1. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Synopses

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by terobi, Sep 18, 2016.

    I've seen a lot of resources and articles devoted to writing query letters for agents and publishers, as well as a lot of emphasis on refining your first three chapters to be as good as they possibly can be - but most agents also request a synopsis, and I've not seen anywhere near as many resources dedicated to how to craft a good one, beyond the fairly obvious advice of not rambling, giving unnecessary information, etc.

    I figured, while I'm letting my query sit before giving it another revision (*coughahem* this one), I'd take another look at my existing synopsis and try to refine that as well.

    So here's my double-pronged question:

    1) Exactly how vital is getting a perfect synopsis compared to the query and chapters, considering there doesn't seem to be anywhere near the amount of resources devoted to crafting a good one,
    2) ....are there any particularly useful resources devoted to crafting a good one?

    Cheers!
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    1) I'm ignoring "perfect" because such a thing doesn't exist. Getting a serviceable synopsis isn't quite as important as a serviceable query and excellent chapters, but it is important. To be serviceable, it has to show that your novel has a coherent story and a satisfying ending with conflict in between. That's about all it needs to do.

    2) If there is, I didn't find it. In my opinion, what you need to craft a good one is distance. You might have that, since you haven't been working on the story (?) for a while.

    I can send you the mine, if it'd help? I don't know how good or bad they are, but they didn't stop me getting an agent...
     
  3. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    I haven't worked on that manuscript in a few months, so there's certainly distance - I think the main issue is that I'm just not sure what elements (barebones plot aside) I should be emphasising and what I should be leaving out.

    I'm not sure how much that would help, to be honest - not having read your book, it likely wouldn't tell me much about the process of going from story to synopsis.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Emphasise conflict and tension. Hopefully you're starting with what the MC/s want, and ending with them getting it. So what stops them going from A > B smoothly?

    Maybe try:

    Paragraph 1 - Introduction to MC/s, character goal/motivation, and inciting incident.
    Paragraph 2 - First major hurdle and how it's overcome.
    Paragraph 3 - Second major hurdle and how it's overcome.
    Paragraph 4 - Third major hurdle and how it's overcome.
    Paragraph 5 - Ending.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I take a much less holistic approach than @Tenderiser - I just write a sentence for each chapter or scene of the book, and then read it over and smooth it all out a little.

    But I agree that there's less need to sell the story at the synopsis stage. I just try to make the structure of the story clear, and let the rest take care of itself.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I just wrote a synopsis of mine, more as an exercise than for any real purpose. It was interesting, and I learned a lot, and also discovered something about my story (fortunately easily done) that would benefit from a few tweaks. It's a good way to get to grips with your story structure, if for nothing more than your own use. I'd recommend writing one.

    I did research about how to write a synopsis before I started ...and there is some conflicting advice out there. There is some dissention over how long a synopsis should be. I've seen everything from 'one page' to 'four pages' for a 'short synopsis.' As for a longer one, I read one article by an agent a few years ago that suggested one page of synopsis for every 15 pages of text ...!!! That seems more like a Reader's Digest Condensed book, but what do I know?

    Most agree on what a synopsis should contain, though, and the tone that should be adopted for it. Obviously a short one will not contain as much information as a longer one, but it should cover the entire story and not leave any cliffhangers at the end. It's tricky. If your novel is a fast read and mostly plot-based, it's relatively easy to write a synopsis. If your novel is longer and less event-0riented (more character-centred) it's not so easy.

    Apparently a synopsis is always written in present tense. (Prince Charming goes to the castle where he meets the princess, as opposed to: Prince Charming went to the castle where he met the princess.) I suppose this has merit, in that it seems to move the story forward more quickly.

    One bit of advice that might not be obvious when you start writing ...agents want an emotional tale. A synopsis should not be dull. It should contain emotion and be interesting to read. Not: He knocks her dishes onto the floor, then apologises, but more along the lines of: He becomes enraged and swipes her dishes onto the floor. When he remembers how much she loves that pattern, he tries to apologise. This approach takes more words, but apparently is more effective as well. As a driver for the story, emotion and thoughts do matter, so this isn't adding fluff, but adding motivation instead. And maybe makes you, the writer, more aware of what your characters' motivations are.

    I saw a couple of articles that recommended writing synopses of well-known novels. Once you get into the swing of it, apparently it's easier to write your own. I've not tried that, but it sounds like a plan.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking of length, my advice is to have both a one-page and two-page synopsis available. In my search at least, these were the only two lengths asked for. Others just said "a short synopsis", and I opted for the one I thought was stronger.

    Also one-page = single spaced.
    Two page = double spaced.
    So in effect, you don't get that many more words for a two pager.
     
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