Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's a Synopsis?

During a conversation with some authors about an upcoming project, several mentioned they didn't know how to write a synopsis.

This surprised me, since it's a staple of the writing world. I mean, at one time or another, if you are a published author, you have to knuckle down and write one. In this case, the publisher was looking for a snapshot synopsis (three or four paragraphs, which is more like a blurb with the ending and spoilers).

I will be the first to say, the synopsis is one of my least favorite things to write, and I have been known to submit to publishers that don't require them, because I despise them that much.

But to get into any of the big houses, you need one.

Most of the authors I have talked to about it, tell me they hate the blurbs, the pitches and queries. Believe it or not, these are my favorites and I can crank them out all day, but the synopsis--not so much. That sucker trips me up all the time.

I think what I dislike about a synopsis so much is that it covers your book, soup to nuts, in less than two pages, well, in most instances, you should keep it to less than two. The longer it is, the more time you give whoever you've submitted it to, a chance to put it down.

But who likes to summarize their book in two pages? Sure I do it with blurbs, but they don't contain the spoilers and I can strive to hook you without giving the milk away for free. With a synopsis it's all or nothing.

So what does a good synopsis contain?

The plot--summarized.

An introduction to the characters, their names, who they are and the conflicts they face.

Opening, middle and conclusion without surprises. A synopsis is not to keep and editor, publisher or agent in suspense.

In essence, whoever is reading it, gets a condensed version of your book, with the highlights, plot and conflict spelled out for them. And it's a major pain.

So, what are some of your least favorite things to write? Do you hate queries? Or is it the dreaded outline that throws you?


Jessica Subject said...

Great points! Blurbs can be difficult for me, but I like the synopsis even less. Thanks for this! :)

Faith said...

I'm with you on the synopsis, D.L. I detest them. Every time my agent says I need to write one I could just crawl under the bed and whimper! Ugh!