That Dreaded Synopsis

Very interesting, but what’s going on?

One of my pet hates is writing a synopsis. I have quite a lot of pet hates, as I think I’ve established previously on here, but writing a synopsis features right up there with riding a nasty fairground ride, whilst poking my eyeballs out with a rusty pin.

Happy as I am to write posts, poems, or 100,000 words of the latest tome, my blood is chilled by the prospect of penning the synopsis.

I am terrible at it. There are so many things to get hung up on.

  1. Length – There is a lot of discussion as to how long it needs to be. I have seen suggestions of ‘not more than one page’ to ‘one page per 25,000 words of manuscript’. That’s helpful for a start.
  2. Edit, edit, edit, we are told. But you must get in the main characters, the setting, time (if not present day), the entire story, including sub-plots and the ending. Just the important characters, the ones you want your reader to care about.
  3. Only tell the main bits, the things that move your story forward and give the motivation of the characters. OK, but what if the motivation of a character involves an entire sub-plot with another load of characters? Or thirty years of back-story you’re trying not to info-dump? Do they have to go in there? Or do we just say ‘driven by jealousy’ or ‘to avenge the death of her father’?
  4. Include themes and any symbolism you might have realised you have running through the novel. So I’d guess 50 Shades might have a bit of symbolism going on which should be included. I bet that synopsis would be interesting to write. No wonder she self-published originally.
  5. You should imagine that you are writing the blurb for the back of the book jacket. Or describing to a friend the film you just went to see. What you will contrive to do is to hook your reader, in this case the agent or publisher, giving a snappy guide to what they will find, only here, unlike in the blurb, you give away the ending.
  6. Plus the whole thing must be enticing, enthusiastic and as readable as the novel.

So that, apparently, is that.

Don’t know what I’m getting so hung up about.

Anyone know a good ghost writer for that dreaded synopsis?


14 responses to “That Dreaded Synopsis

  1. I’ve always been stumped by the “write a jacket blurb” assignment. I am not a jacket blurb writer. That seems to be a specific marketing assignment, not to be lazy about it, but marketing writing is a particular skill set.

    • Exactly, a particular skill set – which I am not sure I have. And if I wanted to write my entire story as a page and a half, that’s what I would have done.
      Or maybe I am lazy about it….
      not sure. πŸ™‚

  2. Yeah, unfortunately it is all about good marketing these days.

    Good luck πŸ˜€

  3. I ended up with THREE synopses – all differing lengths and ready for whatever the agency specified, like a good CV. If they asked for a short one, they got the one-page version. The longest ran into three pages, but I never sent that, preferring to use the one and two-page versions.
    Character motivations should be reduced (like a good sauce) to a fraction of what you’d prefer to say. The agent will know it’s a synopsis and abridged. The blurb is a reduced version of the synopsis. It can be heart-breaking to chop out this reason and that adventure, but essentially, you are distilling the novel into maybe six sentences. My blurb bounced back and forward between several friendly readers for months before it was ready.
    To begin with, pick up the essential chunks of your narrative and lay them out. Trim them down to their absolute bones. Join together with motivation.
    If I can help at all, just holler.

    • You are very kind and I may take you up on it at some point. At the moment, I am still editing and the synopsis sits there in my head. I know it has to be done, but I am trying to ignore it. I was hoping that great inspiration would come from the editing and revising stage, producing a wonderful synopsis.
      Possibly by osmosis!
      Not so far!

  4. He he he, every synopsis I’ve ever written comes out like a blurb lol


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