Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Make Your Synopis Say What You Want

I have been editing the synopses for one of my clients yesterday and this morning and throught I would share some thoughts that many of you probably face. I also found it interesting that Jessica Faust over at Bookends was also blogging about the dreaded synopsis, so, I guess you get a double shot today.

What I think writers fail to understand is that the synopsis really is the guiding story arc for your book. As much as you hate to write the darn things, these become extremely useful to you as you pursue your career. You can submit on proposal to your editors with the synopsis. But more importantly, you can work out the bugs in your story BEFORE you get knee-deep into the plot. Let me explain it this way.

Along with this synopsis edit I am doing, I am also doing edits on a full manuscript for another client. The work we will have to do on the plot and the story of the synopsis will obviously be much easier than what we have to do with the story. This is not just about the amount of pages to work through, but the fact that in the actual story, authors  will often start adding in bizarre plot twists just to work their holes they worked themselves into. This now requires complete over-hauls of sections. With the synopsis, those holes can be apparent from the beginning.

Whether or not you consider yourself a plotter or a pantster, the synopsis is a good way to simply sort through your story. When we start a project, we often have a lot of things running through our heads. We have scenes we can see the characters doing later in the story. We have dialogue that already starts playing through our heads. In simple terms, we have a mess. Think of it as going to the grocery getting everything you need for that Thanksgiving dinner. You dump all of the food on the kitchen counter and it becomes complete chaos until you "get it organized". This process, hopefully, allows you to realize you forgot the cranberries or the butter. If you just "put the stuff away" and don't take that time to sort it all out, you find those missing items right in the middle of the cooking, which often leads to those moments of panic.

As you write your synopsis, stop and think about how everything fits together. We need to see a chronological story and how everything fits together and leads into each element of the story. The difficulty is not so much writing it, but knowing that you will likely have to "think" about your story. Look at the project not as a writer, but as someone (the editor or agent) who has to make a decision on the story based simply on this. Do we have enough information? Do we know why things happen.

We also need to pay attention to things in the synopsis that may appear as contradictory. For example, in the one I was working on, the author had the hero being sort of a loner. He didn't want to be around people as he was sorting through some personal things. That part was fine. And yet, when we read the information about the heroine, the author had her always around him and seeing him all of the time. In this case, it was a matter of wording. The author had an image of the hero doing one thing but probably forgot that the heroine didn't see him doing these "loner" things but it was the author and the reader. Now, if that wasn't the case, this would be a chance to make sure this plot issue gets worked out a bit sooner.

I guess I want you to remember the synopsis doesn't have to be your enemy. It can be great for you to see how the story works out. Remember also, this is something that editors, publishers and agents really do use to help you with your project. You don't have to over-work this, but simply take the time to think about it. Is this really what you want your story to say?

1 comment:

  1. I have a question.
    Is there a magic formula to writing the "perfect" first chapter?
    I'm editing...again. Wrote the synopsis. The story is good --has potential. But I'm not sure the opening pops. I just keep writing it and re-writing it, over and over again, trying to make it better. Hoping for great. Help!
    Is there a formula for writing a terrific first chapter that does its job of making the rest of book compelling to read but does not overload; such as so much percent back story, so much percent hints of the future, so much percent character development, so much current action, etc.
    Or am I dreaming?
    I know you must have discussed this before, but is there a chance for a review?

    Thanks so much for this blog. I have learned so much.
    Kate M.