Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Dreaded Synopsis

© Marta Stephens 2009 all rights reserved

A condensed statement or outline.”
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (7th ed.)

I can type a 100,000-word manuscript in a matter of months, but ask me to write a 1,000 word synopsis and my heart starts to pound and my palms will get clammy. Why? Because the synopsis has to be tight, concise, and complete and that’s not always easy after spending months of writing descriptions, imagery, and dialogue.

The intended use of a synopsis is to give the editor/publisher a succinct understanding of the story. The synopsis must be written in present tense and in one flowing narrative—not broken into chapters or sections. It’s an abridge account of the entire manuscript from beginning to end including the “who done it.” It unmasks every plot point, every clue, the motivation behind the characters’ actions, and highlights the main points of the story without dialogue, imagery, or unnecessary details and yes ... it must reveal the ending. When working within a limited word count, (look to the publisher’s guideline), it means each word must count. The writing has to be clean and tight in order to fit in all the action.

Other uses:

I draw several “road maps” before I start to write. I chart my plot, write bios and background stories for each important character, and get into the mind of the killer because that’s where the story really starts. With the crime. This is where a draft synopsis comes in handy. At this point, it is a completely flexible document that helps to illustrate where the story should go and keeps me on track of the key points and the story’s timeline—markers if you will, as I write. However, the story will change continuously as the novel evolves and so, once it’s finished, I'm faced with writing the final dreaded synopsis. Why dreaded? Because the success and publishing future of my manuscript, is riding on those “perfect” 1,000 words.

PS: Don’t ever post your synopsis!!

About the author:

Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK)THE DEVIL CAN WAIT – (2008) SILENCED CRY (2007), Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)


Sheila Deeth said...

Love the PS.

Marta Stephens said...

Hi Sheila. Yup, my skin crawls when I read book synopsis posted on social sites, etc. Post the blurb but not the synopsis! :0 It gives the whole book away.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

This gawd often rash shows up btw my thumb and my index finger when I have to write one. Then my skin gets itchy. Oh, yeah, and my eyes water.

Good post, Marta. As usual. Anybody ask me a question about marketing and I send them the link to your page. I tell 'em, "Nobody knows marketing like Marta."

Hey, that has a nice sound to it.

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks for the thumbs up, Joylene and as always, thanks for stopping by! :()

Kim Smith said...

had to jump in and say "me too". egads. i hates 'em, precioussss...