Writing a Synopsis

Today I sent my first-ever query letter to an agent.  I don’t know what I expected after I hit the “Send” button… fireworks, perhaps?  Confetti?  But the world didn’t stop, so I figured I should keep moving, too.  Still, I’m incredibly excited (and maybe a little nervous) to have finally reached this milestone.  I know I may have a long wait–and a lot more work–ahead of me, but I’m okay with that.  I’m just happy to have reached this point, and I wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who helped me make it here.  Whether you read my story, gave me advice, or helped me along in some way, thank you so much!  I never could’ve done it without the support and encouragement of my family and friends.  You guys rock!

With that said, I probably won’t be discussing queries from here on out.  I can’t say who I’m querying or how many letters I send out, because that would be unprofessional.  However, I will leave up my previous posts about queries as a resource for aspiring authors.  I hope the technical issues will help some of you who plan to query in the future.

Speaking of technical issues, I should get back to work on my Tuesday’s Topics!  I wanted to discuss a topic related to the query process:  writing a plot synopsis.  Some agents request a synopsis when you query, so Saturday I sat down to write mine.

If you’re interested, here are two resources I used while researching synopsis-writing (many more resources exist.  Search online or at your library if necessary):
1)  Joshua Palmatier organized the Plot Synopsis Project, in which several authors posted examples of their synopses.  Palmatier says that a plot synopsis is usually three to five pages long (750 to 1250 words).  The synopsis should cover the main character’s emotional arc.  How did she grow and progress through the novel?  What are the triggers for growth?  Mention every main character and event, everything that contributes to the main arc–including the end!
2)  Literary agent Nathan Bransford blogged with his opinions about synopses.  He says they should be two to three pages long (double-spaced).  The goal is to convey the spirit and tone of the book to make it come alive.  He recommends using book cover blurbs as a guideline.

I had written a synopsis before starting my novel (as part of the Snowflake Method of outlining).  But I couldn’t use that version, because my writing style–and parts of the plot!–had changed during the novel process.  Still, I expected to write the new synopsis quickly; after all, I know what happens in my story.  

Boy, was I wrong.  My first attempt at a synopsis rambled on far too long.  For some reason I felt compelled to detail every nuance of backstory.  Plus I was trying too hard to make the first draft perfect, agonizing over word choices and witty phrases.

Finally I kicked myself and started listing the bare essentials of the story.  I wrote four pages worth, then went back and trimmed the unnecessary stuff.  Then I went back again and made the dull descriptions shine.  Three or four drafts later, I had a three-page (1060-word) synopsis.  It was hard to write, but I learned a lot in the process.  Hopefully next time it will be easier (ha ha ha!).

Any questions about synopses?  Any ideas or resources you’d like to add, or synopsis-writing horror stories to share?  🙂  Let me know!

I haven’t finished the stats for EOL–hopefully by Friday.  For now I have to run.  Happy Veteran’s Day, and have a great week!


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