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.