The Creative Synopsis

Yesterday’s post on synopses got a lot of writers out there in a tizzy. It can be so disheartening to finally realize that your novel still needs major reworking in order to be salable in today’s market. Try not to panic.
Writing Tip for Today: Some writers cling tenaciously to overwritten synopses that don’t do their jobs, claiming they want theirs to be “creative,” or give “flavor” and “voice” to the synopsis. While this is admirable, it often doesn’t work the way writers intend. If your synopsis is stuffed with witty asides or quotations of dialogue from the novel, it may backfire.

  • Where’s the Story? Think of a synopsis (and by extension, the query letter) as an x-ray. It should be a bare bones (sorry, couldn’t resist) version of the unique and creative book you’ve slaved to produce. If you clutter your synopsis with colorful phrases or dialogue that makes it hard to follow the story, the agent/editor you’re trying to impress may come away more confused than anything. If you must include dialogue from your novel, one pithy line (preferably one that sums up your theme) will suffice.
  • Don’t Mess with Success. Some writers try to gain attention by messing with the synopsis’ style, which is admittedly dry and direct. I’d counsel you to play it straight here. What you gain by using a gimmick, you lose as the editor/agent tries to figure out what exactly your story is. I heard about a writer who inserted animated emoticons into a synopsis. I can imagine the headache any reader might get from watching happy faces dance all over the page. Don’t do that.
  • Simple Does It. Get used to the idea that while you’ve poured your very soul into this novel, a synopsis is meant to strip away most of the bling and leave the story standing, naked, in front of that x-ray machine. If the story isn’t readily visible, or if it’s too simple or too complicated, your story may need major surgery.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comment on “The Creative Synopsis

  1. This is very sound advice, Linda. I recently read a book on writing pitches/queries etc. and the author warned straight up that any gimmicks get an automatic toss. They just have too many to weed through and often don’t even get to reading each one – they just toss those that don’t fit their exact specs in order t shorten the pile. he admits that lots of good material probably gets thrown by the wayside, but with so many submissions it’s just a fact.

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