Saturday, May 22, 2010

Clues to building a synopsis

Somewhere around Tuesday, I finally found my voice for my latest synopsis.

Having complete these pesky detailed outlines for three other manuscripts, you'd think it'd be easy.

It's not.

Writing never is.

The trick to writing a decent synopsis is to remember you're proving your storytelling abilities, not merely outlining your novel. If you proceed in a "this happens" "and then" format, it sounds like a middle school book report.

But unless you have a gift for these things, finding the right voice for a synopsis can be tricky. It needs to evoke the mood of the genre, capture your craft skills and reveal what happens in the book, in a way that makes agents and editors want to read the book.

I don't have the answer for how to achieve this, but a synopsis is a detailed pitch followed through to the end of the book. So, I like to think about how the words sound when I'm typing them focus on flow, clarity and brevity.

Since this latest project is a paranormal romance, I have to focus on not only the murder mystery, not only the supernatural elements, but also the love story. And, being me, I need to find a way to write it so it doesn't seem sappy.

In my case, for the Allegheny Beast project, I've constructed a reverse outline to guide me with the synopsis. I've taken the manuscript and made an outline of what's actually in the story. Now from there (and yes this is time consuming and that part of it makes me crazy) I'm creating a detailed synopsis that has everything in it that I think might need to be there.

It's currently 924 words, and I expect another 500 before I finish. I'm not going to submit something that huge with my first three chapters. This will be my starting point to edit. Those of us who hail from the newspaper industry prefer to start with too much and whittle down than risk putting a story in the news hole and have blank inches staring back at us.

And we're not afraid to delete words. It's part of the process.


  1. I'm struggling right now with a synopsis as well...and when I say struggling, I mean struggling. I never realized when I wrote my first synopsis that it would need a voice, but you're so right that it does. I think I'm finally finding it with the synopsis I'm working on now, but it's slow going and very frustrating. I was glad to see your post this morning, and to hear someone else's thoughts on this process.

  2. My current synopsis required a week of false starts. I wrote a draft, then another draft, and finally a third that I just wrote whatever popped into mind.

    That draft served me best.