Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Still Detest The Synopsis

But the penny is slowly dropping.

The best bit of advice I've read, which was repeated at a number of sites, was to study the back jacket of already published books. It clearly shows the voice, tense and styles synopsises can be written in. Apparently lots of these 'blurbs' come from, or are inspired by, author written synopsises.

I now have my own method of writing one:

Take my chapter outline - the thing I wrote many months ago as a rough map of where I wanted the story to go - from that I wrote a running summary. My outline is 4 pages long and contains notes on the major turning points, conflicts and any theme type stuff I touch on. My running summary turned that dot point document into 7 pages of flowing story which said the same stuff, only in a more reader-friendly manner.

I then take this summary and take out the major points. As the major characters are always involved in the major points, then they come with it. I then shape that into a readable blurb and add stronger theme and conflict description.

Then polish to the required length. (which is what I'm doing now).

Currently I've gone from a four page outline of 1084 words, to a seven page summary of 2100 words, and I'm now working on a synopsis of 1324 words (which needs to be edited down to 1238 words).

Things I've learned when tackling the dreaded synopsis:

Get over not liking them. Agents/editors want them so you have to do them.

Break down your story slowly. If you haven't written it yet, and haven't got a vague outline, then leave it for now. Once your story is out, then break it down into a chapter summary, and then a single summary, and then the synopsis.

When you're happy with the size, then you can worry about the words and your voice - play until your hearts content and the thing sings.

Don't get rid of any attempts at any of these previously mentioned documents - everything comes in useful.

The synopsis is written in present tense and third person POV - regardless of the choices you have used in the manuscript. A first person, past tense murder mystery, still has a present tense, third person POV synopsis.

Make sure the tone is appropriate to the book you've written. No point writing a biting satirical synopsis if you've written a dark historical romance - for instance.

Don't leave loose ends and don't go into too much detail.

And don't leave the ending in doubt.

See - easy!

Good luck...


  1. Now you have me thinking of the work I have when I am done writing the last 15 pages or so of the book I am writing. Not a bad thing mind you.

  2. I think your process sounds like a good one. I'll give it a go when I have to write the cretinous synopsis.