Thursday, January 12, 2012

Synopsis Check List 101

Since we've cut down our Whoseywhatsit Thursday Critique offering to once a month--1st Thursday for you to enter and the 3rd Thursday we release our collective critique--we've decided to explore some writing techniques on the off Thursdays.

This month, we offered to critique your synopsis. So I think it's appropriate to go over a short list of Do's that will help us all write concise and meaningful synopsis'.

FYI of a synopsis:

  • average length: 1 to 2 single-spaced pages; double-spaced between paragraphs. 
  • some agents/editors/publishers have specification for the synopsis' they want to received. Check their guidelines. Some are willing to read a longer synopsis, such as 3-5 pages, but usually those are then double-spaced.


- Start with a hook. Just as we strive to engage the reader from the start of our novel, we must do the same with our synopsis. Think of it as a combination between the hook you've used in your query letter and the collective mood you've used within your first chapter. Combining that thought process can sometimes be helpful.
- Introduce the Main Characters ONLY. Don't get me wrong; if you have a secondary character that is necessary to mention to tell the story then do so. But you don't have to highlight the store clerk said MC met, unless it's pivotal to the plot. Make sure to include each character's MOTIVATIONS, CONFLICTS, and GOALS.
-Condense each paragraph into a fine-tuned mini-story, leaving out unnecessary details like adjectives and too much description. Instead, use an event (ACTION) and then that character's (REACTION) to convey your story.

  • First paragraph should encompass your story's setup. 
  • Continue to tell the story, using ONLY the important elements that forge your main plot forward. Make sure to tell the agent/editor everything, though, those important elements.
  • The last two(ish) paragraphs should concentrate on all your subplots meeting in the middle: CRISIS AND RESOLUTION.

- Finally, BREATHE. Set it aside. Have another writer peek at it. Then give it another look. Edit until it's as concise as you can write it.

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