Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Don't Judge Me by My Synopsis


By Andrea Merrell

As writers, most of us shudder at words like proposal, query letter, and synopsis. We just want to write our stories and not be bothered with all the other stuff. Unfortunately, if we desire to be published, all these other elements are an important part of the process.

I can tell you from experience that writing a synopsis is not an easy task. Writing a back-cover blurb comes much easier for me. I can put a book in a nutshell without too much trouble. But my first attempt at a full-blown synopsis was a disaster. Some of it was all over the place, while other parts read like Cliffs Notes. Reading that first draft would not give anyone the desire to read my story. Back to the drawing board.

When you’re writing nonfiction, it’s much easier to do a chapter-by-chapter outline of your book. Each chapter has a title and a theme. You take that theme and break it down into bite-size portions that will whet the reader’s appetite. One short paragraph per chapter, and you have it.

With fiction, it’s much more difficult to break your story down without giving too much detail or leaving so much out the reader can’t follow you. I’ve read dozens of proposals by gifted writers who were unable to master the synopsis process. In other words, a poorly written synopsis is not necessarily a true reflection of your ability as a writer. Generally, when I receive a proposal, I skim through everything else until I get to the first chapter. It’s more important to me to see the quality of the writing—the storytelling and grasp of the craft—than all the preliminaries. If those first few paragraphs hook me, I am excited to read on. Then I'll go back and pay more attention to everything included in the proposal.

Does this mean we should not spend time making our synopsis the best it can be? Absolutely not. As with everything we do, we should always strive to give it our all. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17 NKJV).

So, what did I do with my first synopsis? I sent it to a friend asking for an honest rip-it-to-shreds opinion. Then I took it to my writers’ group and asked them to do the same. This is how I ended up with a decent synopsis to add to my proposal for my first novel.

As we hear over and over, writing is not a solitary venture. We need a network of people who can help us get over the inevitable hurdles we face along our journey. As I’ve said many times before, the best advice I ever received early on in my writing career was, “Join a critique group, attend writing conferences, and network, network, network” (thank you, Vonda Skelton).

What struggles have you faced with writing a synopsis? How did you overcome them? We would love to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and David Castillo Dominici.)

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