As part of my revision process with my work in progress, I just finished writing a synopsis. Crafting the dreaded synopsis is one task that most writers loathe. Why? It’s not that creative. It requires cutting, cutting, and more cutting. And it reduces your glorious 60,000 or 80,000 or 100,000 word novel to just 500 or so words of distilled story essence that can read like a description of the town council meeting.
But you gotta have it.
Not every agent or editor will want to see a synopsis, but many do — especially if you’re unpublished. Why? One good thing about a synopsis is that it will immediately make clear any major shortcomings in your story. Whether you’ve got a main character with no motivation or plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, the synopsis will show it all.
While writing a synopsis is a chore, it doesn’t have to be all that hard. And if you’re an outliner, like me, odds are that you can use the single-sentence scene descriptors you already have to give yourself a big head start.
While I found a lot of advice on how to write a synopsis, some I found particularly helpful:
- Jane Friedman has some solid guidelines on her blog, including advice on including feelings and emotions in your synopsis.
- Glen Strathy of How to Write a Book Now fame breaks down the synopsis process into eight steps.
- And if you’re looking for some examples, check out the synopses on Writer’s Digest, all using movie examples.
Lastly, keep in mind that a synopsis is not only useful to agents and editors — it can be useful to you, too, and for all the same reasons. I’m even thinking about writing a synopsis for my next project before I start drafting. I have a hunch that it might keep me focused on major story elements in a way that my usual scene-by-scene outlines can’t.
Have you grappled with the synopsis beast? Any advice?