Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Writing a synopsis...

Is bloody tricky! I had one already written (which was a redraft of another, which was a condensed version of an alternative, which was laid over the original, which was pants) and now I am rewriting it again anyway.

A lot happens in books, doesn’t it? Pages and pages of derring-do, and marvellous things, and tragic twists, and comedy corners. And all that down to a little bitty thing that says ‘please oh please for the love of God and small kittens request the rest of me!’

If I smoked I’d be outside stalking about like Groucho Marx at this point. As it is I nervously eat Milky Way bars (look – to me they are like diet chocolate) and just know my backside has grown chair-shaped, complete with handles. This is what this synopsis is doing to me. And does it care? Does it ever.

Although it is getting there, slow but sure. I can almost glimpse the synopsis I want it to be. I think the trick is not to explain but to feel the story, the flow of the story. Who are the characters? Where’s the drama? What’s the tension? How does it conclude?

So this is what I am doing tonight. I can stay another hour at work (am using lovely office computer after-hours) without colleagues thinking I am zealously keen to the point of insanity. And then I can ponder my words on the long sweaty jolt home (nice) and restart again that side.

Have you written a synopsis? Any tips to share?


Anonymous said...

I've never written the synopsis, and I'm already dreading when I do have to. Literary agent Nathan Bransford wrote a post about it. I hope that helps.

Good luck with your synopsis!

Theresa Milstein said...

I've written several. They must not be too terrible because I've gotten requests for fulls. (Apparently, it's the manuscripts that are the problem!) Synopses are hard. Taking a whole book and condensing it into one page is a feat! I wish you the best of luck.

Cynthia Reese said...

No help now, but I always write my synops first -- while the story is new and fresh and exciting, and when I DON'T know about the twisty-turny parts of the plot or about that great secondary character that steals the show.

Query Shark's advice on query letters really applies to synops, too: “Who is the heroine? What choice does she face? What are the consequences of that choice?"

Aubrie said...

I hate writing synopsis's so much that I query all of the agents that don't require one first and then wait until the last minute to write it. I have several versions: 1 page one, a two page one, a two paragraph one.

One thing that helps me is to take out any characters that are not pivotal to the plot.

Joanne said...

I have written synopses, and I think the secret is to not include too much detail. It's more the essence of the story, the backbone of it. Best wishes, you'll get it!

Laura Marcella said...

I have not written a synopsis yet, and the way everyone talks about them I really don't want to!

Good luck!

Donna Hosie said...

Good luck! I have my query written, but the synopsis is still a blank page.

An agent acquaintance once gave me these tips on the synopsis:

* Write down every plot detail in bullet form first
* Then start to condense and remove the superfluous plot threads that are not vital to the MAIN plotline
* Start writing those bullet points into flowing sentences
* Revise, edit, revise, rinse, lather and repeat!

Fran said...

They're as painful as they sound. (Doctor, I think I have a synopsis. Well, just lie on the couch and I'll have a look. You may need some treatment for that.)

Jayne said...

Sandy - thanks for the link! Really helpful - much appreciated. :)


Theresa - That is fantastic you have had requests for fulls (Fulls! Way to go, girl!) But ouch. The ms being the problem is the other thing that worries me. Thank you for the good luck wishes. x


Cynthia - you know, that reminds me of what I do when I first get a story idea, the first scribble of how the story should go. It didn't think about revisiting it as it was so long ago, but the essence of why I think this story should be told might be lurking there - will check it out. Thanks! And thanks for digging out some advice from Query Shark - she's brilliant.

Ed Pilolla said...

i read this post and it seems like you are stalking your prey. you are uncomfortable with the duration of time but you are closing in. you are now seeing what you want. you are sore and grumpy but it will all soon be worth it. carry on!

Nicole MacDonald said...

I wrote mine tongue-in-cheek and am pretty pleased with it. Have someone else read it rhough and don't over think it too much :)

Old Kitty said...

I have everything crossed that you finish your synopses to your satisfaction!!! I think you are getting there - more milky way bars and looking like groucho marx and writer's bum and I think you'll be on your way!!! Good luck!!!!

I'm very sorry but I don't really have any synopses writing tips! All I know is that it's taken me YEARS - since 2005/6 to write one now that I am really pleased with. YEARS!!. :-)

take care

Palindrome said...

I've written one for just about every idea I've ever gotten but they are rough and non-linear. I did find a useful way to keep it focused though. I write character descriptions and their history that may or may not come out in the story. But once I get that down, the synopsis sort of just unfolds. I hope that helps.

Alexandra Shostak said...

Oh man, I just recently went through this synopsis crap. I realized that my adult manuscript didn't have one to go with it, and I forced my CPs to look over it, too.

Um... my tip is... let it sit? I have no idea, I've just been stumbling my way along!

Vatche said...

Hey, Jayne! I wish you luck on your synopsis writing, because I know it can be difficult.

I've tackled it myself a few times myself and have come up empty handed, but I'm going to tackle it again this summer and finish it hopefully.

Write on and rock on!

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Jayne
good luck with your synopsis... I can imagine it takes a lot of rewriting.. the only writing I had done prior to blogging was technical writing.. and so... slightly different me thinks... good luck with it all..

OH.. and thank you so much for your kind words my way.. you know you were right!! I was thinking of groceries when considering those stairs.. haha.. xxx Julie

Karen said...

