QueryTracker Blog

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

How to Edit a Synopsis

First, a confession: I finished my book sometime this summer. As of Thursday, I had not finished a synopsis. I had a book I was excited about and a query I didn't hate, so I didn't want to tackle a synopsis because, let's face it, synopses are hard. Then, in a series of fortunate events, I needed one. Quickly.

I've read lots of posts on how to write a synopsis (I have this one bookmarked for its ease of use, and this one is good, too, especially for longer synopses), and my handwritten ideas notebook is full of the starts of synopses for this novel (five of them, if you wondered).

It took me a long time to get to a draft that I thought was complete. At about 800 words, I was satisfied that it was short enough to qualify as a "short synopsis," and happy enough about the plot points it covered. I read it over several times, patted myself on the back for finishing it, corrected some sentence flow stuff, and sent it off for critique.

My synopsis went to two different people. One has read the novel, the other hasn't. Here's my tip of the day: always have someone who hasn't read your book critique your synopsis.

The synopsis I was so pleased with a few hours before was completely ripped to shreds. It was fantastic (for the book; not for my ego). "Wait, how can this happen?" "I thought they were there?" "Is this even relevant?" There is a temptation to get defensive and say, "Well it makes sense in the book..." When that happens, it's important to remember the point of a synopsis: to tell the story to someone who hasn't read it. If the person critiquing your synopsis is confused, Amazing Agent X will be, too.

The goal for synopses isn't to write pretty sentences or make the reader infer anything. Its goal is to quickly tell someone (an agent or editor, probably) what happens in the book. Your job is to make it obvious what that is, so make sure that people who haven't read it are clear.

Rochelle Deans sometimes feels like the only writer on the planet who rushes through the writing so she can start editing. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young daughter. Her bad habits include mispronouncing words, correcting grammar, and spending far too much time on the Internet.


Kim English said...

I hate, hate, hate writing them. You are so right- writing it for someone who knows nothing of your novel is hugely important and helps you delete the unnecessary commentary.

Mirka Breen said...

One of my Beta readers calls synopses "evil." best advice here: have the synopsis critiqued by someone who has not read the manuscript. Ask them one question to be answered first: does this make you want to read the story?