Synopsis Writing: Almost Pain-free

Show me a writer who enjoys writing a synopsis and I’ll bet that writer either enjoys self-torture or else is dead. We moan and groan over this part of writing, but a decent synopsis is possible, and almost pain-free.
Writing Tip for Today: Yes, it’s true that writing a good synopsis often takes several drafts. And yes, it’s not all that pleasant a task. But here are a few ideas to demystify the process:
Get Your Tag Line: Many synopses are written big (and way too long) and then winnowed down. My idea is the opposite: find a one or two sentence hook that sums up your novel FIRST. Use that one or two sentence hook to hang the rest of your synopsis. A good tag line will get at the central story question of your book. You might phrase this in one of several ways: as a straightforward description that begins with “When” and includes the character, setting and major problem; as a question (What if a . . .) or as a “mash-up,” a marriage of two already known stories–either from movies or books or a combo. (My novel is HUNGER GAMES meets THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE.)
Five Easy Plot Points. Once you have that hook in place, use your novel’s five major plot points as a guide to flesh out the entire story. Remember, in a SYNOPSIS, you MUST reveal the ending. Think of these five points as major spots in the story where there are COMPLICATIONS, REVERSALS or BATTLES. It may be difficult to decide, but by limiting your material to these five points, you won’t be so tempted to add every minor detail.
Be Specific. Finally, draft that synopsis, let it rest a day and then go back in, intent on spotting and correcting VAGUE LANGUAGE. If you see words such as: situation, circumstance, problem, conflict and the like, your reader won’t know much about your story. Instead, rewrite to name the actual event (EX: John gets in an argument with his brother and drives off in a huff, not knowing his brother is having a heart attack). The person reading your synopsis will thank you for being clear, concise and specific in summing up the story. Now. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

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.

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