The Synopsis for Editing and Writing

Those who are heading down the road toward traditional publication will be familiar with a beast known as a synopsis. Many agents and publishers require that you submit a 1/2-page synopsis with your submission materials. The chore of writing a synopsis that length is a frightening task. Many writers have been known to run away from it, screaming. So, when I mention that writers should write synopses as an editing tool, it’s not surprising that many look at me like I’m crazy.

In a querying synopsis, you include only the main plot thread, ignoring ALL subplots. The only characters named are your protagonist, antagonist, and often a love interest; everyone else is irrelevant. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s completely disheartening to see this complex masterpiece whittled down to a few short paragraphs, but for the querying synopsis, that’s what you need to do.

However, for editing purposes, that short, main-plot-only synopsis is useless. You need to create an entirely different beast.

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The Value of a Synopsis

Many of my followers on Twitter will know that I have recently completed my manuscript and am now on the path of querying for agents and publishers. It’s a hard road, one that many turn away from.

Writing the manuscript was hard. Editing it into something worth reading was harder. Writing a query letter was harder still. And the synopsis was a nightmare. Let’s face it: compressing a full-length novel into one page is a frightening task. Not all agents want a synopsis, but most publishers do. So if you are fortunate enough to snag an agent without needing to write a synopsis, you will eventually need to write one.

During my preparation of my submission materials of my own manuscript, I struggled to bring my synopsis to under one page, like so many other writers, but I did it. Everything is now ready to go, it’s just a matter of working out where.Read More

The Pantser is a Secret Plotter. Don’t you know that?

So many times I hear the argument that you should always plot out your books. My own editor growls at me incessantly when I start talking about some new project and can’t tell her all the details, and I do mean all. Well, tough. The details sometimes elude me for months on end.

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

Traditionally, the plotter will work out all the details for their stories long before they sit down at the keyboard and write: the plot outline, character profiles, the landscape of their worlds, all of it. For some, this works extremely well. It does have the advantage of keeping characters on track, heading toward that ultimate goal, however if a plotter over-plans the story, then the writing might feel forced. The story might become boring to the writer and they lose motivation. Being the plotter requires discipline, determination and mind that is ordered to start with. Brandon Sanderson is known to plot his novels before writing. Dan Brown is too.Read More