Sunday, July 16, 2006

Endless variations of a synopsis

A week after the RNA conference, my feet have finally reconnected with the earth and my mind has had time to reflect on the information gleaned therefrom (by which I mean that I've managed to decipher the shorthand notes I took during the workshops I attended and almost made sense of them).

Like most writers, one of the skills I find most difficult to execute and to find any really good instructional books about, is writing a synopsis. Now, I can't claim to have cracked this in one weekend, but I can claim to now know exactly what it is an editor/agent actually wants - almost.

Some editors/agents want a short, approximately 200-word synopsis, that does NOT include the ending (so they can judge whether it captures their interest enough - in the same way we read the blurb on the back cover before deciding whether to buy a book); whilst others prefer a more detailed, 3-4 page synopsis, including the ending. And, by the way, Mills & Boon do it their way, Frank, which is diffferent again. At first I thought this was about as helpful as a street light to the sun, but, having thought about it, I realise that all I have to do is phone the editor/agent, enquire which they prefer, and send that one. Alternatively, I could simply send them one of each and let them decide! See? Easy when you know how.

However, (I do love that word, don't you? It always brings hope surging back into my almost-human, breast) there was one thing the editors and agents were agreed on - and that is that they always read the first three chapters BEFORE they read the synopsis. Hence, the most important thing is to make sure those chapters not only hook 'em, but reel 'em in so far that they're cleaned, gutted, steamed and on your plate (with a nice slice of lemon on top) before they've finished reading the first paragraph! When you think about it, this does make a lot of sense - after all, they're not going to have to try and sell the synopsis, are they?

I realise the above doesn't actually tell you how to write a good synopsis - that would take far too much space for a mere post on a blog. However, (lovely), I will leave you with probably the most succinct advice I ever had in connection with writing a synopsis -
Focus on what your characer wants to achieve, why she wants to achieve it and what is standing in her way; tell the emotional story, showing how your character struggles, grows and learns along the way; mention only the main characters and don't include too many scenes.

Got it? Good! Now go write it. And yes, I'm talking to you, Annie.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Stacy Dawn said...

I almost didn't continue reading once I saw the dreaded 'S' word in your title and not because the post was by you LOL. But I'm glad I did. If they all read the chapters first I have a slightly better chance than if they read the synop first.

Thanks. Oh, and I do like your simplified version of it at the end, will have to copy and paste it to my notes.

1:38 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Great advice, Annie. Thanks for relaying a bit of what you gleaned from the conference. Should we expect similar posts? (I'm game!)

5:37 pm  
Blogger Sue aka MsCreativity said...

That's an eye-opener. They really read the chapters before the synopsis? Wow! That's excellent news (I think).
Thanks for the insight Annie.
Sue :-)

8:37 pm  
Blogger Amanda Ashby said...

I was surprised that when my agent requested to see the full manuscript of my book, she never asked for a synopsis, not even after she signed me and was sending it out to editors.

Of course any dreams I had of never having to write one again were quickly shattered when she wanted one for my current book. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted...

2:26 pm  
Blogger Annie said...

Glad to have been of service to you all. I will see if I can decipher any more of my notes, but no promises, Eva!

Amanda, you are a jammy dodger - but pleased you got caught in the end!

6:07 pm  
Blogger Eva said...

Amanda, now I remember very well being told by Penny Jordan - our friend and advisor - to get used to writing the dreaded synopsis b/c once you've hooked an agent/editor subsequent books require you to churn them out. I see it's true in your case too!

[so Eva writes as she wonders 'will my time ever come?']

1:53 am  
Blogger Stacy Dawn said...

**grumble, grumble, grumble** Okay, I did one, are you happy Annie.

8:14 pm  
Blogger Annie said...

Yes, thank you, Stacy, very happy. Well done!

7:51 am  
Blogger India said...

Shall not write a synopsis. Am allergic. Shall send note from my Mum instead.

1:17 pm  
Blogger Annie said...

Oh, Imogen, you just don't get it do you? A note from your Mum only works if you don't tell anyone about it first. Now, I shall expect a synopsis from you first thing on Monday morning - no excuses.

6:19 pm  
Blogger Stacy Dawn said...

**shakes head** Imogen, Imogen, you walked right into that one.

6:53 pm  

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