Thursday 17 June 2010

How To Write A Synopsis . . . I Think . . .

The time has finally come, after the years spent tenderly polishing Gorthian, that a synopsis is needed. I hate synopsis writing, and I get the strange impression that so does everyone else. Everywhere I turn, every blog I read, I'm hearing the same complaints.

Many people don't see the point in a synopsis. Usually they are asked to submit a covering letter, some sample chapters and a synopsis. So if they want sample chapters, why do they need a synopsis? Well, I think that should be clear. The sample chapters are to allow the agent / publisher to get a feel of your writing style, and the synopsis allows them to get the feel of the story as a whole, as opposed to reading the whole thing. Agents / publishers are busy people. They haven't got time to read an entire manuscript to find out whether they like your work. If something is sent in without a synopsis, what do you think will happen to it? Yep, it'll have a date with the bin until the cleaner comes to take it away. They do not have the time.

So, how do you format a synopsis?

Nathan Bransord gingerly wrote a blog post about writing them, but it was a subject he had tried to avoid for a long time. In the end he gave in, battled his fear and put finger to keyboard to type 'How To Write A Synopsis . . .' .

He couldn't give any rock solid advice on how to write them, but did shed a little light on what to aim for. Luckily this isn't the first time I've approached agents, and so I've done research before in the past, and I have a rough idea what is required.

Unfortunately, and as Nathan reluctantly pointed out, there is no right way to write a synopsis. Many agencies and publishers are after different things. Some want one page, some want ten; some want a brief outline, some want a chapter by chapter breakdown. The only advice I can think of giving is do some research into your tended submitee, find out what they want.

But there is a second option and do what I and many others do? Write the outline for your story. Aim for about three pages. If you go over, it's no big deal, as long as it's attention grabbing. Make it heart felt. Don't write 'And then he did this, and she done that...'. Put emotion into it; make the agent / publisher feel what the character has to go through to get to the final climax; grab the agent / publisher; coax them into wanting to take time out of their busy schedule to read and fall in love with your sample chapters. This can then lead to them wanting to read the entire manuscript.

See how much hangs on your synopsis? It's the biggest marketing job for your work; the selling point; make or break. Write a rubbish synopsis, expect a rejection. This is probably the biggest reason why people hate synopsis writing so much. It's not the initial condensing an entire novel into three pages worth . . . We're writers, for crying out loud! That should be a challenge we're willing accept. It's the pressure of getting your synopsis right.

And it's THAT pressure that I'm feeling now. I aimed for three pages, but got five. I tried to cut it down even more, but found that if I did I was loosing the essence of the story. In the end I've come to the conclusion that my synopsis for 'The Calming Of Gorthian' has to be five pages long (well, four and a half - and that's double spaced!).

Only time will tell if it's right or wrong . . . wish me luck.

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