Let's write a synopsis!
- Read online articles about how to write a synopsis and realize that the very best synopses are less than a page long. Resolve to write a synopsis that is less than a page long. It's less painful for you, less painful for the agent who has to read it, all-around less painful for everyone.
- Open a new document in your word processing program. Single spaced is usually fine for a synopsis, unless the agent says otherwise. You can always change the spacing later, but single spaced is easier to fit on one page.
- Without referring to your manuscript (hey, you just wrote it, right?) start typing the story as you remember it. The less you remember, the better, since, again, we want it short. Don't be like that kid who has to describe EVERY DETAIL of the movie plot.
- As quickly as possible, describe the major events. Use long, complicated sentences, since they really pack in the information well.
- Ditto with long paragraphs. You don't have room for paragraph breaks. Three paragraphs ought to do it: one for the beginning, one for the middle, one for the end. Brilliant.
- Halfway down the page, realize that describing all the major events will take longer than a page. Cut all subplots and stop referring to them AT ALL. Even when they impact the main plot. No room.
- Don't worry about describing complicated main-plot elements. It's much too hard to condense your brilliance to a simple sentence, and agents know it. They'll just be impressed that there are complicated plot elements IN there. If they're confused, they'll be that much more anxious to read the full so they can get the explanation.
- Don't waste time describing how your characters feel about the horrible things you're quickly describing. Agents aren't dumb: they can figure out how your characters feel without you having to spell it out. All they have to do is see what your characters do next.
- Got some fun details that add color but don't advance the plot? Leave 'em out. JUST THE PLOT, folks.
- You have to describe the climax and ending and stuff, so make sure you mention how it all turned out, right at the bottom of the page. A simple "and the hero conquers the bad guy in an epic battle involving muskrats" should do it. Though, really, you can probably leave the muskrats out.
- Have one of your beta readers skim through the synopsis, looking for typos and sentences that could be tightened up. You can't ask someone to read it who hasn't read the whole book since - come on! - major spoilers! If you trust someone enough to read the synopsis, don't you like them enough to let them have the complete experience of reading the whole book?
- Quickly fix what needs to be fixed and look for a few more sentences to remove. Then send it off to agents! It's not like they expect it to be perfect, anyway.
- Realize that every bit of advice above is complete bunk, with the possible exception of #2, and the links in #1.
- Use this helpful stress-relief device:
Any questions? Can you tell me why each one is bad? What's your favorite bad synopsis advice?
I'll pontificate on Wednesday. If I have time, I'll even take a popular book (meaning one that everyone knows the ending to already) and write a dreadfully bad synopsis that follows all of the rules above. Anyone have a preference on which book I should destroy this time? I'm leaning toward Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, since I want to see if I can write a synopsis that calls Quiddich a "sports team."