Wednesday Writing: A Synopsis is What?
Okay, anyone who’s ever attempted professional publication has probably experienced the synopsis panic. I have to condense my 100,000 word story into four double-spaced pages, and make it interesting to read, and retain my writing “voice”? Where do you even start with that?
Recently, I attended a synopsis writing workshop sponsored by the Washington Romance Writers and lead by the fabulous Mindy Klasky. As one of the lucky people who got real critiques on my synopsis for Veiled Iron, I couldn’t wait to get revising once the workshop was over.
Some things I learned:
- Start your synopsis with a “hook.” Maybe you can borrow phrases from the hook in your query letter, but the main job of the hook is not to tell the whole story, but to set the tone for your story. If your novel is romantic suspense, then make it sound like it in your hook.
- The synopsis isn’t just for getting an agent. If you have a great synopsis, your agent can turn around and use it to sell your book to an editor–but the business of selling your book doesn’t stop there. The editor has to sell your book to his or her colleagues (synopsis is useful there). AND after all that is said and done, the marketing department reads your synopsis to know how to market your novel. The art department reads your synopsis to portray the right tone for your novel (but don’t put physical descriptions in the synopsis…Mindy says that if and when you get to that stage of the process, attach a separate sheet with blow-by-blow descriptions of your character’s physical appearance). Knowing the synopsis is needed for all these things renewed my energy for working on it.
- Focus on the emotional journey of your characters. Mindy especially stressed this point. The emotional rollercoaster your characters experience over the course of the novel will resonate with a reader far more than “He does this. Then he does this. And then they realize they have to do this.”
I’ve run across a few other helpful synopsis-writing blog posts, especially this one by Diana Peterfreund. That woman loves writing synopses, and anyone that crazy is bound to have great advice.
Edit: Ooh! I just found another great method and tip. Tia Nevitt’s Six-Paragraph Synopsis Method.