Confession time....

I hate SYNOPSIS...

Okay, so there are a lot of writers out there who will sympathize with me. We take our hearts and spill them out into stories, only to have to condense those hearts into ten pages or less in order to sell the stories to the editors.

But these synopsis do serve a purpose other than to torture us. They let the editor know at a quick glance that all the required elements are available within the story. The editor can see that the story progresses at a logical pace and that the growth of the characters and the advancement of the storyline is enough to make it a satisfying read.

For years, I've been judging synopsis contests. In fact, I coordinated one for Maine RWA. And I continue to see the same things represented in synopsis time and again...

1.) If the story is a romance, then the focus of the story (whether it is a suspense, paranormal, futuristic, etc...) should focus on the growth of the relationship. It seems simple enough, but the concept of condensing a storyline down can sometimes overshadow the reason for the story in the first place. The reason for the attraction, the steps of intimacy... and in this case I'm not just talking about making love. I'm talking about the steps that need to happen in order for this to become a relationship versus a one-night-stand. I want to know what it is that brings them together and pushes them apart. In short, it's about them.

2.) Put your heart into the synopsis. You wrote the story for a darned good reason. No one sits down and undertakes the telling of a story without knowing that there is something that they want to offer to the reader. Make sure that you imbibe your synopsis with this heart. It's going to make the difference between a simple storytelling and a story that catches their attention.

3.) You have just a few short lines to capture the editors attention. Don't waste them. I've been to all kinds of workshops on synopsis. There are plenty of authors out there that will tell you that they know the "secret" to a good beginning for a synopsis. Ask a question? Start off with a bang? I would suggest that no matter what you start with the character who has the strongest struggle. There is usually one main character that is stronger than the other. Tell their story and tell what it is that they want most within the first few lines. Then, tell why they can't have it. Sounds like the ingredients for writing a good story? It should. It's the same elements only in a shorter format.

4.) Your voice, the one that you've worked so hard to develop and show should be evident in your story. Show it, glorify it, but don't shove it down their throats either. Good writing should prevail and the place for long, flowery prose is NOT in a synopsis.

5.) Lastly, check, double-check, and then get someone else to check your punctuation. You may believe it to be perfect, but just a few simple mistakes like hyphenated words without hyphens can be the thing that makes the editor put your synopsis down in the rejection pile.

Will I still hate writing synopsis ten years from now? Probably. Will I agonize over it if I write 10 or 100 more of them? Most likely. But just for tonight I've got all the answers.


Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

You mean the synopsis is not a device created to torture writers?

What do you think are the chances of the industry adopting a standard?

Morgan Mandel said...

It's so hard to write a good synopsis because you have to decide what to include and discard from your story. Also, you want to make it seem interesting, not dull.

Because you already know the book inside and out, it's hard to tell what the reader understands or doesn't.

Morgan Mandel

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