A lot of aspiring authors fear synopsis. I used to, too. I mean, how can someone expect you to sum up your work of 70,000 words in only 1,000? How can someone ask you to give away almost every twist and turn… and worst of all, the ending? HOW?
Then the even more dreaded question: How to I actually write one that doesn’t suck?
Many will tell you that it’s easier to write a synopsis before you even write your story. If you’re a plotter, then I’d say that’s the way to go. The first manuscript I wrote (after a billion revisions) ended up being around 90,000 words. I wrote the synopsis after all that and it was a dread experience. For TERRIFYING TORA, I wrote the synopsis before I even wrote the manuscript, and let me tell you, it’s ten times easier to revise a two page synopsis for any plot updates you decide along the way than to re-write it from scratch after you have a fully developed story. It’s a lot harder to figure out then what’s important and what can be left out. But if you’re not a plotter, well… you can’t really do that, can you?
You could go to a few nice boards that offer you a place to post you synopsis and get it critiqued. AW’s Writer’s Cooler and YACHAT (obviously, you can only use this if you write YA) both have spots on their boards for you to do that.
That being said… I wouldn’t really advise doing that. I’m about to sound extremely paranoid, I know, but I could never bring myself to do that — even if it could be very helpful. Why? Because your entire plot is out there for the whole word to see. I, for one, hate spoilers with a burning passion of a thousand suns. If anyone put effort into a search, they could come across your post and read it. Thus, they’d know how your story ends and how many people really will go through with reading a story where they know the ending…? Plus, if you’re querying agents and they decide to look you or your story up, they could easily fall upon that post as well and see how much help you got writing your synopsis. I’ve heard from some literary agents that they’re always weary when they come across things like this (either for first pages, query letters, etc) because it means the author needs a lot of editing help and they’d rather have one that didn’t.
(But I could always delete the post after I’m through being helped!) Yeah, I suppose, but chances are other people replied and they quoted your original text. (But I could ask an admin to delete the entire thread!) True, you’d kind of look like a jerk asking for all those people’s help then once they did go through the effort, you delete it all. (But wouldn’t it really help to get other writers opinions…?) Yes, I think it would.
And that’s why I would recommend you join a critique group or find a few writer buddies. Publishing Crawl did a post about that recently. There’s other resources out there for synopsis help, too. What follows is a list of sites that I’ve always found helpful. Enjoy:
- Synopsis Example: Ides of March (Writer’s Digest)
- Synopsis Example: Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (Writer’s Digest)
- Miss Snark (Blog filled with helpful tips and tricks)
- How To Write a Synopsis by Andrew Jameson @ AW Water Cooler
- How To Write a One Page Synopsis by Susan Dennard @ Publishing Crawl
There are a lot of other resources out there, but these really helped me when I was first trying to grasp writing a synopsis. I hope it helps some of you, too.
I’ve read a lot of How To Become An Awesome writer type of books. I’ve also attended conferences, webnairs, and followed a lot of writer blogs, and out of all of those great tools and resources, kidlit.com has always been a favorite of mine. It’s run by literary agent Mary Kole. At my regional SCBWI conference, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar hosted by her and meet her briefly. It wasn’t the first time I heard about her book (she’d mentioned it on her website) but it’s where I finally got to order one. I really loved it, even though I’ve read all the archives of kidlit.com, I felt I learned plenty of new things or insights. The book is broken down into the important things you need to know when writing for the YA or MG marketplace.
It starts with an overview of the Kidlit Market then moves to describing the MG and YA reader’s mindset. I’d like to think I’m well educated with both, but Kole gave insights I hadn’t thought about. She then talks about the importance of a Big Idea in stories, the foundation of storytelling, how to make a great YA or MG character, how to structure plots, and she talks about advanced skills (such how imagery, voice, theme, author authority and authenticity.
In case you haven’t considered the traditional publishing route, the last chapter breaks down everything you need to know about it. The role of literary agents, the query letter, submitting your work, and a few more bonus tips and tricks. Again, I’m well versed in those areas but Kole brought a new point of view and a very interesting one since she’s a literary agent herself.
