I don't know anyone who loves writing a synopsis.
There's a reason for this.
Creative writers tend to abhor technical writing. It's not our groove, our wheelhouse, our thing. So when a proposal requires a synopsis, our palms sweat. Heart rate ramps up. And suddenly the refrigerator needs cleaning, the dog needs walking, and surely the car needs washing. Doesn't it?
We'll do pretty much anything to avoid the synopsis, so today, in the midst of turbulent times, let's do a back-to-basics post about something we may dread but are required to have as part of our arsenal.
What is a synopsis?
It's basically a summation of the story. It must include all pertinent points that the author knows about the story.
How do you start a synopsis?
This may vary from author to author. Here are the opening paragraphs of my synopsis for "A Hopeful Harvest" my January Love Inspired release. Note that I started it with a mini-summation of why this story will work between these protagonists, and absolutely why it shouldn't work. This draws the editor's interest if the plot idea works, and that's your first goal is to draw the editor's or agent's interest.
RUTHY'S OPENING PARAGRAPHS:
Jax McClaren excels at helping people while keeping his distance, but when he stumbles onto Libby Creighton’s life, a perfect storm of opportunities erupts. There was her grandfather, a sick fruit farmer caught in the throes of growing dementia. Jax had seen his Grandma Molly through Alzheimer’s years before. His compassion then guides his moves now.
Libby and her daughter live on a Central Washington orchard, in need of skilled hands and a full harvest. As the heir to a major Washington apple and fruit producer, Jax has that one nailed, too. But most of all there was Libby and her daughter CeeCee. He read the pain of the past in their faces, but he wasn’t planning on fixing that.
He could fix the blown-down barns. And the apple crisis. He had connections she knew nothing about.
But her broken heart was something else again so he was determined to come to their farm, put in a day’s work and go back to his lonely cabin in the hills. In the cabin his bad dreams and sorrowed thoughts did no harm. But as time went on he found it impossible to maintain his distance, and maybe that was the best possibility of all.
So now you have the intro done. Seriously, that's the crucial thing in my thoughts. You don't have much time to snag an editor's or agent's interest, sometimes a page is all you get before they set the work aside. Make the most of that opening page (and your cover letter, but that's a different lesson.)
From the intro I go into a brief backstory for hero and heroine to set up their characterization in the story, then a brief summation of the opening chapters, and then... I make stuff up.
I kind of have to do this because I don't plan scene by scene ahead of time, and 53 books in, I'm okay with that... now if you DO plan scene by scene, then give a brief summation of those scenes. Those scenes should show the action/reaction of hero and heroine, or hero to events. What's moving the story forward? What outside influences (an angry mother, a caustic neighbor, a church that's falling apart, a town on the skids, a storm, a natural disaster, a death, a lost child.... Show a hint of what outside/external conflicts are going to try and wreak havoc with your character's lives.
This is important, even if it's not 100% accurate to what the final story will be, because you need to show the power thrusts that keep the story moving forward. You may have some leeway here as you actually write the story, but the editor or agent needs to see that the story has good bones. Like a house, with a solid frame, a good book needs good bones because the emotions flow through and around those bones.
Then you want the black moment, as best you know it. Why does it all fall apart? Secrets, lies, misunderstandings, outside influences, etc. If this is a suspense or thriller, explain the resolution. Don't hold back. Give spoilers because this isn't a casual reader, this is the person offering the contract or representation.
If there is a faith thread, show how that changes or grows as the story moves forward. You don't have to go into big detail, but this is an important thread for Christian fiction, and can also be a major part of the story's moral.
And then the ending. If it's a happy ending, that's pretty simple. If it's a more literary-style ending with vague resolution, you need to show the character's internal growth, even though you're not necessarily wrapping things up in a neat bow.
Add idea for an epilogue if applicable.
If you're self-pubbing, you don't need to worry about a synopsis, right?
(Ruthy frowns here, because here's the skinny on that...) Honestly, learning to write a solid synopsis helps you to see holes in the story. Editors see that, too, and offer advice on those possible weak spots so you can fix them as you write.
It's like the basics of writing in junior high. There is a difference between the gradients of all right, good, very good and excellent. Seeing the holes in your story is very hard for new writers. It comes with experience, and the only way to gain experience is to keep writing. And that's exactly what the Seekers want you to do. Keep writing.
And keep learning!
And Ruthy has two copies of "A Hopeful Harvest" to give away today, so leave a comment below and she'll toss your name into the Easter candy bowl... Then check our Holy Saturday Weekend Edition to see who won!
USA TODAY bestselling author and somewhat bossy but fun person, Ruth Logan Herne is sequestered like everyone else. Only she's on a pumpkin farm in Western New York where mud is currently ruling the day. Fortunately she knows that warmth is coming and she'll be growing all kinds of things and writing sweet books in the wee smalls of the morning when there is no one to bother her... although that's not a problem at the moment, is it? :) Friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, stop by her website ruthloganherne.com or email Ruthy at email@example.com She loves to hear from writers and readers. And she actually answers her own mail!