Writing a SHORT synopsis

The dreaded synopsis…is there anything authors hate writing more than this (okay, maybe a query…but still). I mean, it is hard collapsing your 60 to 80K (or longer) novel into a measly couple of pages (single-spaced)

Now, try doing it the way the editors I met suggested…in a single page, double-spaced. A couple of paragraphs!

Yep, that was the advice – make your synopsis SHORT. VERY SHORT.

Wow, and I thought they were hard before.

The truth is, the three published authors, and four children’s editors I met all agree – shorter is better when it comes to the synopsis. Their other advice –

  • Look at the story arc and start from there
  • Start with your log-line or elevator pitch
  • Address the who, the what, and the why
  • Keep the voice active
  • Keep it functional
  • And yes, you must tell the whole story – no cliff-hangers in the synopsis!

Yeah – so much easier said than done. But, being a tenacious sort of person, I decided to give it a try.

So, since I do outline and look at the arc of the story (the problem, the first turn, the second turn, the climax, the resolution), I decided to start there.

To help out a little more, I took a page from the world of screenwriting, and followed a great structure I found at Screenplay Mastery. This particular structure outlines the five major turning points within a six-stage plot structure that all successful films has. More importantly (because I love examples), it used the films Gladiator and Cast Away as examples.

Now, after stumbling on this, I took my story outline, matched it up and bingo – the structure of my synopsis.

After working, and reworking, and reworking for a while, I finally did it – I crafted a short, 1-page double-spaced synopsis I actually like.

I guess it can really be done.

An added side-benefit from this exercise – if your story does have any wholes, this process finds them…and FAST.

So, what do ya think? Willing to give it a try? Have another way that works for you?

14 thoughts on “Writing a SHORT synopsis

  1. Great advice, Christine!

    It’s frustrating getting it down to one page, especially when you go over by two lines and can’t figure out how to shorten it further. And I’ve read it’s got to have voice, like your query and novel. Not so great if your voice makes the synopsis longer.

    1. Christine Fonseca

      I heard the same thing about voice. I can tell you when the editors were asked they said to keep it short and functional. Easier said than done, right!

  2. *whispers* I kind of like writing synopses…

    Maybe I’m doing it wrong – but I don’t even start writing a draft until I write an initial synopsis. It’s one of the only ways I can figure out if I might have enough “story” to work with. So then after I have the story written, it’s not too much work to take that initial synopsis, and just adjust it to how the story “really” turned out. I actually kind of panic when I read about 2-3 page synopses…because I’m not sure I could stretch one out that long. LOL

    But I tend to be a very sparse writer anyway (I’m currently adding 20k words to a draft to bring it up to a publishable word count), so apparently that spills over into summaries as well.😉

  3. I do like synopses as well. Keeps me focused as my story is complex and has a few themes and plots. Im wondering how to mention that a books plan is to be apart of seven. Should it be mentioned in the Synopses?

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