Monday, January 11, 2010

Do You Know Why We Use...A SYNOPSIS!

Today, I want to begin with the synopsis.

For most writers, they toss and turn about this one and really, in the end, make it much worse than it really has to be.

The synopsis is used primarily for marketing your story to editors and agents, however, successful writers will be able to use a well crafted synopsis to know exactly what his or her story is going to be about. Let's start with the editors and agents though.

As an agent, part of my submission packet, along with a sample of the writing, is a 3-5 page, double-spaced synopsis. While the quality of the writing is important, what I am really looking for in this piece of writing is the concept of plot and story development. I am looking to see if the story really does have a beginning, middle and end. I am also looking to see if the story has both a well developed internal and external conflict, and, how the characters really over come both. The biggest reason for looking at this is to identify if the story is unique and clearly thought out. I am looking at the big picture.

Editors are doing the same thing. They are looking to see if this story has enough of a high concept to compete in the busy market. With their busy schedule, they have even less time to really assess the quality of the writing. They have to start with that premise.

By keeping the synopsis to 3-5 pages, it also demonstrates to me, if the author has the ability to clearly select what is important and what isn't. In my humble opinion, if a writer can't sum up his or her story into that short space, focusing only on the plot and conflict, then there is a likelyhood that the writing will also struggle.

For the writer, the synopsis is a great way to really plan out your story. You might not be someone who can outline the story, but you can at least find that beginning, middle and end. Too often I hear writers have a great initial premise to the story but really never see the conflict or conclusion. Many times, part of the reason for not seeing that conflict or conclusion is that it simply isn't there. Just waiting for that time to happen really becomes a huge waste of good time.

On the other hand, if you know, going in, what the conflict is and what the conclusion will be, you can make sure you herd your characters, like a loving shephard, toward the ending you want. Don't just let the characters stumble blindly.

Finally, a well crafted synopsis, for the published author, is a great tool for writing on proposal. The more you can demonstrate to the editor or agent that you know where this is going, the easier it is for them to agree with your project. Just saying, "Hey Joanne, I want to write another historical" is simply not enough.

Therefore, writing a synopsis really comes down to knowing your story before you write the story. You simply have to focus on the storyline. Don't worry so much about giving us "the voice" of the characters or your voice. We will see that soon enough in the actual manuscript.

Oh, and one last thing. Not giving the agent or editor the ending because "you want to keep it a surprise" is simply a way of saying to us, "I really haven't finished the story." Tsk, Tsk, Tsk.

Hopefully this will give you some idea as to the rationale for this little beauty. Tomorrow... THE HIGH CONCEPT!


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