Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Writing a Synopsis (Because I Had To)

I recently had the (mis)fortune of having to write a synopsis for my current work in progress, GIRLS BREAK THINGS. You may recall my fever-dream reverse outline from a couple weeks ago, which was also about this work.

This manuscript is still pretty fresh – if it were paint on a wall, it’d be in that tacky stage – but I thought, hey, let’s start putting it out there and see what kind of response I get. On Valentine’s Day, I participated in a pitch event for this work on Twitter. Amazingly, I had a couple agents request pages. Of course, in their submission requirements, they asked for a synopsis.

Womp.

Insert about three days of me flopping around the house, moaning that I didn’t want to write a synopsis because they’re hard and I don’t wanna and can’t the agent just read my manuscript please so I don’t hafta. Honestly, I probably should’ve had a synopsis ready before I tweeted about this work in the first place, but I did this to myself, so I don’t even pity myself and you shouldn’t either. Regardless, a synopsis was needed, and I had to write one if I ever wanted this work to go anywhere.

So what follows is my (messy) process of writing GIRLS BREAK THINGS and getting to this point – it’s all relevant, I promise. Let me also preface this by saying that I did zero research on how to write a synopsis before I started writing mine. Operation Awesome has posted about writing a synopsis before, so if you're looking for something more like instructions, you should check out this post.

When I wrote GIRLS BREAK THINGS, I started with an outline. I followed the 90-day novel process of getting into my characters’ heads and repeatedly fine-tuning my outline before I even began writing. (I started writing this manuscript a couple times with very limited success, so this was super weird to me.) I began this draft about a week before NaNoWriMo 2018 and finished a few days shy of the end of the month. After letting the manuscript sit for a couple months, I went back and wrote my reverse outline.

The reverse outline was the most helpful tool I had while writing my synopsis. I had the major plot points already laid out in order, as well as the finer influences each of those points had on the plot overall. From there, it was a matter of deciding which points absolutely needed to be included as written and which ones could be further reduced, summarized, or glossed over. I copied those points over into a new document and set about transforming them from bullet points to proper sentences that flowed from one to the next, adding in details as needed.

The hardest thing with writing the synopsis was deciding how many characters to talk about. I have at least thirty characters of varying importance, and while it was clear that the waiter I wrote about in chapter nine wasn’t going to make the cut, deciding which major players were important enough was a challenge. Ultimately, I realized that the players could be reduced to five characters: main character Joyce, love interest Nyx, Joyce’s BFF Laddie, Nyx’s mom/the high school principal Mrs. Otero, and robotics club adviser Mr. Reed. There are certainly other characters who impacted the plot, but it was easier to refer to them by their role (Joyce's moms, Nyx's ex-girlfriend, etc.) rather than by name.

The synopsis clocks in a bit shy of two pages. I’ve seen suggestions that a synopsis should be anywhere from 1-10 pages, but the agent submission pages I’ve visited usually say “Please copy/paste your 1-2 page synopsis here” so that’s the length I went with. And to be honest, I’m pretty pleased with it. I think it does a good job of referencing the stakes while also connecting with the characters and their emotions – but I might be a little biased. I did get a request for more pages from one of the agents I submitted to from the pitch event, so maybe it wasn’t a total dumpster fire.

1 comment:

  1. Synopsis writing is definitely hard. I did one for my current project that clocked in just over one (I think) page, single-spaced, but I've revised my work some more, so I'll have to take another look (though I think the major plot points are the same). I believe "they" used to suggest you should have a one page synopsis as well as a 3-5 page one for agents/editors who were okay with a longer one, but my memory is hazy on that one.

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