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Writing the Synopsis

Writing the Synopsis |

Writing the synopsis is a dreaded part of the publishing process, and it can be super difficult to condense all the juicy bits of your story into one coherent nugget. As a former crit partner of mine used to say—if I could tell the story in one page, it would be one page.

No matter how far you go in your writing career, synopses stick around. These puppies become your blurbs, which play a key role in your sales, and at some point, you start selling books with a synopsis and chapters.

Getting it right is kind of a big deal.

First, keep it simple. When I start writing a synopsis, I jot down a few key points (usually 4-6) that I need to get across. This step might require some soul-searching, but it’s critical to condense here, or you’ll never get the length right. Introduce the main conflicts and characters, but go light on the subplots—when I’m reading I want to get the essence of the story—the synopsis shouldn’t be a substitute for the entire book.

Second (especially for you fantasy writers), minimize the number of made-up words and concepts you’re introducing—you might be able to get away with one if it’s critical, but don’t waste space defining your terms. And if they’re wacky, you’d better define them. I’ve seen a good few synopses where the neologisms are tossed in like sprinkles, and if I don’t know what it means, I can’t understand why I should read the story.

Third, have multiple readers look over your drafts. We’re all blind to certain problems, and you need a reliable reader or seven to point out the confusing bits.

Fourth, watch the rhetorical questions. They can be fun if they’re asked the right way, but 90% of the time, you just told the readers exactly what happens. Can Cindy fight her attraction to the handsome vampire? Will they ever be together? No she can’t, yes they will. Boom. Now I don’t have to read it to find out the ending.

Fourth, write early, read late. Get a synopsis done early on in the writing process so you can let it marinate before you edit. You’ll pick up on the problems you couldn’t see last time.

Last, (and worth repeating) keep it simple. Even if you have an awesome world, I don’t need to know every character/city/language’s name. This is the time to show off your character’s voice and suck us into the relevant conflicts, not drown us in details. We’ll care about these things later if you do your job now—distilling everything into a bite-sized morsel that makes us salivate for the full course.