Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Synopsis Writing

I've been battling this particular monster lately, wondering what exactly one is supposed to do when writing a synopsis, as some people claim it should be one page for every 25, and others claim it to be eight-12 pages, still others say no more than five, and "experts" recommend one to three pages.

I started with the suggested chapter by chapter breakdown, writing about a paragraph for every chapter. It came to be eight and a half, single spaced pages. From there, I tried to craft my synopsis, writing what I could and ending up with the same amount of words--only they flowed a bit better. By page three of this single spaced "concise" version, I decided I was going about this all wrong. So I took a reverse approach.

Regardless of page length, everyone agrees that you boil your novel down. But since this was not working for me, I took one of my query letters with my one paragraph snippet and expanded up it. This proved to be much more beneficial. I already had the bare, bare bones of the story, what it was all about--minus the characterization, setting, and subplots--so why not add some meat. Sinew by sinew, I stitched in the muscle, gave it some strength, some figure. I was able to do more characterization. I could set the scene. I could insinuate the subplots.

For me, the hardest part is figuring out what to cut, but adding, that I can do no problem. And it made all the difference in the world, as I suddenly felt more freed. What was once impossible became a fun little adventure. I could give the generic paragraph some actual life, add more of my voice, and let it run.

I know this probably isn't the most helpful of things, but I'm--by no means--an expert. Perhaps, if this synopsis proves to be successful, I'll give a better description as to what I did and how. For the moment, the general advice is to summarize your story in one to two sentences, one paragraph at most, then add to it step by step. Pluck out the details you like best about your story and weave them in, those particular lines you love, the bits that sum up the relationships. This seems to be the one place we get to tell instead of show, and not get in trouble for it.

I don't know. Perhaps I'm rambling. But if this is of any help, or you have questions, feel free to contact me. I tend to have things fall more into place when I'm chatting about them.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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