Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The "Dreaded" Synopsis

See? Like this!
Have you ever written one of those synopsis thangs? Totally easy, right? I mean, it's not like you've never written a book report--we all had to write hundreds in school. Right? Now just write one on your book. And leave out all the boring parts. And the subplots. And anything that doesn't drive the main story toward the climax and conclusion. Oh, and make sure it's interesting and reflects the tone and voice of the story. And that it doesn't leave out any important parts, 'cause it really needs to make sense, too. And be about two pages long. Or less.



Okay, so synopses are of the devil. Almost everyone agrees.

But not this girl:
Becca "Synopses aren't scary" Stumpf
Becca Stumpf works for The Prospect Agency, which requires one of the most elaborate initial-query packages out there... including a synopsis. Becca is one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and she assures me that synopses aren't scary. That they aren't just an elaborate torture device used by agents to see how much authors will endure as they complete impossible tasks to prove themselves worthy of representation. That they can be useful. And an important part of a complete query package.

And she's going to explain all that (along with giving tips on the rest of the query package) on an Authors' Advisory Conference Call next week, on Wednesday, September 28th, starting at 8:45 PM EST. There's such a wealth of information out there on how to write a good query, but not so much on how to write a good synopsis. Becca's going to help us fix that.

Right now, I'm building my outline of questions to ask her. Wanna help? I have tons of questions, but I'm still new to this synopsis-writing thing, so I'd appreciate some questions from those of you who have done more than me. Or who are new like me and can help add the obvious questions.

What parts of writing a synopsis do you just not get? What do you find the hardest to muddle through? Ever hear advice you thought was questionable? What else do you want to know about synopses?

Then be sure to call in next week and raise your hand to ask Becca questions yourself. Should be a very informative hour.


  1. i dont mind the synopsis. it's writing it w/a good voice thats hard. just the facts ma'am...

    and i have an award for you =)

  2. I've never written a synopsis before, so I'm really curious to see what Becca says! Thanks for doing this, Robin! :-)

  3. I've been working on mine for about a month now and boy is it WORK. The best advice I got was, "Have someone who hasn't read it--read it!"

    I also found this blog post by author Janice Hardy that I thought was AMAZING! http://blog.janicehardy.com/2009/04/sum-of-parts.html

    I will have to check out what Becca has to say.

  4. Oh, fine. I'm agonizing over this query, and now you're telling me I have to write a synopsis, too?

    So wish I could listen live, but I have to work. I'll have to catch the audio later.

  5. Nope, I haven't jumped intot hat evil snake pit yet. I will have to make this call for sure!

  6. yay, I love Becca. She is so cute and nice in person. Too bad I dont believe in "The Synopsis." :). jk. I better get on board.

  7. I like to write synopses. For me, it's a heck of a lot easier to stick to the facts in a synopsis than to try to wow someone with my story through a query letter.

  8. Synopses aren't as hard for me as summaries--trying to consolidate a book into two or three paragraphs is what makes me go, "WHAAAT. WHYYY."

  9. I got rejected by Becca Stumpf! :D But in her defense, it was one of those rare, nice personalized rejections. My story wasn't quite as polished as I'd thought.

    I still have a butt of a time with synopses, but not as bad as queries!

  10. What do agents looking for in a summary?
    Any tips and tricks for maintaining voice and tone in a synopsis?
    What are a few things that make some synopsis stand out from the crowd?
    What are some things you CANNOT leave out of synopsis and what are somethings you probably should?

    I bet I have a MILLION more of these questions. Synopsis are of the devil, no matter what Becca says. LOL, Jessie.

  11. Ugg, those questions are from me. My son was on my computer last...

  12. I'm totally brainstorming here, but what if you gave your book to an age-appropriate youth and had them write a book report on it? Maybe that would help you distill down the essence of the story.

    Back in the semi-dark age when I wrote book reports, I tried to write as little as possible but still convince the teacher I read the whole book (while putting in all the coolest parts). Seems like it might be a good start to a synopsis or a summary.

  13. Oh man, I must listen to this phone call. I have NO idea what to do for a synopsis.

  14. I can write synopsis' for other books but not mine! I don't know how to make it seem catchy.

  15. Tara--thanks! And yeah, voice is impossible. I'm absolutely asking her about that.

    Crystal--Ohhh--you HAVE to try. If only so you can feel everyone's pain. Misery loves company, you know.

    Angie--Such a good idea! And thanks for the link! I love Janice's blog and read this when I was writing my own synopsis. Excellent resource.

    Donna--even if you never send the synopsis to an agent, it can be helpful to help you know what your plot is. :)

    Deana--plenty of fangs and venom to go around!

    Jessie--Isn't she awesome? I'm really looking forward to picking her brain on this. :)

    ER--you're awesome. Please come to the call and make sure we ask all the right questions.

    Laura--I find they have completely different skill sets, and you have to master both. And that's in addition to, like, writing the book in the first place. Bother.

    Becca--I'll bet her rejections are nice! How could they not be?

    Kirtlan / Shelly--LOL! Thanks for the list! Totally going in the outline.

    John--I'll ask her. That might work, but I have no idea. :)

    Jenny--That's why we're doing this. :)

    Sabrina--We should organize a pass-your-MS-to-the-left synopsis-writing-circle. I can write others' queries more easily than my own, so that might work for me, too. :)

    If anyone has any more questions to add, feel free to comment or just come to the call!