Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thank You, Synopsis!

Okay, I admit it. I have not yet written a synopsis for the book I'm trying to sell right now.

On my list of agents to query, only a third of them ask for a synopsis. Yesterday I stared at that list and thought, "Maybe I should just skip those ones."

But at the last writer's workshop I went to I learned that a synopsis isn't just some irritating assignment. A synopsis is the way I'm going to sell my agent or editor on my next planned project. I've got to learn to write a good one, one that makes my next book sound so awesome they can't say no.

As I walked to campus yesterday on my way to teach a class, I began to compose the dreaded synopsis in my head. I like to do my pre-drafting while my feet are moving, you know? Half-way down the block I got to a place in the story that didn't seem to make sense. While trying to figure out how to make it sound better I realized there was no making it sound better. It just plain didn't make sense.

But there was a way to fix it. An easy, obvious change that would make the whole story so much stronger.

How long have I been working on this book? Two years? And I never saw that before?

Not until I'd cleared everything else away and got down to the bare plot did I see it. And now things are going to be so much better.

Thank you, synopsis!


  1. Awesome! And I had a similar feeling when I finally went through this last draft of the MS I'm circulating now. I knew I was ready to query when my synopsis and query letter were tight and made sense and actually corresponded to the story that I wrote! Funny that.

  2. A synopsis is a great tool for making sure the story is clear and strong. In fact, for all my future projects I'll be writing a query pitch and a synopsis before I start drafting.

  3. It's no fun to compose, but aren't you glad you did?

  4. Writing a one sentence pitch, query and synopsis have helped me WAY more than once to finish a project.

  5. Alex, you know it.

    I'm beginning to understand that, too, Jolene. Not only will it help me focus on what makes the story great, it will make it easier for me to tell other people about it and get them excited too.

  6. You guys are slowly starting to change my mental mindset about the dreaded pitch, query, and synopsis. Slowly. I still get tense and make strange facial expressions when I think about them, but the lip curling is less intense than it was. Maybe I'll get to the point when I'm excited to write them. Maybe.

    Great post!

  7. We're getting more and more professional every day, Leisha. Pretty soon this will all seem like part of the routine.

  8. I'm looking forward to that day, Rebecca.

  9. It's hard to imagine what non-writers do with their mind when they are walking, or when their mind is otherwise unencumbered. The dreaded synopsis takes a whole lot of thought and a lot of it outside the box. (Wish I had your views to inspisre me!) But it's a major David conquers Goliath moment when it's done and it's good. Great blog!

  10. Wow Rebecca, that is like a story from my own life. When I started querying, I put off anyone who requested a synopsis. I just didn't want to write it. And then I got a request for a full, but the agent also wanted a synopsis. So I had to write it.
    So I finally faced the beast and wrote a synopsis (which was fairly easy, since I have a chapter by chapter outline for myself...)

    And then I discovered something didn't quite make sense.

    Dun Dun Dun.

    Not so much that I had to fix it in the story, but it was a big part of the back story. So I got the same BONUS for writing the synopsis. It helped me figure out my story even better.

  11. Oh wow, Chersti, at least it wasn't something in your ALREADY SUBMITTED MANUSCRIPT! As in, oh, wait, oops, can I please have that back?

    And a belated pat on the back for the full ms request.

    Synopsis. Sooner or later, you gotta write one. Since I'm in synopsis mode, I might as well write one for my next project right now.


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