Reading this book was fun. It forced me to think about my own writing and gives exercises to help you find problems with my plot or characters. Editors, YA and MG authors, and other literary agents give bonus tips and insights throughout the book as well. Kole reinforces everything she says by showing examples from popular YA and MG books. She gives plenty of time to both sections of the kidlits.
Doctor Who has really nothing to do with this post, but I was looking around for something “December 2012”-ish and the Doctor Who promo shot for its Christmas special just spoke to me. We all know the Doctor loves books (except for those written by Amelia Pound in the past maybe…).
As all of you know, it’s December. Crazy, right? The year really ran away from me. Since it’s nearing the end, everyone seems to be doing top ten book lists. While I’d love to provide one, I just couldn’t. So I’ll direct you to the good ones instead.
Goodreads has announced it’s Choice Awards YA List. No surprise Veronica Roth and John Green dominate it (as they should, love their books). The wonderful Publishers Marketplace has announced their list as well:
- Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
- Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (Yay for a home town girl!)
- This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
- The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers
- Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain
- The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
- Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon
- A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers
- The Round House, Louise Erdrich
- Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t make my own top 10 list for this year. There are just so many books that I haven’t read yet (which just adds to my already massive To Read list…).
So, what are some of your favorite reads of 2012?
Genre: YA Thriller
Author: Carrie Harris
Recommended? Yes. Zombies + Strong Heroine Geek + Fast Pace = Awesome.
BAD TASTE IN BOYS has been out for a while. For whatever reason, I never picked it up. I don’t know why, I always thought the cover was interesting. I guess it was the title that turned me off. Eventually I actually read the synopsis for it and realized it wasn’t a contemporary romance YA (which, I thought it was for some reason) but it was really about zombies! Awesome, right? I think I’ve mentioned before my weird little obsession with zombies. I just can’t get enough of them. This is the plot from Goodreads:
Someone’s been a very bad zombie.
Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steriods are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe–not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She’s got to find an antidote–before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town . . . and stay hormonally human
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick the book up is how small it is. Including the acknowledgment, dedication, and other necessary pages, it’s around just 220 pages. The story itself is only 202 pages. That intrigued me right away, could an author really put together a compelling story with real characters in such a little word count? Harris apparently could.
Granted, Kate really is the only developed character. All her friends and Aaron (her love interest) are only in the story for short periods of time, since Kate does most of the action/heroing moments by herself. Jonah, her little brother, gets a good chunk of time and he is amusing. Personally, I don’t mind not getting to know the others that well. Kate is more than enough to carry the story. She’s engaging, so clever, funny, and a total geek — which I loved.
The pace in the book is pretty fast. The soon-to-be-zombie-problem is hinted at almost right away and comes into play by the second chapter. The roller coaster ride continues strong throughout the book and once it’s resolved the book doesn’t dillydally around, it gives a nice ending and stops.
There were some dumb moments. Kate keeps a closed mouth about a lot of the weird things that are going on when she could just tell someone (like her dad or the police) and maybe some of the drama could have been avoided but… where would the fun be in that? Harris gives good enough reasons for her not to go telling everything about the problems right away, and there are zombies so you have to pull away from reality a little to enjoy the book. Another thing that bothered me a sometimes was how stereotypical some of the teens were… like the dumb jocks and perfect homecoming queen friend. I know stereotypes tend to be true, hence why they are always around, but still, they’re bothersome. And Aaron doesn’t seem to have a flaw, aside from bad taste in a best friend. I really enjoy it when the love interest isn’t perfect but, like I said, though he was mentioned often he was really only in the book six or seven times. Kate, thankfully, isn’t the stereotypical geek and has a few flaws.
BAD HAIR DAY is out now and the second in the series. Like any strong series, the first book could totally stand alone. It closes with all the important things wrapped up, but it does give the reader a desire to see what happens to Kate next.If you like zombies, or you’re looking for a quick, enjoyable YA read, I’d recommend picking up a copy of BAD TASTE IN BOYS.