Synopses

While putting the finishing touches on The Amber Ring these last couple weeks, I figured I’d also better throw together a full synopsis for it.

Synopses are kind of a drag.

Not because they’re hard to write – I’ve had more than my fair share of practice summarizing.  It’s because they’re not always easy to keep exciting.  Maintaining something of the flavor and tone of your work while drying it up to its basic elements can be a frustrating task.  I’m certain there are numerous others who can give better advice on the subject than I can, but since I’m here, and so, ostensibly, are you, I’ll go over some of the things I like to keep in mind.

There’s no real easy, short-cut way to approach the whole process, but here are a few points to ponder:

 

Tip of a fish

Synopsis Considerations

 

  • A synopsis is typically a two-to-eight page summary of the entire work – the big twists, the ending, everything (important).
  • The editor or agent you’re submitting to might have a specific requirement as to what constitutes a page, but if not, double-spaced 12-point Courier New with one inch margins is a good place to start.
  • The first paragraph is often best utilized in setting up the chief protagonist – who she is, and how she got to where she is when the story begins.  If you already have a pitch line, it might fit nicely in here.  The remaining paragraphs will then recount the events that constitute the story in the order in which they are presented.
  • At least to start with, only include details essential to understanding the main plot; subplots can be added in order of precedence if there is room left in your alloted space and it would make the summary stronger on the whole.
  • The manuscript to synopsis event space ratio can be wildly inconsistent.  Some scenes may take half a sentence, some half a page, depending on how much plot-essential material they contain.  Some scenes can be omitted altogether.
  • Use strong, descriptive, succinct language (because it’s that easy, right?  (>^-‘)> ).  Word economy is paramount.
  • It’s O.K. to be a little conversational; it can help to engage the reader.
  • If you need some ideas on summarizing, look up recaps for TV episodes, or pull up your favorite films on Wikipedia and read the plot sections.  These usually constitute what amounts to synopsis copy.
  • If you’re really stuck on a blank page, you can try zero-drafting (or better yet, dictating if you have speech-to-text software) your initial go by describing the story, stream-of-conscious, from start to finish as you would a good book or movie to a friend.  You can always edit the result up or down as needed, or scrap it and try again.
  • Cheat.  If page format isn’t directly specified, and you’re aiming for a certain length, tweak the margins and line spacing (but preferably not the font) to your advantage.
  • It doesn’t hurt to conclude the synopsis with a poetic statement that encapsulates some important thematic element from the story’s ending.
  • Have someone who has not read your work take a look at the finished synopsis, and ask them if the story when presented thus is easily followable, makes sense, and is free from superfluous material.

 

Ultimately, a synopsis just serves as a quick overview of a story’s plot to ensure that it’s coherent, original, and interesting.  It doesn’t have to be as brilliantly executed as the manuscript, but anything you can do within its limits to show off the promise of your work will surely be a point in your favor.

 

Bene scribete.

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The Book

Since much of this ‘blog will be concerning my attempt at producing a book, I should probably introduce it in some fashion.

 

What a book might look like if you were a cartoon.  A boring cartoon.

A book, in case the modern audience has forgotten what…whatever this is is.

 

If you were a cartoon, it might look like that (a lazy cartoon.  Tsh).

Why write a novel?  I guess storytelling has always been something really important to me.  I’ve wanted (and still want) to be a lot of things in my life, but a writer has for as long as I can remember been first among them.  And, if you want to do something, sometimes you just have to…well, do it!  Technically, I suppose this is the third book I’ve tried to write.  I started one when I was ten, and another at fifteen, but both fizzled out when I got bogged down with the difficulty of figuring out how to get from one point in the story to the next.  Luckily, I’ve gotten a lot better at plotting in the interim and naturally have much more writing experience this time around, so this one’s getting finished, dangit!

So, what’s this thing about?  Well, that’s a good question, comma, myself.  One of the most important questions there is when considering a narrative.  One which I should…really have a better answer to by now.  Let’s try this – the first of a four or five part series, it’s a medieval fantasy (young adult-ish?), following an adolescent dragon as she investigates a strange disturbance to the land originating from the nearby human settlements.  Neh?  As the author of a work, when you have all the low-level details ever present in your mind, it can sometimes be a little tough to weed out the high-level premise and distill it into a good succinct pitch line, so it’s an issue I’ll likely keep returning to.  I’m still trying to find a balance between being too generic and giving too much away.  Maybe I can cheat a bit and ask those of you who have read the beginning how you’d describe it in a sentence if someone asked you what it was about?

O.K., so, what’s it called?  Uhhhh, hmm.  Don’t have that yet, either.  There’s a title for the second book; does that count?  No?  No.

When will it be done?  …  All right, maybe I should stop asking myself questions that make me look bad.

I’ve been working on it for a little over a year, now.  I have a couple hundred pages at various draft stages, and at least as much to go.  Progress has been slow but fairly steady.  I’m terribly meticulous when writing, hence the sluggishness – I’ve still yet to effectively shake the bad-bad-bad writer habit of mentally editing every sentence several times before I put it down (I’m even doing it now, gah!).  Well, at least I have the major elements outlined, and things seem to be getting smoother as they go, if only slightly.

Anyway, my hope with this thing is to give a window into what all goes into writing that first book as it happens, at least from one quirky space fish’s perspective.  Maybe if you’re looking to write (or currently writing!) one yourself, it’ll help to see someone else going through the trials along with you.  Perhaps you’ll pick up some ideas on what (not) to try, or maybe if you’re having an easier time than I am, you can just follow my struggles as a way to feel better about yourself.  (>^-‘)>

Otherwise, well – writing can be kind of lonely!  You spend a lot of time in your own head.  I need to talk about this stuff, to share the enthusiasm, but I’m not sure there’s anyone I can do that with in person.  So, Internet, you will be my sounding board, willing and responsive or not!  Come and join me as I take time away from writing to write about writing like a super responsible person.

 

This person is SUPER responsible.

A super responsible person.

 

The pictures help, right?

Bene scribete, all.