What? You want me to reduce my lovely book to HOW MANY words?

Ah, synopses. Lovely, no? I guess we all know the feeling. You get a request for a partial. Three chapters, yay! Include copy of original query – easy. And include a one-page synopsis. Oh dear. Because the last time you looked at your synopsis, it was 5 pages long, and structured in outline-redux fashion, y’know, where every line represented some thing happening in the story. And then they went here, and then they went there, and so on, and so forth. How on earth do you reduce that into 250 words?

I don’t claim to have the ultimate answer in writing synopses, and I’m guessing the ultimate answer is different for all people, and won’t work the same for every book, but here are a few thoughts I’ve gathered about writing a short synopsis. Some of the points may contradict each other. Each point in this list signifies an approach you can take to writing the short synopsis. It’s not a follow-these-instructions type of list.

1. Forget the long synopsis/outline. Better still, forget the flow of events of the book. A short synopsis is not about the who, when and how, it’s about the WHY. Write about the character’s aim and about who/what is going to stop him/her from reaching this aim, not about where they went in order to achieve their goals.

2. Work from the top down, rather than the bottom up. Write a logline of a format like this: [main character] wants to [aim], but [antagonist] does [some bad thing] to stop him/her. Then use the logline to structure the synopsis.

3. Make use of your beta readers. Ask them to write a short summary of the essence of the book. Often other people are better at stepping back from a book and describing it in a few words.

4. Focus on one character, one plotline.

5. Make it sound interesting. The word synopsis seems to induce sleep in authors. Many synopses are written in boring, long sentences, half of which start with the words When or Meanwhile. Erk.

6. Show off your world. Does it have some unique worldbuilding feature? Make sure you include it.

7. Let others read it to make sure the whole thing makes as much sense as possible. Cut plotlines that are mentioned once but have no concluding statement in the synopsis. Simple is better.

Got any additional tips?

One comment on “What? You want me to reduce my lovely book to HOW MANY words?

  1. Pingback: the heartbreak of writing a synopsis « Beyond Infinity

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