Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Surviving the Synopsis

More and more writer friends are reporting that a synopsis or outline is now required by their agents and/or publishers. It sounds easy enough, right? You wrote the book, so how hard can it be to distill 1-2 pages of the manuscript's most critical plot points, characterizations, and its unique essence, and do it in a style that models your writing voice?

It can be harder than you think.

After asking agented friends for their best synopsis-writing advice, I jumped in and suffered through the paring-down process much the same way I did when abridging a book for audio production. The key is "selectively neglect."

First, prepare your query letter. Read, reread, cut, change, and tweak until you're sure it illustrates the uniqueness of your book. Now use those query points as the scaffolding for your synopsis.

Outline or list the MC goal, primary opposition, and the resolution.

Now insert key plot points that support the story, and the twists and obstacles upon which the action turns.

Pare the list down to the absolute most critical points, and expect to suffer a little as you selectively neglect some seemingly delicious moments in favor of more critical ones.

Write what you've selected in a story format that reflects your writer's voice, and walk away.

Return, reread, edit, and walk away again. If you're within the agent's length parameters, (usually 1-2 pages,) repeat the edit, read, walk away advice a few more times asking yourself if what you've written succinctly summarizes what's special about your book. If it does, great! If not, cut some more and then reread, edit . . . You get the picture.

Get some fresh eyes on this baby. Beta readers are a writer's heroes!

Good luck.

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