Monday, January 28, 2013

Writing Synopsis'

Hi everyone.
Last week I asked you for writing ideas. Holly let me know she was thinking about synopsis and blurbs, so I thought I'd talk about these two writing problems today and next Monday.


I must confess, the synopsis is something that I struggled with and that I put aside when I self published. But I did purchase several books on the subject and I did put together multiple synopsis'. Here's what I learned.

There are two types of synopsis. One is just a long version of a blurb. I didn't know this until I started blogging and read others synopsis' which they would post on their blogs. I initially thought the authors were posting the kiss of death, since telling someone the end or your story before they read it takes away the  pleasure and mystery of reading. I soon learned that they were not really posting a synopsis.

A synopsis is for the eyes of a publisher, agent or editor. Some will create one for their critique partners though I'm not sure why.

There are some rules.

1. A synopsis is single spaced with double spaces between paragraphs that are NOT indented. Like this post.

2. Be sure to read the synopsis guidelines for each publisher, agent, etc., they are all different. Some want a single page while others want three or five pages. You may think they want to make your life difficult but it's really a mystery why there isn't one standard for all synopsis. I've been told that they want to see if you did your research and followed their directions. This reminds me of English class.

3. Always start by introducing yourself in a single sentence. Give writing credits if  you have any. If not, do you belong to any organizations or groups that are dedicated to writing? Do you attend conferences? These can be in a second sentence.

4. Introduce the title and genre of your manuscript. The title should be in all CAPITALS but not the genre. Include the word count. We have computers. Be specific. Don't use the word, APPROXIMATELY. One agent I know said this is an automatic turn off for them and they don't finish reading the synopsis. Does your word count match their requirements? It had better.

5. Give the names of your leading characters in all CAPITALS. No more than three characters. Don't be dry, make this some of your best writing. Aim to show your writing skills. Many times agents, editors and publishers will base their decisions on the synopsis alone. Sometimes they ask only for a synopsis.

6. Get a strong drink. Iced tea may not be enough though it is my favorite. Okay, this one isn't in the guidelines but I bet you smiled.

7. No secrets. You must tell everything. Now is not the time for a cliff hanger. Some agents, editors, etc., ask for a chapter by chapter synopsis. I had nightmares over this one. We are back to that strong drink. I rarely indulge since alcohol gives me headaches that are brutal. We're talking one drink here. Oh yeah, I'm not an alcoholic. A funny movie works best for me. My favorite is 'Dick and Jane Have Fun,' since it mirrors my life. That is, the part about losing everything. 'Galaxy Quest' is another favorite.

8. Concentrate and stop getting off the subject. Remember those surprise quizzes in English? Ugh!

9. Edit. edit. critique it and edit. How many times? This is open to debate. Edit some more.

10. Did I mention that your manuscript should be completed. What if they call you and want you to send the whole thing tomorrow and your on chapter three? Nightmares again. I actually know someone that had this happen. By the time they had finished the story, two years later, the publisher wasn't interested anymore.

11. Remember to ask them to contact you at the end of your synopsis. Something like, I'm looking forward to hearing from you or I'm thrilled to work with you. Don't just sign  your name and mail it. 

I have no idea what the current publishing world is looking for. If you write romance or cozy mysteries there are formulas that each house is looking for. If you are like me, good luck. My story didn't fit into the standard formula for anything, though I did write a powerful story, my characters where too old for YA and my voice was too young for mainstream. In others words, I didn't curse enough or have explicit sex scenes. I don't think you need those things to write a great book.

Any questions? Did I miss something?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm currently working on my synopsis, but it's the one for the back of the book. (And my publisher calls it a synopsis rather than a blurb.)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nancy .. let me try again and see if Blogger blows me out ..

You appear to have done an excellent comprehensive setting out of a synopsis here .. and I'm sure everyone who writes a book has a grasp of the inside - don't they?!

Cheers Hilary

Yolanda Renee said...

Great advice, follow the guidelines first and foremost!

A query, a blurb, a logline, a synopsis -- always the most difficult, great points, thanks!

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Alex
Yeah, that type of synopsis is more like a blurb, what makes the difference is the length. Confusing.

Hi Hilary
You'd be amazed how many new writers don't even know what genre they write let alone anything else. They have stories spinning in their heads and just start writing.

Hi Yolanda
There is a lot and many of the names seem to mean the same thing.

Thanks everyone for stopping by.

Carolyn V said...

So glad you posted this! I have to write a synop and am a little anxious about it. Thanks for the info!!!

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Carolyn
You're welcome, glad to help.

Southpaw said...

Thanks Nancy! I never would have guessed to add the beginning information.

N. R. Williams said...

You're welcome Holly