Monday, August 4, 2014

A Short Synopsis? Are You Kidding?

The dictionary defines synopsis as "a condensation or brief review of a subject: summary." 
Okay, I get it. You need to boil down the essence of your book so that you provide only the important information. Agents and editors don't have a lot of time to find out how much they need your masterpiece, so make it short. 

At PitchFest, agents asked me to send them my book along with a "short" summary. 
"Oh," I said, "like four pages?"
That evoked a head tilt with a wry smile. "No. Two pages. Double spaced."
"Oh." Gulp. "Fine." I forced a big smile. "No problem."

No Problem! I had four and a half single pages that had been whittled down (with extreme angst) from ten. How could I possibly hone down all that important information to two double-spaced pages. I threw my head down against my arms on my desk. Impossible!

Thankfully, I have cheerleaders--my writer's group. With their support, I worked and reworked the synopsis until I had it tamed to a reasonable length.

How did I do it? It wasn't easy. Good thing my kitties don't understand English. 

I checked out online resources with information about the short synopsis. (Because there is also a long synopsis.) See the links at the end. I tried to keep my thinking within the main plot, ignoring subplots, no matter how amazing they happened to be. I then wrote a super short outline that hit on the suspense, character interaction, and a hint of romance. From that outline, I tried to find those parts that were pertinent to the genre, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal. 

Finally, I had the basics, the information that showcased the story points. Next I tried to cut out the extra description. Whew! A lot of that. Then I needed to cut out superfluous words. That forced me to make the sentences more active. A good thing.

Of course, I still had too many words and so I had to delete more of my beautiful babies. Ouch! But I persisted, dried my tears, and prepared the finishing touches--writing the synopsis in the present tense, third person using my voice. 

I wanted the reader to view the synopsis through my protagonist's eyes so they could get the flavor of the book. When I finished, I had two double-spaced pages plus two lines. 

At present, I'm in waiting mode for the results of those submissions. But now that I have a nice short synopsis, and a query letter (that is another whole story), I'm all set. Right? Oh, no. One of the publishers asked for a back cover blurb and a one-sentence blurb (an elevator pitch). Eek! More work.

And, then, since I'm half-way through the second book in the series. . . .  You see where I'm going with this. 

For today, though, I'm simply going to concentrate on writing--one word at a time.

Synopsis examples

Synopsis tips for Literary Agents

Recipe for a Successful Synopsis


  1. Great post and pictures! Thanks for helping me through MY synopsis! You're the best!

    1. It's always a pleasure to help one of my favorite cheerleaders, especially when the writing is sooo good.

  2. Great post Margo! I feel your pain. Thanks for the very usuable advice, it will help me to approach the synopsis with a solid game plan.