I kept my synopsis very short in the end - about 300 words - and it read like a jacket blurb. In fact I emulated a few first to get a feel for it and it worked for me!

Best not to overthink it in my opinion - I honestly think if an agent likes your story idea and style they'll read on :o)

Good luck!

KarenG said...

I'm sure your synopsis will be wonderful! It has to with all those Milky Ways *diet chocolate lol* But yes they're tough. Like having to write a blurb for your book. Aaargh!

Christine said...

I can't offer any personal help, but I note that the Writers' and Artistis' Yearbook (my edition is 2010) contains advice on how to do it, also useful material on literary agents and how to attract their attention.

Good luck

mise said...

I wish I could help, but I guess you can't post it on your blog. But I reckon you should send it to a few people who have never read your book to see what they think of its cohesion, balance and most of all how alluring it is.

Carol Kilgore said...

HATE them. But one of my critique partners is the Synopsis Queen. LOVE her!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

EEK! I hate doing a synopsis. I'm generally very long winded and the idea of condensing anything horrifies me. Good luck my dear with the synopsis you'll knock it out of the park :)

Talli Roland said...

I hate hate haaaaatttttte writing synopsis. HATE! Mine usually sound like 'she did this. And then this. But this...'


Good luck!

Kit Courteney said...

I have no advice.

Did it once.

Didn't like it.

Am dreading the next time.

Am liking the advice here though!

Talei said...

Oh wow! I've not written one as yet. Good Luck!! I hope it all goes well for you!! ;)

covnitkepr1 said...

I've written a small book of Communion meditations which is at the printers.
I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog. I came across it through another blog I follow. I am now a follower of yours as well. Feel free to look over my blog and perhaps become a follower as well.

Boonsong said...

I love this post - interesting, witty - it's got the lot.
Thanks for this.

All the best, Boonsong

Maria Zannini said...

Synopses are necessary evils.

You are asking all the right questions though, so my guess is you're probably already on the right path.

Show the synopsis to someone who doesn't know anything about your work and get his opinion. It might surprise you what you left out or what is unnecessary.

Liza said...

Love this! I'm not even close to a synopsis at this point, but have enjoyed reading about your journey. Thank you for commenting on my blog.

Munk said...


Priya Parmar said...

wow was my synopsis tough. and then i sent it to my favorite author (who was critiquing my book for me) and she destroyed it. she loved the book and eviscerated my synopsis. gruesome but helpful!

Southpaw said...

I have not had the pleasure yet. Hopefully by the time I get there I’ll have read enough from others that it would be as scary.

Jen said...

I've never written a synopsis but today Tamara wrote about it over on her blog and it was great advice, she admits she did it the long way, but being a panster does have it's negatives!!!

Nathan Bransford also gives some great tips!

The Words Crafter said...

I haven't written one...haven't needed to yet. I do wish you luck...

Clara said...

I have a very good tip: Write your query first!
Since the query is shorter, when you go to the synopsis you'll just thank God you have more to work with then 200 words!

Honest to Jalapenos, it works.

Jayne said...

Aubrie – I think it is a great idea to have different versions. I too work on a long, short, and teeny-tiny synopsis.

Joanne. Essence of the story – right, gotcha!

Laura – They are very tricksy indeed. I think they like to stay hidden.

Donna – Thanks for the advice – especially love the ‘revise, rinse, lather and repeat!’

Fran – I fear the cure for them is something like kissing a toad at midnight.

Ed – I am indeed stalking my prey! Tightening down the escape hatches as we speak.

Nicole – Don’t over-think, great piece of advice, thank you!

Old Kitty – Years?! Actually I hear you with that – I wrote my first synopsis for this story two years ago (awful), and then another last year (not-so-awful-but-still-nasty), and then since January I have been worrying at this one every so often.

Jayne said...

Palindrome – Thanks for the tip!

Alexandra – Heck, stumbling our way along is what we all do!

Vatche – Thanks for the good luck wishes – back atcha as well!

Julie – It has taken A LOT of rewriting. I am still not exactly satisfied yet, but getting there, I think!

Karen – Thank you. At the moment mine is 500 words (just over, still working on shaving it down) – I have been reading a lot of jacket blurbs to get the feel!

KarenG – I should never have got the idea that Milky Way bars are diet chocolate!

Christine – The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is a great resource – I too have the 2010 edition, study it daily!

Mise – Cohesion, balance and alluring – what fantastic words of advice – those words will now become my mantra!

Carol – How fantastic to have the Synopsis Queen as your critique partner! I wish I had a Synopsis Queen. :)

Jayne said...

Erica – Aw thank you!

Talli – Yup, that was my problem exactly at the beginning!

Kit – I am loving the comments this blog post is getting!

Talei – Thank you!

Covnikepr1 – Thank you!

Boonsong – Glad you enjoyed!

Maria – I like to think I am on the right path, but it sounds better when you say it, thank you!

Liza – Glad you enjoyed reading it, thanks for coming by!

Munk – Gotta love the description ‘derring-do’

Priya – Ouch. But I bet your synopsis became better for it.

Southpaw – I think it is still a scary thing no matter how much advice you read.

Jen – Thanks for that – good to see what other folk say.

The Words Crafter – Thank you!

Clara – Haha – yes, I must admit I did do it that way around. Love the saying ‘honest to Jalapenos’! Might adopt it for use around the office. :)