After finally completing a rough draft of a synopsis for my novel, I’ve emerged from the haze of confusion (hopefully) a little wiser to the process. While I’m still a few drafts away from a polished agent-ready synopsis, I can’t help but reflect on everything I learned from just sitting down and writing the first draft.
1) My biggest roadblock was figuring out how to condense 80,000 words down to one page. I went into panic mode – How am I supposed to do that?! This is where blogging most likely saved me from total failure. I started writing book reviews about some of my favorite books with the logic that if I can learn to write snapshot overviews of other novels, I’ll eventually be able to do it for my own. It worked like a charm. When I started writing my synopsis, I put away all my notes, outlines, and the novel draft itself. I simply asked myself, “Okay, what is this book about?” and started writing a summary just like I’d done a dozen times before.
2) The layout of a synopsis is essentially that of a basic 5-paragraph essay, which is the same format I use to teach my students how to write. I have a teaching tool called the Essay Hamburger and I realized all the parts of my novel could be filed into the various parts of the hamburger. All I did was modify it to match the requirements of a synopsis. This is by no means a perfect format, but it does provide a nice place to start.
3) There are a number of outlets with information about writing a synopsis, but it’s crucial to find resources that relate to the genre of the novel in question. My novel falls into the mainstream/literary category, which means synopsis formats that work for sci-fi, mystery, or romance will not totally jive with my character driven story. This little epiphany came courtesy of Writer Unboxed. Click on the link for a great article that offers common sense advice about writing the perfect synopsis for your book.
4) If I had it to do all over again, I would write the synopsis first and the query letter second. The query letter requires an even shorter summary of the novel and it has to pack a punch to get an agent’s attention. Why I decided to start with the more difficult query, I will never know. Shortly after starting my synopsis, I ended up re-writing my entire query letter. Something clicked and I finally understood what goes in a synopsis and what goes in a query.
5) It’s not as hard as I thought. Fear, apprehension and panic made this waaaaay more difficult than it needed to be. The most important part of the process was learning to relax and trust my abilities.
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p.s. I feel compelled to note that I finished the rough draft 11 days before the deadline I set in my February Status Report. So, I can also say I learned the value of setting a deadline!
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