Friday, January 22, 2010


Friday, January 22, 2010

Tonight I have to write a synopsis. Or at least get started on one. For me it’s comparable to pulling a story out of my butt. It’s that painful.

I hate writing a synopsis.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with a synopsis, lucky you. I mean, here’s a short description from Suite 101.
A novel synopsis is a detailed summary of a story from the start, through the middle and detailing the end. Therefore, writers have to know, however vague it may be, where they are taking the reader. A novel synopsis will introduce the main characters; will describe the major conflicts and any sub plots.

Basically, you’re telling your story beginning to end in narrative form. Along the way you want to include the conflict, major turning points, plot twists, the climax and the resolution. (Never leave an editor hanging.) If you’re writing romantic fiction, you need to focus on the conflict between the hero and heroine and how their relationship evolves. And, depending on the publishing house, you need to do all of this in 3-15 pages—depending on the publisher’s guidelines.

The shortest synop I’ve ever written was five pages. The longest, fourteen. I sold the stories on the basis of those synopsis and in both cases, the stories, when all was said and written, ended up veering greatly from the synopsis. The characters were the same. The concept, the conflict, and a few plot points the same, but the majority of the story played out differently.

Why then, you ask, do I bother writing a synopsis? Because the publisher requires it. They’re not going to buy a story blind or on a one paragraph pitch. Currently, I’m out of contract and hoping to sell a new story. So…
I gotta write a stinkin’ synopsis.

The reason I find them so painful is because I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants writer. I work best when I have a general premise, a couple of key scenes, and the major players and then let the characters lead the way. The joy and thrill is in the discovery. Learning things as I go. Then again… there’s something to be said for having a map. Something to keep you from taking too many wrong turns. This actually worked fairly well for me on my last story—Into the Wild. Although I did end up with a different villain . . . and the last quarter of the book took an unexpected turn…. And….

So basically, I should stop fretting and procrastinating and just let my imagination soar. Accept that the actual story always veers from my initial synopsis. That hasn’t proved a bad thing yet. Well, maybe once. And even that turned out okay.

So, off I go. To pull a story out of my butt. Ta-dah!
What about you? Have you written a synopsis? Love them or hate them and why?
SIS Beth


Richard said...

Though I can't directly "feel your pain," and though admittedly only about 100 pages into it, I am currently reading a novel all you writers shuld read: The Novel by James Michener. Although a bit "dated" (it's from "all the way back" in 1991!!), it's basically a fiction about a late-in-life famous author, written by one of the Great American Authors --- can you say "insight"?!? Now, I haven't read enough of it to suggest it as a good BOOK; but I HAVE been engaged and interested enough to recommend it to anyone who IS a writer (read: And you think YOU got troubles!)

Beth Ciotta said...

Hey, Richard,

Na. I don't really think I have troubles. Just like to whine every now and then about the stuff I hate to do. *g*

Thanks for the rec. Sounds like an interesting read!

SIS Beth

SIS BJ said...

Hi Beth, I'm glad I don't have to write a synopsis. It doesn't sound like a bit of fun.

Good Luck!

Tori Lennox said...

Oh, man. Writing synopses is like pulling teeth for me. I don't always know where I'm going with a story, so how I can tell somebody else where it's going?

Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Beth,

Nope. haven't written one yet but I'm actually looking forward to it. When I need to write a synopsis it will mean (to me) that I am ready to submit my book to agents/editors.

Later, Im sure I'll cringe at the word but still I'll try to consider it a good thing. A needed thing. A thing that will help me get my stories out there.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Beth Ciotta said...

Thanks for the sympathetic ear, BJ!

Tori.... EXACTLY!

Barb/Elle, I had the luxury of writing my first synopsis after the book was already written. On the one hand it was easy because, obviously, I knew every ounce of the story. On the other hand, it was difficult to keep the synop streamlined BECAUSE I knew so much. Not that you'll have that problem. I just know you'll smoke it!

SIS Beth

Sisters-in-Sync said...


I've not had to write a synopsis (yet), but when I do, I'm sure I would feel just like you. It seems that I must write the same way as you.

Anywho, good luck, and I hope you have much success with it.
SIS Bren

Olga said...

Beth, I hear you. I'm not a synopsis person either. I think I'd rather write half of the book than 5 pages of synopsis! That said, best of luck on yours!

Post a Comment