Five Scribes is pleased to host the awesome Caridad Pineiro as she kicks synopsis and takes names later.
(Sing this to the tune of Disney's A PIRATE'S LIFE FOR ME)
Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Writer's Life for Me!
We plot and we type,
We write and rewrite,
A dreaded synopsis we seek!
We sweat and we tweak,
We cry and we freak
That dreaded synopsis we seek!
As you might be able to tell from that intro, my mind is focused on one thing today – the dreaded synopsis. Funny how so many writers refer to it that way, but in truth many writers find it harder to write a synopsis than to write an entire book.
I know I do. Having been basically a pantser all my life, I find it difficult to translate onto paper the plot that I have in my head.
I am not alone.
So how do you approach writing the dreaded synopsis? What things can you do to make it easier to take that story line in your head and turn it into something that an editor will like and decide to buy?
My first step is to try to reduce the concept for the book in a few short paragraphs. Think of it as the jacket blurb that will end up on your published book. That blurb should contain the basic concept of the story and the conflict between the characters.
Use it for the introductory paragraphs to your synopsis. Refine it to use as part of your query letter.
Know the length of your book and based on that, give yourself an approximation of the number of chapters you will include in the book. For example, in a 90,000 word single title novel, which is approximately 360 pages, you may have 36 ten page chapters. Again, just an approximation as there is no set rule as to the right length for a chapter. You can have a one page chapter if that’s all you need to move the plot from point A to point B.
Make a list from 1 to 36 and beside each one, write down one or two short sentences about what you imagine will take place in that chapter. As an example, here are some ideas I jotted down for my March 2009 release, FURY CALLS:
Chapter One: Meghan is hard at work as a chef when she senses something unusual as do the other vamps at her place. An investigation reveals two vampires draining themselves to death in one of the restaurant’s private rooms.
Chapter Two: Blake is hanging out at the Blood Bank, looking to satisfy his hunger when he encounters a blonde who reminds him too much of Meghan. After a short interlude with the blonde leaves him cold, Blake decides to pay Meghan a visit.
Chapter Three: Meghan is trying to recover from the violent death of the two vampires when Blake strolls up to the back of the restaurant. A fight ensues between them. Flashback to their first encounter.
When you are done with this, you will have a basic chapter outline for your novel. The problem is, most editors do not like chapter outlines, but you will now have the groundwork for your novel and as well, for your synopsis.
From this chapter outline, distill the conflicts and themes that are running through the points you have written down for the outline. You may find that there are some themes that you had not noticed as you were making the outline and now is the opportunity to beef them up in key sections of your book. There should also be a clear arc of the conflicts to be resolved by your protagonists.
Redact those conflicts, themes and the basic story line into a shorter summary of the plot – your synopsis.
Remember one thing – this is one of the most important selling tools you will have so let your writing voice and style shine through. Again, try to think of it as the jacket blurb, only a little longer. Possibly imagine it as a teaser at the front of the book.
Then take a moment and sit back. Consider if what you’ve just read has you so interested that you want to read the book. If not, go back and tweak a little. Punch up some of the sentences with strong action verbs. Make sure the conflicts you imagined for the protagonists ring true and even more importantly, are enough to drive the story for all those chapters.
Now, having said all that, I still dread the synopsis, but using the above, I know I can provide my editors with the information they need to decide whether or not they will acquire the book.
If you’re having trouble creating your chapter outline, consider using something like the Hero’s Journey to help you through the rough spots.
About the Author: Caridad Pineiro is the USA TODAY and NY Times bestselling author of over twenty novels. In 2009, look for HONOR CALLS, a February Nocturne Bite, FURY CALLS, a March Silhouette Nocturne, both from the popular THE CALLING Vampire series. Also look for SINS OF THE FLESH in November 2009, the first novel in an exciting new paranormal romantic suspense series from Grand Central Publishing. For more information on Caridad, please visit www.caridad.com or www.thecallingvampirenovels.com.