Synopsis Writing: Hate it or Love it?

Why is writing a synopsis so hard? We all grew up doing book reports, summaries of coursework. We all had to study for exams by skimming our class notes. In sifting between the significant items we accumulated from our teachers, we identified the critical information.

So why should it be so difficult to do so with material we wrote ourselves?

I have friends who form their synopses early in the writing process. It’s a great idea. But I find as I write, the initial outline changes form. And soon the manuscript resembles something else entirely.

My initial synopsis always ends up being a terrific description of a romance novel I didn’t write.

But the process of condensing an intricate tale into one page after the manuscript is finished is hard too. Primarily, I think because it feels almost demeaning to the story. We writers work so hard to only use the right words, no more and no less than what the story requires. So reducing our manuscript to the bare bones feels counter intuitive.

But lovely well chosen words are not enough.

Jane Friedman, in her excellent blog article on the intricacies and pitfalls of synopsis writing, points out a synopsis is not intended to be simply a list of plot events. Instead, it should focus on the emotions of the characters as they react to the events and the decisions which grow out of those emotions.

I like this idea, because if I have written my manuscript properly, these things should be self evident to me. Or, to put it another way, maybe if I’m having this much difficulty defining the most important aspects of the manuscript, a reader will too.

Not good.

It’s a mistake to think of the synopsis as an irritating pointless tag on to our creative work.

Delicious use of language is only one part of a manuscript éclair, maybe the layered pastry shell. But character growth and conflict, are the custard filling and the chocolate glaze.

The process of writing a good synopsis allows the author a chance to check if all the ingredients are present. Which is important. Because no one wants an empty éclair.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. Wednesday is generally book review day. Unless it isn’t. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.