Thursday, 18 September 2014

Quest to write a synopsis

So, you've written your book (yay - congrats!). You've sent it to beta readers for feedback. You've worked on your book again to iron out the issues they had problems with. You've sent it back to beta readers. (Rinse and repeat until you're happy with your manuscript.) You've also been working on your query letter in the meantime and *gulp* received feedback on that. You're ready to dive into the query trenches - almost! What else do you need? Well, you'll probably need a synopsis. Some agents ask for one in your initial email along with a query and the first x number of pages of your manuscript. Some agents might ask for one if they want to see your full manuscript. My advice? Be prepared! You might target agents who don't ask for a synopsis initially, but they could still ask you for one later down the line. There's nothing to dim the joy of receiving a full request like a mad panic to condense your 80k book into a one or two (or more!) page document in the space of a few days (cos who wants to keep an agent waiting when they've asked to see your book, right?).

The last time I wrote a synopsis I picked out the main points and built them into a cohesive (one? two?-page) story. This time around, I tried a different approach. First, I wrote a rough chapter breakdown, picking out the salient bits from each chapter. It ran to about seven pages. Then I went through the document and edited out the not-quite-so-important bits until I'd reduced it to six pages. I saved the document as a rough six-page synopsis (always save. ALWAYS!! And back-up your files, too). I then did the same again until I had a rough five-page synopsis, and rinsed and repeated all the way down to a one-page synopsis. The beauty of this method is I now have varying lengths of a rough synopsis which I can polish until the rough edges are shiny and tailor accordingly to fit the agent's request (some might want a short one-page synopsis, others might want you to expand over several pages).

So, that was my method.  Do you have any tips for writing a synopsis?  Do you find them easy?