Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How To Write a Synopsis (or Finding Hope in Despair)

When you're submitting your novel for consideration to various literary agents, there are a handful of items you will need. The first is a query. I've already covered the process for writing a successful query here. You will also need a novel. I'll write that entry later.

Though one would think a query letter and a novel should provide an agent with enough information to detect your brilliance, a few agents need a little extra help. These special agents require/request additional stuff. Stuff called synopses. You've probably already guessed this, but synopses are composed of words, which means that you're going to have to do more writing. I know! All you wanted was to be a writer and now they're punishing you with all this writing. This is why so many writers turn to alcohol for comfort.

The first thing you should do is the thing most writers do when they find themselves overwhelmed and discouraged. You should ask Google for help. Type in "How To Write a Synopsis". If you've already done that and Google led you here.... well, you're screwed.

Over the course of trying to write my own synopsis I turned to Google many times. Google was not kind. It turns out most of the advice on writing synopses is written by writers who hate writing synopses. Seriously. They offer these kinds of chilling encouragements, "Synopses are awful!" "Synopses are unfair!" and "Synopses are invented by the devil and writing them is on par with getting your toenails pulled out!" Writers are prone to exaggeration, it seems.

After deciding I wasn't going to take advice from a group of people who so clearly hated what I was trying to accomplish, I started looking for something else. Something magical. Something rare. Something that may not actually exist. This is my quest. I am on a journey to find a writer who likes writing synopses. When I find him/her I will kidnap him/her and bring him/her (darn you Word!) to a secret location where I will force him/her to write my synopsis for me.

Then, I will loan him/her out to the rest of you for a reasonable fee so you can all get your synopses written as well.

Problem solved.

What about you? Do you (and I have no ulterior motive in asking this question, I swear) enjoy writing synopses?


  1. Yes, synopses can be killers--one thing that helps is to talk with your beta readers and crit partners about what they consider to be the important parts/heart of your story. They often have a clearer idea, because they're not as close to the story as you are.

    And no, I don't enjoy them, but it is a learnable skill!

  2. Very funny! Also, regarding synopses (plural of synopsis)as Angelica politely hints, I'm sure are developed in another part of the brain than a novel is developed. It's like a country not yet discovered. I had to write a synopsis at a writing workshop taught by real novelists, that made me write a synopsis for a novel that had not yet been written. In other words, a great idea for a novel, that would tempt even the stodgiest publisher. That was easy, as you could not get it wrong, when there was no such novel to contradict you. The dicey part comes in trying to write the novel to come up to the expectations of the synopsis, which is apparently, your selling point on which you live or die in publishing.

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  4. Darn spellcheck failed me again. *shakes fist*

  5. I've never tried writing a synopsis. I'm almost scared to try. LOL.

  6. Here are some tips from Susan Dennard who, it seems, thinks writing synopses is FUN!


    I got this link from MagpieWrites (http://magpiewrites.blogspot.com)

  7. I have about as much fun writing synopses as I do getting a cavity filled. A necessary thing, and I don't really enjoy it at all!

  8. Oh my goodness, Colin, you have no idea how helpful that link was.

  9. Thanks for refining my blogpost today. LOL I didn't even notice that! Haha, you wanting to kidnap a synopsis lover. I think I'd rather write a synopsis than a query, ugh. Neither are that fun. ;o)

  10. Carol - I guess that's why we have commenters, to keep us on our toes. (Pam and Angelica thanks for calling me out on my spelling error :p)

    I wrote the query for this novel before I ever wrote the novel, so it wasn't too stressful for me. The synopsis, however, has been a royal pain. I think I've finally come up with something I can be proud of.

  11. I write a synopsis before I write a book, or at least at some point whliile I'm writing. I usually base my chapters off of those, so they're prety detailed. when the time comes, I plan on chopping out the irrelevant bits and tightening it up to make a READABLE synposis. untli then, I don't know if I hate them or not :P