The Dreaded Synopsis

 Ugga-mugga.  I hate writing synopses even more than I hate writing queries.  I suppose I wouldn’t mind them so much if I felt confident about writing them, but since my measurement for  success is a sale of my novel for publication, and my batting average is 0 and 2, you can understand why I’ve been reluctant to start writing the synopsis for GLAMOUR. 
While I do realize that a good synopsis might not make any difference in my ability to make that sale, I believe that a bad synopsis is going to make it harder to interest an editor or publisher in my work.  At the PNWA Writers Conference a couple of weeks ago, I managed (in the 14th revision) to come up with a pretty good pitch.  In fact, when I mentioned the response rate I got from said pitch to an agent at the Cascade Writers Workshop, he told me to hold off on pitching to any more agents until my manuscript and synopsis were as good as my pitch.  Excellent advice, I thought.   
So for GLAMOUR, I decided to present the synopsis using the same story structure I’d used for outlining the manuscript.  Not an original idea, but one I hadn’t tried before.  This is how I organized it:
·         The Story premise                                                                                 (4 sentences, showing conflict)
·         The inciting incident and 1 or 2 major plot points       (two short paragraphs)
·         The first turning point                                                                      (one sentence)

  

·         The next three (complicating) plot points                         (three short paragraphs)
·         The second turning point                                                                 (two sentences)
·         The following three (complicating) plot points              (two short paragraphs)
·         The dark moment                                                                                   (two sentences, showing emotion)

 

·         The resolution                                                                                          (one big paragraph/12 sentences)

When it was done, I surprised myself.  The first draft of the synopsis was cohesive and (relatively) concise at four pages, and the whole story is right there.  I usually end up doing three versions of a synopsis (long (5 pages), medium (3 pages), and short (1 page)) to satisfy all the different submission requirements, but I think I’m pleased with my four-pager.  I think it’s good to go. 

Hope this helps you too. 

This entry was posted in Cascade Writers, dark moment, dreaded, Glamour, inciting incident, pitch, plot point, PNWA, query, resolution, synopsis, turning point. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Dreaded Synopsis

  1. Love how you organized the synopsis! The 1-pager synopsis is the hardest, I think, and the one that seems to be requested the most. You’ve got all the important parts included here, and I may use your handy checklist for myself 🙂

  2. I agree, the one-pager bites the biggie (for the writer, not the reader). With a little judicious editing, I got this one down to 3.5 pages. I figure if they’re bored after the first page, my story isn’t right for them anyway, and if they want more, it’s not THAT long (and they can stop any time). ;-D

  3. Raven says:

    Excellent break down! I actually stumbled across this post while researching both the Cascade Writers’ Conference and the PNWA conference. I do have a question for you–
    I write speculative fiction, which Cascade caters to, but PNWA is huge as far as writing conventions go.
    Having been to both, which would you recommend? I’m new to the area, and in 2014, they will be the same weekend. :/

    • SharonJoss says:

      Hi Raven;
      I would say it depends on what you’re looking for. IF you want help with a story you’re working on NOW, or trying to connect to other writers, I’d say Cascade is the best choice. But if you have finished novel, and don’t plan on making any more changes to it, I’d try pitching it at the agent pitching session at the PNWA. I got a lot more from my experience at Cascade, in terms of connecting with other writing pros, than I ever expected. Your chances of getting an agent at one of those writing conferences (even if they ask you to send them pages) is slim to none, although I’ve sat in on some really terrific (and helpful) panel discussions. Good luck!

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