C. A. Pack

Musings & Brainstorms & Rants

The Dread Synopsis

TITLE: The Dread Synopsis
GENRE: Writing, How-to
AUTHOR: C. A. Pack

I was once told by an editor that my manuscript was well-written, which surprised him, because he said my synopsis was “awful.” It’s not that I didn’t try to make that synopsis as professional as possible. It’s just that boiling down an 88,000 word novel into a one-page summary “that reads in the same style as the book” apparently lurks outside my field of expertise. You would think that regurgitating news as 90-second summaries for most of my life would have prepared me for this, but apparently not.

Of course, I now need to include a one-page synopsis in an agent query for another book, but the one I’ve written is long and boring, so I did a little research.

FictionWriters.com (FW) says a synopsis should be a narrative summary of a book with feeling. I can shorten my synopsis, but it will still probably be boring. Or I can imbue it with feeling, but then a lot of the basic story will have to be omitted to keep it down to one page.

FW: The first paragraph should include the hook. At least I did that.

FW: A synopsis should be written in the present tense. Hooray! I think I did that. Hmmm… I’d better check.

Meanwhile, WritersDigest.com (WD) says the synopsis should be written in active voice. Shouldn’t everything?

FW: It should introduce the main characters. Score one for me. I think it would be pretty difficult to write a synopsis without listing your main characters.

Vivian Beck.com (VB) says I need to include each character’s motive, conflict and goals. I don’t think I was that specific.

WD: Include the character’s feelings and emotions to advance the story. Uhhh…

FW: Their conflicts should be woven in. Oops. I’ve been so busy writing the action, I don’t know if I’ve included each character’s conflicts, of which there are many.

FW: A synopsis should be written in the third person. That, I’m sure I did, because I always write in the third person. Even my emails are in the third person… just kidding.

FW: Characters should be sympathetic. Yikes. How am I supposed to include this all on one page? The reader must relate to them and worry about them. Double yikes!!

VB: Each scene needs an action, a reaction, and a decision. I’m starting to feel a little depressed.

WD: A synopsis must convey the narrative arc. I seem to remember that from somewhere…

FW: The synopsis should be written in the same style as the book. Woe is me! This is where I seem to lose it, because my synopsis sounds like a laundry list, devoid of style and grace.

FW: It should not include every character, scene and plot point. Score one for the Capper!

WD: It should have a unique point of view.

FW: You must put in the conclusion of the novel. I would think that’s a given.

FW: Avoid all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Lord knows, I try.

WD: Write clearly. I’m starting to wonder if that’s possible?

VB: Rewrite it until every sentence is perfect. Are any of us perfect?

Then, FictionWriter.com says to SINGLE-SPACE the synopsis if it’s less than a page, but to DOUBLE-SPACE it if it’s more than a page. So a one-page synopsis would be a one-page synopsis, but a two page synopsis would turn into a 4-page synopsis? Do I have that right?

Apparently, I have to go back to the drawing board. I’m starting to think I should forget about looking for a traditional publisher, and instead, independently publish every one of my books. Then I wouldn’t have to bother writing a synopsis for each of them. That would be great, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s much easier to write an 85,000 word novel than it is to write a one-page synopsis.