For first-time novelists, writing the synopsis/query/cover letter is often scary and laborious. Kind of like Cinderella’s Prince trying to shove the glass slipper onto one of the stepsister’s enormous feet. All of our creativity, loving-care and effort must be shoehorned into two-pages or less. Ouch! We all complain about how dull, time-consuming and plodding these things tend to be, but wait.
Writing Tip for Today: The synopsis, while undeniably a chore, can be an important clue in diagnosing the health (or lack of) of your novel. Problems such as the ones below point to the need, not of writing a better synopsis, but of writing a better story.
- Symptom: Synopsis Length. You are having trouble squeezing your plot into a two-page (500 word) synopsis. You edit and edit but you just can’t seem to winnow it down. Diagnosis: One or both of two problems might be occurring:
- One, you have a cast of thousands, making it necessary to name all these people in your synopsis. Try combining characters, and for every character you mention in your synopsis, ask, “What is this person’s role in the story?” If the answer is to add flavor or to fill out the scenery, consider killing off or combining the lesser characters.
- Two, if you can’t describe the plot points in 500 words, your story may be so complicated that readers will be more confused than entertained.
- Story board your plot points and see if there are ways to cut down on these common problems: 1. Character goes to too many places. This means you will automatically have LOTS of characters for each locale. 2. Too many subplots. For a first novel I recommend no more than two subplots. 3. Too ambitious. The plot will not read “clean,” that is, the reader will have trouble identifying the main conflict and goal. Simplify the story arc. Give your protagonist a main goal and a couple of subplot goals.