How to write a synopsis


Joe’s Post #72 — How do you write one?

Damned if I know. I’m bad at it. Like really bad. Like Highlander 2 bad.

It’s a hard thing for me to do. You know, write one or two pages on something that’s actually 500 pages long. What do you leave out? What themes, subplots and clever little jokes do I keep? How do I condense thousands upon thousands of my wonderful words and unbelievably brilliant ideas into something exciting without confusing the sh*t out of everyone?

But, as already stated in previous blogs, I am nothing if not stubborn, so for the last few days, I’ve been working on my synopsis. Lots of them.

It hasn’t gone well, but today, I think I cracked it.

How did I do that?

I got out of my head and just wrote about the best parts of my story. Not “and then this happens and this happens, and then someone’s penis falls off.” Nope. I tried to hit the key points, the ones I would talk about if anyone asked about my book.

I have no idea if it works any better than the previous 11 drafts. Not a clue. But it flows better, that’s for sure, and it was kinda fun to write. So, maybe that’s the secret.

I started out with a sentence describing my story. I chose one similar to (but not exactly the same as) the one I’d written for my query. Then I worked on characters and what they wanted and what stood in their way and why it mattered and what they did to overcome the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

That led to five pages of writing.

Too long.

I cut back as much as I could.

Four pages.

More needed to be cut.

I took out most of the lead-up. No one at the conference ever said to me, “hey handsome Joe, tell me more about the backstory.”

I deleted all the subplots. Fun as they are, they distract from the story when you’ve only got a few pages to work with.

That got me to three pages.

Just one more to go.

I could do it.

I took a break, grabbed a beer, watched Dallas fumble on their first possession (that’s football talk for those in the know) and then went back to it. With coffee. And a donut. Ok, three donuts.

And then I had two pages.

Probably as good as I could do. It focused on what the agents had questioned me about. World-building. The magic. The big bad.

So, Monday, it’ll be time to send it all off. Query, synopsis, 10 pages (bio if necessary).

Here’s a link if you want to check it out. There are many like it, but this one’s pretty darn good.

johnnySorry there are none written by Johnny Depp.

3 thoughts on “How to write a synopsis

  1. Great post and useful link. Not only a good road map for writing a synopsis; I have used a similar format to plan my entire novel. Sort of like a mini-outline. Thanks for sharing your agony and ultimate success of paring it down to one page!

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