I wrote the book. That was hard. I wrote the query letter. That was harder. I wrote the synopsis. That was the hardest.
Why makes synopsis writing so difficult? In the first place, it's a challenge to write tight, tight, tighter while retaining the essence of your style and the tone of the work. Throughout the writing of the novel, we are adjured, "Show; don't tell." Suddenly it becomes, "Tell; don't show," because there's no room for the latter. Beloved similies and images end up on the surgery room floor, bleeding and mangled. Even some alliteration is left lying lifeless alongside the other carnage.
Secondly, advice contradicts advice. Some say single space; others, double. (So I compromised with 1.5 line spacing.) Some say the synopsis should be written in present tense, regardless of the tense of the tale; others say past. (The former gets the most votes, and that's the way one normally writes about literature, so I went with present tense.) It seems that every "expert" has his own way of formatting the first page.
One thing that most agree on is the importance of the synopsis. The majority of editors and agents require one. A critique partner who makes a habit of placing highly in prestigious writing competitions says that the value of the synopsis is that it allows the powers that be to see if the writer has a strong plot line to hold the story together.
My conclusion, after perusing many articles and guidelines, is this:
- If the agent or editor to whom one wishes to submit gives specific guidelines, follow them to the letter. Heed the jots and tittles.
- Do your homework. Read guidelines and advice columns, realizing that they will contradict one another. Adapt what you learn to make it work for you.
- Write tight. Then revise it to make it tighter.
- Format it so that it reflects the professionalism of the writer.
- "How to Write a Synopsis" by Marg Gilks
- "Writing a Novel Synopsis"; Fiction Writer's Connection
- "How to Write a Novel Synopsis" by Chuck Sambuchino, Guide to Literary Agents (Editor's Blog)
- "Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis: Condensing Your Novel" by Lee Masterson, Fiction Factor
Fellow writers, editors, and agents, if you happen to do me the honor of a visit to this blog, would you be so kind as to click on "Comments" and leave some of your own advice for those of us who struggle with the dreaded synopsis writing? Have you gleaned some jewel from a conference, workshop, or article? Please share. (By the way, I've never heard anyone say, "Synopsis? Piece o' cake!")