Well, the good news is I’ve finally finished writing my latest book! Hooray! The bad news is, now I have to write the synopsis :( which is causing me as much stress as writing the whole novel.
You might know already that publishers and editors need to read a synopsis of a book first before they make a decision on reading the rest of a manuscript. There are some authors who like to get the synopsis down first before they write the actual book. There’s a good case for doing this. If you’ve already written your synopsis, it means you’re confident you have a structured plan, with your conflict, story arc, etc already worked out in advance.
I’ve tried writing the synopsis first, but can’t get this to work for me. I’ve come to realise that I’m more of a “secret planner”. When we go on holiday, for example, I have a good idea in my head of what we’re going to do every day, even though nothing’s written down. I am a little bit over-organised (my husband would be the first to agree!), and that’s maybe not so good on holiday, but when it comes to writing a book my planning in my head works well.
I prefer to keep my book plan in my head. This way, if my book starts to change, and I have a great idea for deepening the conflict for example, I don’t get all wound up because now I’ve veered from my synopsis and will have to rewrite it. I’ve found by trial and error that this way of writing works very well for me.
So, now I have 85,000 words of a book, and I have to summarise the lot in one page. And this doesn’t mean summarising the plot. (If only! That would be easy.)
Here’s everything that needs to go into the one page. Since my novel is a romance, I’m making the list fit the romance genre, but the gist applies to any fiction.
Synopsis check list
The “inciting incident” that starts the whole story.
The heroine’s goal and the thing she desires most
A description of the heroine’s character at the start of the story (note: you don’t need a physical description unless it’s relevant to the story)
The hero’s entry into the story, description of his character and goal, and how this is different from the heroine’s (ie the source of the conflict between them)
A description of their relationship at the start of the story, and the conflict that will keep them apart until the final page.
Show the events that intensify the conflict between the two characters
Show how their relationship develops into love despite the conflict.
Show how their relationship is tested in the course of the story because of the source of conflict, so that the reader wonders how on earth the HEA will be achieved.
Show the climactic point, in which the worst thing that could happen for the heroine does happen. The thing she wants most – her goal – is now in direct conflict with the goal of the hero, so that the reader thinks this is impossible to resolve.
Show how either the hero or heroine (or both) takes a leap of faith and changes so that the conflict can be resolved. (Does he or she adopt a new approach or take some uncharacteristic action?)
Show the resolution or the aftermath of the climax, leading to the HEA.
Other things to show in the synopsis
Besides all the above, I also need to show I have an original idea for my story and interesting main characters. The theme of my story is how we overcome our fears, so I need to show how this theme runs through the novel. Oh, and finally, I need to write the whole lot in the tone and style my novel is written in.
So, you can see why I’ve been stressing about this synopsis for quite a while! Since agents and publishers can get literally dozens of submissions every day, the synopsis and query letter are massively important for making yours stand out from the crowd.
If you’re a writer, do you hate writing the synopsis as much as I do? Do you have any tips on getting the synopsis down without stressing? Do you think I’ve covered everything in my check list? If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!