An author’s palms start to sweat. The task ahead seems impossible. Turn 80,000 words that were agonized over into three pages? No, there must be some mistake. Even the cruelest person wouldn’t force a poor writer to do such an outlandish thing.
But, back in real life, agents and publishers do require a synopsis. Instead of letting that dreaded document hang over your head through the entire book-writing process, maybe we should put it to work! Here’s how.
First, look at it as a tool, not a chore.
Instead of leaving the synopsis for the end, try writing it as you’re brainstorming. Or, I often start it after writing a couple chapters. Once you’re published and can submit proposals instead of full manuscripts, you’ll have to write it now anyway, right? Right. It’s a good habit to start.
It also provides a wonderful opportunity to write out all that backstory we’re so tempted to dump into the first chapters. It can always be cut out of the synopsis later but having it all out there makes it easier to pick what pieces should be revealed when.
Now, make it work for you.
So, you have a bunch of backstory, but now what? The synopsis is a great outlining tool. This can work for plotters or pantsers. Either before you start or as you write, plug the major plot points into the synopsis. The inciting incident, turning points, climax, resolution, all of it. Use those points to begin your synopsis. Once you have a little backstory and the major parts of the plot down, you pretty much have the whole synopsis written!
You also have an overhead look at your story. Are there plot holes? Is every scene realistic and logical based on the characters goals and motivations? Do any characters fall flat? Stepping back from the story through a synopsis reveals issues that can make or break a book.
Finally, put your best foot forward.
A solid synopsis shows an author is willing to put time and effort into doing things the right way. It’s well-known that a synopsis is hard to write. But agents and editors have reasons for needing them, different ways they utilize them. Therefore, they all have their own requirements. An author who checks into those requirements and fulfills them will make a better impression than one who doesn’t. Sending a ten-page, single-spaced synopsis when the guidelines ask for three pages double-spaced will make it look like the writer doesn’t care or isn’t capable of working within constraints. You don’t want either of those to be the first impression an agent or editor has of you!
Okay, I want to know: do you love writing a synopsis or hate it?
Abbey Downey never expected her love for writing to turn into a career, but she’s thankful for the chance to write inspirational romance as Mollie Campbell. A life-long Midwestern girl, Abbey lives in Central Indiana, where her family has roots back to the 1840s. She couldn’t be happier spending her days putting words on paper and hanging out with her husband, two kids, and a rather enthusiastic beagle.
look for her newest book, Orphan Train Sweetheart, in stores or online in June!