Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Evil Evil EVIL Synopsis!

Do you feel like this when you think about writing a synopsis? I know I do!

  • I’ve written a manuscript.
  • I’ve polished a manuscript.
  • I’ve written a query letter.
  • I’ve polished a query letter.
  • I’ve researched agents.
  • I've weeded out agents.
  • Now all I have left (what I’ve been putting off for months) is the EVIL synopsis.

I am aware that some agents don’t want it, but better safe than sorry. And I’m not capable of whipping out a synopsis on a whim. So if you are like me and need to tackle the synopsis, I’m going to share what I’ve learned:

Keep it simple. Stick to just the main plot. Leave out all characters but the main ones. Leave out subplots. Leave out as many proper names as you can. No themes. No symbolism. No flowery description. Simple. Simple. Simple.

Use story structure as your guide. I stole this from Janice Hardy’s blog (read her post on writing a synopsis) and it really helped me. A synopsis is structured something like this:

  1. Opening Scene
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. Act One Crisis
  4. Act Two Revelation
  5. Mid Point Reversal
  6. Act Three Disaster
  7. Climax
  8. Wrap Up

I used this to decide what should stay and what should go.

Use tension and conflict to your benefit. Use paragraph breaks to act as mini cliffhangers to propel the synopsis forward. Make us bite our nails wanting to know what is next.

Don’t be afraid to write a terrible synopsis. You have to start somewhere. And thanks to the magic of computers—you can always edit :)

Spoil the ending. A synopsis in NOT a hook. It is meant to show agents that you know how to construct a story. So throw it all in; twists, surprises, cliffhangers, and a well executed ending. Don’t use the synopsis as a teaser.

Get a second opinion. Once you think you have it down let someone who hasn’t read your MS read your synopsis. Does it make sense to them? Are the stakes clear? Do they want to continue reading from paragraph to paragraph?

There you have it. Sadly that is all the synopsis knowledge I possess. What about you? Does anyone have any great tips?


Sarah Goldberg, assistant to Agent Suzie Townsend, has a great post on the EVIL synopsis :)


Brinda said...

That's a great guide/outline you've put together. I'll have to print this out later for future reference. This year, I've written an entire synopsis BEFORE writing the story, and it was torturous. I was asked to submit the synopsis. OY.

Kelley said...

Only the same advice I'd give someone for starting a new manuscript, write it fast and furious and then edit it. You have a great knowledge base to do it well though. Good luck!

Sara Bulla said...

So helpful. Thanks Angie!

Tara Tyler said...

she said synopsis!
make it go away!
ahem. sorry about that. thanks for the tips, i'll be working on that now too.

Abby said...

First of all, I LOVE that picture, but I HATE that feeling. Bleh. It is so stressful to go through all of this. I love the information you have gathered though. I am hoping to start querying a PB in October. It actually makes me physically ill to think about. BUT... it's part of the process and we can't get where we want to be without traveling that road! I'm sure you will do an amazing job. Best of luck! I believe in you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch! I also have saved this to my reference pile. Brilliant!

Angie Cothran said...

Brinda - Before! Wow that takes foresight.

Kelly - I totally agree with that advice. Just get something down.

Sara - You need to do one next. Yikes! Let me know if you want feedback.

Tara - I know, the word makes me want to cry too.

Abby - Thanks for the vote of confidence :) And good luck with your Picture Book. I love that picture too.

A.J. Mullarky said...

Weirdly enough, I actually like writing the synopsis.

E.R. King said...

I don't mind the synopsis either. Simple and straightforward is a relief to write!

Jenny S. Morris said...

Ugh, I haven't gotten to this point. I'm not sure if I'll like it or not. Thanks for tips, it gives me somewhere to start!

Shallee said...

These are FABULOUS synopsis tips. I struggled a lot to write my last one, though using the story structure helped a lot. I love your idea of making each paragraph a mini cliffhanger so you build in tension. Got to try that next time!

Angie Cothran said...

A.J. and Emily - You two are my heroes

Jenny - I hope you like it more than I do :)

Shallee - I'm a little jealous that you are already done :)

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