Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Writing Wednesday - Synopses
I'm borrowing an idea from my friend Lauren Dane's blog. Each Wednesday I'll be doing a blog post that has to do with writing and things I've learned on my own journey. Maybe some of it will help others who are starting the journey to publication.

I'd like to talk about that dreaded subject - Synopses.

When I first began writing, I really wanted to learn The Rules and read everything I could find. On some topics there was a lot of agreement. But the topic of Synopses was NOT one of those. Instead I found a huge disparity of advice - everything from the length being one page per chapter of the story to the entire synopses being only two pages long.

Most advice agreed that it should not hide things from the reader, it should lay out everything that was going to happen. It's meant to explain the story, not entice a reader to keep reading. The readers will most likely never see it, only the editors and maybe your crit partners.

One thing that lept out was that most people advising new authors said to write the story first and do the synopsis when I was done with the story. So that's what I did.

I must have started and stopped the first story's synopsis about ten times. I had trouble figuring out just what details should be in it - was what seemed important in the story really important enough to make the synopsis? What did I do about things that were happening off stage and the book characters didn't know about?

I think my first effort was about eight pages and I considered the entire process to be a circle of Hell that Dante never even dreamed of. I hated it. I struggled with it.

I showed it to several friends who were already NY published. The universal opinion was it was WAY too long and too detailed. With the help of several, I got it reworked into only two pages and still retained the feel of the story to at least some extent. I had no complaints that it was too short or not detailed enough. That story is currently sitting on some desks in NY.

The next story I worked on, I actually did a proposal for and wrote the synopsis first. Despite all the prior advice to write the story first, I wasn't going to do that for this one because the editor was willing to take a proposal, even from a new author. The effort to write this synopsis was HUGELY less than that of the first book and helped to solidify the story in my mind.

Part of that, I think, is that I didn't have the details in place to fuss over. I didn't really know them yet. That made things a lot simpler from the beginning. The finished synopsis is still two pages long and I wrote the first three chapters based on the synopsis.

The editor liked the synopsis (she commented on it) and they bought the story based on it and the partial.

So - like just about everything else in writing - there is no ONE true way. I think I've found something that works for me and will most likely continue in that vein unless some compelling reason is found not to.

Write synopsis before story
Synopsis are limited to two pages


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