Writing the Synopsis



I saw this little gem of a meme floating around Facebook yesterday, and it’s one of the few graphics that I’ve seen that I emphatically said “Hell yeah!” to. Writing the synopsis to a book that you’ve written is one of the most annoying aspects of the publishing game. In fact, writing the synopsis is what caused me to wait so long before I started marketing my first book to agents/publishers.

I hold an English degree, so it goes without being said that I’ve written my share of synopses of other people’s works in the past. That is a lot easier to me, and I’m sure to others as well. However, when writing a synopsis of my own creation, it becomes infinitely more difficult. “What! You want me to summarize my book in 500 words or less? That’s impossible! I’ve created a whole world here. You need to know everything!”–and that synopsis becomes 10 pages. Then you go back and look at it 14 times, each time saying “But ALL this is important for a potential reader to know!” Finally, you sit and realize that no matter what you want, you have to follow the rules (especially when a submission form limits you to exactly so many characters or less).  You somehow have to get loads of information to whoever it is who is going to be reading this, and you cannot put everything in text speak without looking like a dumbass. Summarizing your synopsis becomes an exercise in concise condensation. Adjectives?–they do not belong in a synopsis! You use ampersands instead of and. All numbers become their numeral form. And so one and so forth. Everyone has their little tricks that they do.

As it stands now, the synopsis of Winter Ever After is one page, single-spaced, or 628 words, or 3609 characters (with spaces)–which is an acceptable length for most submissions. It took me years to come up with the synopsis in it’s current form, and I’m still not in love with it.

I think next time I need to come up with a synopsis for one of my own works, I’ll hire a college student.


One thought on “Writing the Synopsis

  1. I’m not a writer, at least in a professional sense of the word. Generally speaking, the most intense writing I do is a grocery list or a beer recipe. Once in a while I have to write a technical report for work reasons complete with a synopsis. Whenever I’ve had to write one I spend a fair amount of time fretting over the right words. Distilling the subject matter to its very essence. Sweating over various phrasing to ensure I’m accurately conveying the core message… and then realizing I’ve completely and thoroughly missed an entire key element. Or worse yet, the whole thing sounds incredibly stupid. Helpful in my case, but I’m not writing (nor have written) a work of fiction in which a world needs to have some substance and background to make it work. I work with facts and figures and need to make sure it’s all put in place, ordered so to speak. You are working from scratch and create those “facts” and figures, each one very precious or meaningful to you. How can it not be difficult to write a synopsis of your own work when you’re so intimately involved? Ask an engineer who was instrumental in designing the space shuttle to describe a low earth orbit vehicle without nerding out on his propulsion systems. It must be painful to have to be objective with something so subjective.

    I agree with you. I think no author should “synopsify” their own work. See what I did there? I dropped a Bushism. Good post, April.

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