1. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Tips on writing a synopsis?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by jo spumoni, Nov 7, 2010.

    Some good news: I queried a publisher and they asked for a more detailed synopsis because the plot I described briefly peaked their interest :)

    Some bad news: I'm having trouble getting the synopsis just right. :confused:

    I can't seem to get it under 3 pages. Mind you, it doesn't have to be under 3 pages, but considering that my story is only about 28,000 words, that seems a too long. I think the main thing I have difficulty with is that my book is written in choppy scenes with very little narration. In the synopsis, I try to describe only the important scenes, but since my book is so short, every scene is important.

    I've never written a synopsis before, and I'm uncertain as to the best way to do it.

    Any one have any good tips? Sorry to be so vague. When I feel better about it, I might post it on one of the forums, but at the moment, I'm not even ready to do that.

    Thanks!
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    A synopsis is not necessarily a plot summary. Obviously that should be a part of it, but the synopsis is a good opportunity to show off your knowledge of how a novel works, how you understand structure, development, theme, etc, etc.

    To be honest, I've never really understood people not being able to write synopses. Every story by anyone ever can be reduced to one sentence, two at most. If you can't do that with your work, then maybe you don't understand it well enough. And if you can, then you shouldn't have a problem. Start with that one sentence and broadly outline the story in a few more. Talk about how the novel works as much as well as about what's literally happening.

    I guess there isn't really a right way to do it, but I'm pretty sure a detailed 3-page plot summary is wrong.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    When they asked for a more detailed synopsis, did they specify a length? If not, I would probably limit it to twice the length of the original synopsis.

    I would start by going through the original synopsis and condensing it. Eliminate unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, and eliminate any repetition of the same points. That suggestion may exasperate you, but chances are that unless you are habitually very concise, you will find ways to tighten up what you've already written.

    Then decide what you have left out in terms of important plot elements, and think of where they can fit into the existing synopsis. What factors increase the urgency of the characters' missions? What is at stake?

    Ideally, what you end up with is no longer than the original synopsis, but if it doubles the length, that should still be fine. Much longer than that is probably not effective.
     
  4. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    @ Arron:
    Thanks for the thoughts. I promise you that I understand my work very well. I think I'm just getting bogged down on the specifics. I was kind of uncertain whether a synopsis had to summarize EVERYTHING or only the important parts. The thing you say about boiling a plot down to a few sentences is true--I know because I did it for the query letter. But now that I'm being asked to be less concise...well, I guess I went a little overboard.

    Thanks for the help.


    @Cogito:
    They did not specify length. They said the synopsis should be as long as it needs to be. But I'm pretty sure that 3 pages is not a very good synopsis for a work that's barely over 28,000 words. Trust me, your suggestion of eliminating the adverbs etc does NOT exasperate me. Believe it or not, I've already done some of that and it's still 3 pages! But yes, I do need to go over it once more. Thanks for everything.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i doubt they want more than one single-spaced page in tnr 12pt... that's the most preferred synopsis even for full novels that are 3x times longer than your ms...

    but i'm curious as to why they'd be interested in such a short book... is this meant for the children's market?
     
  6. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    It's for a young adult market. There are a very small number of publishers who will publish books of my length, but there are a couple. Before you ask:

    1) They're not vanity press
    2) I've checked them out and they appear to be reputable
    3) I come from a whole family of lawyers who can help me navigate contracts, etc, in the dubious event that my book actually gets published

    I know 3 pages is too long. The publishers say there's no length limit for a synopsis, but I think 3 pages for a 28,000-word book probably indicates that I'm not doing a very good job of summarizing. That's why I posted this in the first place. I'd love to get it down to a page or even less, considering the novelists I know can sum their 300+ page books down to less than 5 pages.

    But thanks to these replies, I think I have a better idea of how to do it, anyway :)
     

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