You may have guessed from my last post that I find conjuring a good synopsis out of blank paper rather tricky. But, now the painful part is over and I have finished howling at the moon, I thought I’d share some secrets that worked for me.
(When I say worked, only time will tell of course.)
Make a list of yucky things that seem preferable to writing a synopsis. Decide that writing a synopsis is infinitely better than, say, licking cat vomit.
Read each chapter of your novel and write one paragraph describing the main events. I did this in long-hand and came up with three or four pages of scribble. (Scribble being my default best handwriting.)
Type this up and edit where necessary.
Read it over. Does your synopsis mention:
- Main characters (only the protagonists that move the story forward are needed)
- Setting, including year
- Main plot and sub-plot
- The ending (very important. Don’t be coy!)
Take out anything superfluous - think plot; think the simplest terms for someone else to understand that plot
Make sure the synopsis tone of voice reflects the novel tone of voice
Edit, edit, edit! Edit until you’re sick! Edit some more!
Read it aloud. Tweak if needed.
As for practicalities – unless the agency / publisher you are submitting to have specific guidelines (and most do), I use Times New Roman, point size 11, single-spaced typing. I might increase the font size to 12 when actually sending it out - cheers Giles! (see comments). I wouldn’t go over two pages, perhaps three at a push. Think of it as a CV – everyone has a CV but most companies don’t want you to send it in as they have their own forms. So say some agencies want a one-page synopsis - if you have something you are happy with you'll be able to prune it to what's needed.
And the best thing about writing a synopsis?
It really, really helps your novel. At least, it did for me. I started working on my synopsis earlier this year, and it identified a problem with my novel. Each time I began the synopsis I started it at a certain point - but this wasn't the point where my novel started. This discrepancy revealed a lurking fear that I'd started my novel in the wrong place - buried the poor thing in back story - and finally this set me on the path of the gigantic rewrite.
So, if things work out, I'll have to shake that synopsis by the hand and buy it a drink. It probably won't stop me writing lists about awful things I'd rather do than write one, but at least now I understand. A synopsis is your novel's best friend.
3.Eat whatever’s lurking at the back of the office fridge
4.Ride a rail replacement bus through London at the weekend holding a bag of thawing fish
5.Write a 20-page report on the varying nuances of beige, complete with chemistry compound tied in to theories of depression
6.Get pooped on by a pigeon with chronic diarrhoea
7.Wear pale trousers, sit on chocolate, and walk around all day oblivious of suspicious stain
8.De-clog a railway station toilet with my bare hands
9.Root around scary storage centres on my own at night for obscure pieces of stage equipment
10.Watch daytime chat show programmes on a continual loop until my mind bleeds out of my nose
11.Sit a three-hour exam on Advanced Maths
12.Enter the Guinness World Record cracker eating contest
13.Drop and smash a priceless antique in a shop with a sign that says ‘Nice to see, Lovely to hold, If you break it, Consider it sold’
14.Sew my fingers together and then pull the thread out very, very slowly
15.Go mud larking in bare feet along the Thames in central London
16.Ask the most gorgeous man in the world on a date
17.Walk around all day in towering heels
18.Go for colonic irrigation
19.Wear butt-skimming hot-pants to a work conference
20.Eat a raw onion as if it’s an apple
I have done #9, #14 and #17. As for #16... maybe one day. *grins*
Just to clarify #14. It was a textiles lesson at school. I was thirteen and bored. We were supposed to be sewing something dull and one of the boys instead sewed the thread through the pads of his fingers and was trying to gross us out. He dared one of us to do it. I took him up on the challenge and realised it didn't really hurt if you used shallow stitches; it just looked awful and freaked out the teacher. Then to get the thread out you pulled it slowly from one side, trying not to break the skin - and this felt really weird and icky. It wasn't a clever thing to do as it can make your fingers very sore, so please don't try it! Not that you would, of course. You have brains.
So. As you know (or if you are new here - hello! Take a seat! I'm about to start flailing!) I am on a mission with the rewrite of the novel. A complete and utter mission. This little puppy has to be done and dusted by the end of October or my name's not Jayne Ferst. (Ah. Bad example.)
There are a lot of changes to make.
1. Main character is forty years younger.
2. This means the setting (for a bit) is now 1962 instead of 2002.
3. It's now first person narration, instead of third person.
4. It's present tense intead of past.
So there's a lot to do, but whereas I thought the rewrite would be like lifting up the rug of my Word document and gently flapping it, watching it settle down and glow with magic and promise, instead I notice the rotten rug is sewn together with 'suddenly' and 'just' and 'quite'. Also what is with my characters 'looking' everywhere, all the time? They look up, they look down, they look all-a-sodding-round. I've also noticed they constantly bite their lips.
My poor characters - I've inadvertantly given them neck-ache and an addiction to lip balm.
So the rewrite is keeping me very busy indeed and apologies for not blogging as much or getting around to visit as many blogs as I would like (although if you comment I will pop by at some point). Here, have a picture of some autumn leaves: