Synopsis Re-visited

Slaying Trolls, Writing Novels and other hopeless tasks
Slaying Trolls, Writing Novels and other hopeless tasks

Sometime ago, I wrote that I wasn’t quite so put out by the synopsis. Silly me, the synopsis remains every bit the nemesis I feared it was. Well, maybe not quite that bad but a synopsis certainly retains its ability to cause me angst.

As part of the On the Far Side Contest by Romance Writer’s of America, you have the option to send in a synopsis with twenty pages of your novel. Since the real prize is a shot at getting noticed by Melissa Singer from Tor, it seemed wise to include the synopsis, but what a painful experience. If it didn’t seem so necessary, if not now, then at some point, I would have gladly chucked the whole thing. Maybe even thrown in my quill. Clearly, I was completely clueless on a synopsis.

As described in my earlier post, my synopsis started out as a “and-then, and-then, and-then” bald narrative of the story arc. That’s still okay for personal use (though more on that below) but not so good as a marketing tool, which, as the good folks at Red Circle Ink reminded me, is exactly what a synopsis is for: getting an agent or editor to request the full, and at the next step, selling the novel within a publishing house. I’ve mentioned before using Red Circle Ink for a critique of an earlier project and some revisions on chapter one of my current project. With their assistance on this outline, it has moved more to a coaching relationship, which was quite fruitful. I highly recommend their services. I have only one hesitation in recommending Red Circle and that’s that their business might pick up to the point where they raise their quite reasonable rates.

Aside from the gentle reminder that the synopsis can’t be boring (apparently editors hate to read them almost as much as author’s hate to write them), Red Circle Ink made several other very useful tips:

  • Seems obvious enough in hindsight but in the course of creating a short synopsis (100,000 words boiled down to 2 pages, yikes!), it’s okay to simplify the story a bit. So, I merged a few characters and fudged a few plot points, which made it much easier to meet the two page limit.
  • And along the lines of my recent post on fantasy settings, and how (to me) premise and characters are more important than setting details, Red Circle Ink suggested that I try writing just the inner journey synopsis separately for the two main characters. From that, add the premise and key plot points. This was really the key, for me, that unlocked a (hopefully) reasonable synopsis.

Only time will tell if I’m “there” yet with a marketable synopsis but it feels a whole lot better, now. Put another way, I have hopes it will be a positive addition to my entry, rather than a negative now that it focuses on the premise, inciting incident, turning points, black moment, and resolution. That is, only the plot “bits” that show how the characters change.

The contest is open until the 15th of this month, with a large number of categories. Being an RWA contest, the only other stipulation is it must have some romantic elements.

I’m about to send draft 3 of my current project out to a few readers and plan to work on story development for the next project during the gap. I have a glimmer of basic characters and premise (more on that in another post as it relates to sequels for unpublished books). Once that is firmed up, I’ll move to defining inciting incidents, turning points, etc., then try my hand at a synopsis that captures those point, rather than my earlier “and-then” synopsis style. We’ll see how it goes but it feels like a better approach.

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9 thoughts on “Synopsis Re-visited

  1. Good job on getting the synopsis finished! I’ve heard the same advice before, but it is not easy implementing it. Good luck on your entry! 🙂

    1. Thanks! If nothing else, entering got me to take a synopsis to the next step. And there’s the hope of some useful feedback from the first round judges, at least.

  2. Ugh, the dreaded synopsis. Glad you got through to a sense of success on one. Every success on a synopsis is cause for celebration. A pat on the back to you!

  3. I definitely have to agree with you, writing a synopsis is the devil! You have to write only the most essential parts down, but you have to do it with finesse WITHOUT waxing poetically. It’s a very frustrating task! Congrats on finishing and good luck!

    1. Thanks for dropping by! Yes, they are *evil*. They must be destroyed. Actually, as much as I hated the synopsis, pitching is worse. There you have to boil it down as well but you get the added bonus of getting to trip over your carefully rehearsed words.

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