Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Seat-of-your-Pants Synopsis

There are many smart, proper ways to write a synopsis. They usually involve careful outlining, thinking about your main characters, your main plot points, and putting it down in a nice, concise manner. Very good. I applaud everyone who does it this way. It's probably a lot easier.

Then there's the "I need a synopsis and I need it now" way. This is what I went through today. My editor requested a synopsis of my sequel before we go into final edits of my prequel. Which was immediately awe-inspiring and daunting. I mean, final edits!!! That's way cool! And then I thought, "Oh no! What if she doesn't even like it?" I sure hope that's not the case!

But that's besides the point. The point is, I wrote a synopsis today for my novel sequel. This way worked well for me, and it might for you, so let me share.

1) Open your novel in a word document.

2) Resave your document with the word 'synopsis' in there (in this case, I saved it as "Altercation Synopsis").

3) Across the top, make one line with this information: Title, genre, author, word count.

4) Go through and summarize each chapter in 1-2 sentences. Make sure you write in the present tense and write each character's name in ALL CAPS the first time you mention them.
Once I got done with this step, I had 4 pages. I had summarized 146 pages into 4. Not bad! But still, a synopsis is generally 2 pages, double spaced. So next I formatted.

5) Format your synopsis. It should be double-spaced with normal paragraph indentions.
Now I had 8 pages instead of 4. Time to start trimming.

6) Go through and pull out every sentence you think isn't necessary. (Result: 4 pages.)

7) Go through and pull out every plot point that doesn't need to be explained yet. (Result: 3 pages.)

8) Go through and pull out about 6-7 sentences that might be important, but the synopsis still flows without them. (Result: 2 pages!)

This took me several hours. But I found it wasn't too painful. And I got my synopsis done! It's off to my editor.

How do you do synopsis? (Plural, anyone?) Any trial runs? What do you recommend?

Oh, and tomorrow, watch for a book review of Heather Justesen's new book, Rebound! She's already got some awesome giveaways going on, so be sure to check out her blog here.

13630 / 60000 words. 23% done!


Stephanie Faris said...

Great tip!!! I hate writing synopses...especially now that I hear it's preferred that they're only 2 pages or so. It's REALLY hard to sum up an entire book (especially 90,000-word romance novels) in just two pages.

KarenG said...

I read a blog yesterday somewhere asking for ideas on how best to write a synopsis. Unfortunately I can't remember who it was because yesterday I read and commented on a whole lot of different blogs. I hope whoever it is reads this!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great advice. I'll be using it when it comes time for me to write mine. :)

Worldcup said...

Nice post , thanks for sharing.
It's great tips for me. :)

laurel said...

The plural term you're looking for is "synposes"--you just gotta love those Greek words!

Thanks so much for this "down and dirty" approach. I've been entirely too scared to redo my synopsis but this gives me a great way to at least start the darned thing! Thanks!!

James Killick said...

Excellent post, Tamara - great practical advice. I've recommended this post on Twitter - it deserves to go viral.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Thanks, guys! Glad it has helped so many people. A synopsis can be so overwhelming! Thanks for the retweets, James! And for the plural, Laurel!

I thought about posting the completed synopsis for you guys...I will if you want to see it.

Jen said...

Wow Tamara what great advice! I have trouble coming up with a synopsis, even when I'm just going to put this up on my blog so I think it's time to pull out the big guns and work on trying your method!!! Thanks for the tips, I think it might work!

Chris Catledge said...

I like your advice. I'm bookmarking this page. Thanks.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I just finished a synopsis for a sequel, too. I haven't written the book as yet, so it wasn't hard to do at all. We'll see if it works for my writers group tomorrow. Thanks for the tips. :)

Jay said...

I think I'll go with your approach, Tamara. I like it!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

It worked for me, anyway! It was much easier to see everything that was going on. You're welcome, Jen!

Chris, thanks for stopping by! Hopefully you find a few things here that will help out your writing.

Kathi, I outline before I write, and I wonder sometimes if I couldn't flesh out my outlines into a synopsis. Let me know how that works for you.

Good luck, Jay!

Dominique said...

I find your method absolutely brilliant. I will definitely be attempting it the next time I need a synopsis. Thanks for posting it.

By the by, there's an award for you on my blog.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

For me, Dominique?? Thank you!

Kerrin said...

very concise! thanks for this :) i've only written one so i can't add anything!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Awesome. Thanks for this.

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