or the hook. You need to hook them in to read your story. This is the log line-your entire story rolled into 25 to 30 words. LOL! I know-impossible! But, with a little work it is possible. I guess that's a bit intimidating. I look at it like the blurb for your story. That's easier to wrap my head around at least.

Once you have that polished, it's onto your sentences you set aside. Ugh! I know. Read through it once WITHOUT making any corrections. You'll be able to pick out the important key parts needed. On the second read through, grab your pen, pencil, marker, etc (I prefer a red pen) and cross out the unimportant parts. You need to have the key points of your story. Think of them as the cause and effect points of your story. You don't want secondary characters (unless they pertain to the main plot and then you don't usually use their names) or any subplots. Another way to think of this: ACTION, REACTION, DECISION. This leads up to the climax. Remember, you're not throwing these sentences together. You have to weave them so they flow naturally and logically. Same goes for your paragraphs.

Now comes the ending. DO NOT leave them hanging. Tell what happens at the end. This is where you have the crisis-the black moment-when everything appears as if it's all about to come tumbling down. And of course the resolution and HEA. Be sure you have all loose ends tied up at the end.

Done? Okay, again breathe. Enjoy the sun. Now, you have to polish this the same as you have polished your story. UGH! I know, but it has to be done, like it or not.

A couple of last tips:

1) Write in the present tense.

2) Pay attention to what the publisher/editor/agent's requirements are on the length of the synopsis.

3) Avoid the passive voice

4) BREATHE! And have fun writing it. You should be excited about your story and if that is in fact the case, it will show in your writing. :)


  1. These are great tips!

    Must admit, I hate hate HATE writing a synopsis. Ergh!

  2. What fun! I don't believe I've ever tried this, but you've given some good suggestions. I probably should start on a synopsis for one of my own works, then I can get a better feel for what you're talking about.

    Tossing It Out

  3. Hi Donna! Thanks so much for sharing your process. I've actually only attempted the synopsis for one novel...it's...ok. :) I'm sure I should make it punchier, more urgent, more fun, more something. I prefer to set it aside and forget it exists... But, now that I've got some new tips to try - who knows?

  4. @Talli: I'm right with you there.

    @Lee: I'm considering trying my next WIP by writing a rough synopsis first and see if that helps improve anything.

    @Donea Lee: You are welcome. It'll take me several edits and a few clumps of hair (lol) to make mine more punchy and fun. *Sigh* I want to toss mine.

  5. Hi Donna,

    Thanks for sharing your process, I've read so many craft books and all have different takes on Synopsis!

    Previously I had HM&B Author Day Leclaire, who talked on many craft releated(she'a craft writing teacher!) but gave some good pointers on Synopsis writing, it's in the comment section:


    All the best!

  6. Yay! I can use all the pointers I can get. Thanks much Nas.