Whether you fear them, despise them, think they're not so bad, or love them, synopses are a reality in a writer's life. The sooner we become skilled at writing them, the better.
As we all know, synopses come in many forms: the blurb in the query letter, the one page summary, the two page summary, or even a longer summary that gives the blow-by-blow of the plot. The synopsis I'll be focusing on is the one pager since that's what agents who rep YA authors request the most. Also, it's what I have the most experience with, and it's what's on my mind today. :)
In his book THE FIRST FIVE PAGES: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO STAYING OUT OF THE REJECTION PILE (which I recommend reading), literary agent Noah Lukeman stresses that the prose in the manuscript itself is usually considered before the synopsis. He says the synopsis is often ignored by agents unless the writer manages to hook them with his or her writing in the manuscript. Then the synopsis is considered. That makes sense, and it tells us how fabulous our manuscript pages have to be--an incredible idea alone won't do it. But whether an agent reads the manuscript or the synopsis first doesn't change the fact that our manuscripts and our synopses have to shine. Something I've heard is "good enough isn't"; agents are currently receiving more submissions than ever, so our submissions have to be great.
I used to dread synopses. Now I have a better perspective on them, though I don't know that I'll ever rejoice when it's time to write the first draft of one. It can feel intimidating until we manage to pound out a draft that we really like, a synopsis that matches the tone of the book, tells what happens, and doesn't exceed the word count.
With my WIP, I wrote the first draft of the synopsis well before I wrapped up the first draft of my novel. As I've been revising my book, I've been periodically pulling out the synopsis for revisions too. This evolution has been helpful even though the main plot points have stayed the same. Fresh eyes and time give us so much insight. I asked my critique group to look at the first draft of my synopsis months ago and the current draft just this week since I wanted other trusted fresh eyes to peek at it, too, before I query.
What I like about working on a synopsis is I find boiling my book down helps me see if things are big enough. And although it sounds weird, there is something liberating about having only one page. My least favorite thing is that I can barely touch subplots--getting the plot down to one page is tricky enough!
Maybe we can share tips/things we've learned so we can perfect our synopsis writing skills. Here are some of mine:
*During my first attempts, I put too much emphasis on the beginning of my story in the synopsis just as many novice writers take too long on the story's setup in their actual manuscripts. If you have 250 words, 125 shouldn't be covering the first chapter.
*Imagine yourself sitting with people around a campfire. Now tell them what your story is about. It sounds soooo basic, but this really helps me write a synopsis. It makes it sound like a story instead of just passed information.
*Only include enough characters to tell the story.
Can you offer any tips from your experiences?