Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday Wonderings - The Synopsis

For the next few Wednesday Wonderings, I wanted to talk about The Dreaded Synopsis. Here goes!

Pt. 1 of 2

There comes a point in every writer’s life where they have to ask themselves what they are doing. Is writing just a hobby, something to be done sporadically and without reason? Maybe it’s a life-long dream to be a published author. Or maybe you’re one of the millions of writers who can’t not write – it’s a part of who you are, like hair colour and height.

If you’re one of the latter, the time will come when you start taking yourself, and your writing, seriously. Walking through bookshops gets you excited. The covers, the beautiful covers, could one day be neighbours to your cover.

Okay, you’re going for it. To hell with the odds. You know you’re talented. You believe you have a shot at leaping off the desk of a much sought-after literary agent and are on the way to big leagues.

But wait. Rewind a bit first.  

There’s something you’re forgetting.

An all-important, absolutely crucial thing to be done first.

The Synopsis.

To some writers, the synopsis comes so easily they laugh at the thought of it being any different. To others, myself included, it is on the same level of agonizing pain as having bamboo shoved under your fingernails.

Write 90+ thousand words? Think up characters and plot lines and go through months of editing? Psshh – no worries. Write a one-page condensed version of your book? Um…Momma?

When I did my research for writing a winning synopsis, all I found were contradictions. Single space. Double space if more than one page. Never write more than one page. Write a thirty page synopsis and condense to ten. Write the synopsis first. Write the synopsis last. Don’t write it with an angle. Say how it ends. Don’t say how it ends. Make it interesting. Don’t write with a voice. The contradictions are endless.

And there really aren’t any words of wisdom I can impart here.

A good synopsis is a bit like falling in love with the right partner. When you know, you know.

When I wrote the synopsis for my second book, I did a fair few drafts. After each one I left it alone and didn’t look at it for at least a day. I didn’t stress about the length, just made sure I didn’t exceed two pages. It’s amazing how much can be culled with a good batch of editing.

Nothing was really working until I got bored and wrote a tongue-in-cheek synopsis. And that was it. I knew that was the one for me. It suited my book, it wasn’t written in my voice, but it was a distinctive voice. It hit all the key plot points and highlighted the strengths of the work, and mine as a writer.

There is no hard and fast rule of synopsis writing except keep on plugging. Show it to someone who has read your book. Do your research, and listen to your gut. 


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