Synopsilizing

I used to dread the query drafting stage. Not just the distilling the story down to a few paragraphs part, but the whole “why I’m sending this to you instead of them” bit. I still have moments when I wish I could employ the BF’s method of querying:

Dear Agent and/or Editor:

I write books. You sell books. You should sell my books.

Love,

Amanda

Genius, I tell you. Pure genius.

I’ve found a new nemesis when it comes to the submission package, though.

The synopsis.

I hate writing synopses. I loathe them. I write them only under duress, and only when they’re required. They’re boring to write, and they’re difficult. You have to figure out which subplots need to be included and which ones to leave out, how to summarize without it seeming like a laundry list, which characters do you name and which ones are just so-and-so’s friend. And there’s differing opinions regarding length and such. Do you double space? Single space? One page? Five? Ten? Voice? No voice?

I bet if I asked the BF to write a synopsis, it would go something like this:

Once upon a time, stuff happened. Then more stuff happened. There was a dragon. Everyone dies. And they all lived happily ever after.

Oh, if only…

Sadly, I can’t get away with writing that kind of synopsis. I can’t even get away with not writing one at all. I think I’ve got them on the brain because I’ve had to write two in the last week, for two different projects, and I’m anticipating I’ll need to write several more in the coming weeks, because my editor has this thing where he likes to know what I’m planning to write. Pfft. I don’t even know what I’m planning to write. That’s why I pants it.

You would think that, just like my queries, synopsis writing would have gotten easier the more I’ve done it. I’ve got…oh, crap. Um. Six! Six submission-ready manuscripts (or they were at one point), and yes, I wrote synopses for all of them. Then I wrote one for One Night in Buenos Aires, plus the two I wrote last week, so I’ve written…nine? *counts on fingers* Yup, nine. But no. They don’t get easier. They are still the hardest fucking things to write.

I’ve learned a few tricks in the intervening months. Aside from the obvious (tell the ending), you name your two or three main characters, usually your hero, heroine, and the bad guy. Hit the high points. You don’t need to go into detail, except when you do. Pretend Don LaFontaine (aka Movie Trailer Voice-over Guy) is narrating your book. Distill your plot into six sentences or less and expand from there. My synopses have never been more than a page and a half, single spaced. But I don’t have the be-all to end-all solution to this aggravating problem. Trust me, if I did, you’d hear me shouting from the next county over.

I have found them to be useful when it comes to plot bunnies (or in my case, plot totoros). I’ll often get ideas when I’m in the middle of another project, and when I don’t want to lose the idea but can’t bring myself to abandon my current project, I write out a super crappy synopsis, to get the idea out of my head and to give myself something to go off of later. To date, though, the only time I’ve used this was for a project I’m currently polishing for submission, which, if acquired, will probably necessitate the need for more synopses, since it’s intended to be the start of a short series. Also because I love creating hard work for myself (said no one ever).

All right. Enough whining. I need tips, my lovelies. What tricks to you use to make your synopsis snazzy? Do you think they should make the editor want to pick your manuscript back up and finish reading the damn thing? Should they be short? Long? Have voice? No voice? Should we band together and refuse to write them?

2 thoughts on “Synopsilizing

  1. I like the ‘band together and refuse’ idea. Short of that, I think the most important thing is to show you know how to tell a story. And if anyone has a good idea for how to apply that abstract concept to reality, I’m all ears…

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