Thursday, November 3, 2011

6 Tips on Writing a Powerful Synopsis

[I was prompted by someone who was having difficulty writing a synopsis and ended up writing a chapter]

1. Outline it.
    I think this is the most important point of all. I don't mean the old Roman numerals and ABCs, use whatever method you are comfortable with to build a framework for your synopsis. Many times you can reduce the framework of your story to its most significant points. Take out a hacksaw and rip your story to pieces and find the absolutely necessary elements of the main story line or plot that gets your protagonist from the beginning to the end.
2. Do the math.
    I know that you may be a writer because math stumped you. So here  is a simple table to help you out.
# of words in story      number of words in synopsis
100,000                       480
80,000                         390
60,000                         250
40,000                         160
20,000                         80
10,000                         40

If you wrote a tome over 100,000 words I would stick to a maximum of two printed pages or 500 words. Any more and you chance losing the interest of the reader assigned to your novel and that puts your novel at the bottom of the pile or worse, on the rejection list unread. If you feel these numbers are too restrictive remember these are guidelines but I would suggest staying within 10% of indicated number (10% would be the number with the 0 loped off :-)).

3. Adjectives and verbs
    Get out your word finder and thesaurus and find the most powerful, exciting, and descriptive adjectives and verbs possible to build your synopsis. I don't mean to get flowery or grotesque to an extreme. Although, if your story IS grotesque to the extreme, ignore that advice. But you want you verbs to describe direct action. and your adjectives should excite the reader. Remember you are trying to engage the reader so they will want to read the story.

4. So far the tips are intended for both indie pub and traditional publication. We will divide the two here.
indie pub
    If you are writing to your readership obviously don't give away the climax or details you want your readers to discover through the story to build the excitement and drive the reader to the end. So be careful what you reveal.
Traditional Publication
   Don't hold anything back. Don't think that leaving a cliffhanger in your synopsis is going give you a better chance to be read. Publishers want to know that you can write the beginning, middle and end of your story in a compelling manner before they take the time to read the story. Holding back the climax is certain to hold back your story from being considered.

5. Think poetically.
   By which I mean work within the constraints of the framework you've built and use a minimum of words to convey the essence of your work. Don't take me literally and rhyme.

6. Edit, Edit, Edit, Edit
   Condensing 100,000 words into a mere 480 should not be daunting if you follow these steps. But imagine if you will any errors in your synopsis multiplied by 200. Remove any words of which you lack a complete working knowledge. Thesauruses are great tools if you use them to help you remember  synonyms you know and not to use big words that you don't know. Make certain there are no passive sentences, no spell check idiocies, and finally the result is the best possible representation of your story.

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