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I found out this week that I’m a finalist in the Fool For Love Contest. Squee! I’m really excited.
The coordinator wouldn’t let me mess with my entry but she said if I want to look at my synopsis, she’d take that. Well, I’ve adjusted the plot since entering the contest and I decided to take her up on the offer, despite the near physical pain revising my synopsis causes.
But, that sent me back to my synopsis prep stuff and I started to think that those of you out there approaching the end of your stories or thinking about entering contests with synopsis requirements might benefit from my little torture exercise as well.
I’ve heard over and over that when it comes to synopses, the shorter the better. This makes sense to me on a basic level: synopses are BORING. I mean really, it takes me back to days in the classroom when I was forced to read book reports for summer reading assignments. Ugh. Talk about taking the fun out of a story plot. But when you boil 90K words down to a few pages, well, I don’t think it’s meant to be riveting, just barebones and “just the facts.”
This is the recipe that I use for writing my synopsis. I think this helps me to really ferret out my main points so I hope that it helps you. It still isn’t easy but I always feel better when I have a game plan. This “recipe” is not mine. It was passed along to me by Wanda Richards-Seaman who is a member of a critique group I belong to. Just giving credit where it’s due.
Paragraph 1: A hook. 1-2 sentences of what the story is about in as high concept, quick hit way as you can manage it. If you can’t get it, I would leave it off.
Paragraph 2: Heroine’s GMC with a characteristic and job/attribute. Don’t run screaming away yet. Ie. An prophet wants (goal) … because (motivation)… (but) conflict. I sort of think of this paragraph as the background paragraph about my heroine. Give the reader where she’s come from, what drives her, and what’s keeping her from her desires.
Paragraph 3: Hero’s GMC with a characteristic and job/attribute. Same as the heroine’s paragraph above.
Paragraphs 4-7: These four paragraphs are about the plot. The best points, main action. I write in a four act style (and I’m a pretty serious plotter) so I usually use that. I devote the fourth paragraph to the first act, the fifth to the second act (which usually ends in some sort ‘gray moment’). The sixth paragraph is how they deal with that conflict, and the seventh leads up to the major black moment. (If it doesn’t take you 4 paragraphs to do this, I think that’s cool. I think it just shouldn’t take more than four).
Paragraph 8: Climax/Black moment.
Paragraph 9: The HEA/Ending/Falling action.
This usually puts me at a synopsis between 3-5 pages and though some places suggest that a synopsis as much as 10 pages is ok, I believe most agents/editors prefer them shorter.
I hope this helped someone out. J
Have you written a synopsis before? Any suggestions for everyone else? Any advice that you’ve heard that can help us?