Writer's moments

Synopsis Writing Is Hard!

Today, I spent the afternoon writing the synopsis for the third novel, which I finished this week. It’s out to the beta readers, and I already got back one good report. YAY! Now, logically, you’d think that if one has completed three novels and has a rip-roaring start on the fourth, then one could certainly produce a five to seven page synopsis. After all, you wrote the damn books, you’d say, surely it’s not that hard to sit down and tell what they’re about.

Well, you’d be wrong. Synopsis writing is really, truly hard! I sweat bullets over writing a decent synopsis. How much of the story do I include? It has to be enough that an editor can get the flavor of the whole story without getting bogged down in the details. But, I have to include everything that happens to my heroine.  It’s an arduous process, I’m telling you.

First, I reread the manuscript from the beginning straight through to the end all in one sitting, making notes as I go through on what I think is absolutely crucial to include in the synopsis. Then I sit and write and write until I’ve told the whole story. After I’ve gotten it all down, I go back and start taking out what feels extraneous. Then, I go back and cut some more. Then, I go back and tweak what I’ve written, making sure the story is told in a linear fashion and that scene follows scene clearly.

After three rounds, I close up the file and walk away for a while. I need space from it, so that when I reread it, I’ll see it more clearly. I take one more stab at it and then I save the file and ship it off to my critique partner. Sandy will take it apart, edit and comment and then it’ll be my turn again.

Synopses are critical–my agent will read it to see if she’s interested enough to read the whole manuscript. When she sends it to editors, I’m guessing they’ll read the synopsis before they even open the manuscript file. This is where I hook them, where I create enough interest that they want to take a look at the manuscript.

They’re also significant because they give an editor a feel for my ability as a writer. I’m not sure a synopsis is a true expression of my voice, but it probably gives an editor a taste of whether or not I can tell a story. After all, if I can’t tell the story of my own novel succinctly and clearly, why would they bother to move on the novel itself?

Synopses are important…that’s why I suffer over them. But,  as I sit waiting anxiously to get my crit partner’s comments and edits, I’m  cringing because I have to do the blurb next. Eeeek…my story hook in only 50 words? Not hardly…but I can do this. I can because…I am a great writer…I am a great writer…I am a great…


  • Sandy James

    Hate, hate, hate writing them!! They’re an artform, and I had to practice A LOT before I could write a good one. Hang in there, Nan! I’ll help you through this. 🙂

    • Nan

      Merci, Fokker–all in all, it turned out fairly well after Sandy had a go at it. I probably wouldn’t give it “Best synopsis in the history of humanity” status, but it works.

  • robena grant

    I’m feeling your angst and raising it a notch. I also have to write/revise one. : 0
    I hate writing synopses and have been told via contests that mine are weak. One judge said, “No wonder you aren’t selling with a synopsis like this, it does not do justice to your story.” Yikes!
    The story hook, and back cover copy seem to come fairly easily to me. But the synopsis. I used to do five to six pages. I now think I might be better off doing shorter, just the hook, the major suspense and romantic turning points, black moment, and resolution. How many pages do you write?