Writing a synopsis

This post by Lynette Labelle on How to Format the Dreaded Synopsis made me think of how I wrote the synopsis for Verbosity's Vengeance. My research suggested that a 3-page synopsis is most commonly requested, so that's the standard I used. Mine ended up being about 900 words, well within the other most commonly requested synopsis length, 1000 words.

The software I used for writing, yWriter5, has a pane for you to write a brief description of each scene. I used this for organizing my thoughts as I wrote. Only later did I find the "Generate synopsis" command. It collates and exports all of those scene descriptions as a Word file.

After stripping out the markings of "Chapter 4, Scene 2", or whatever, I found that I had more than 5000 words of description. Editing it down was just what you'd expect: focus on the essentials, cut everything else. It took several rounds of cutting to get it down to under a thousand words. I wrote the synopsis in order to have it ready at a moment's notice when flocks of agents started requesting it. I'm still waiting for that, but I found that one of the most useful aspects of doing this was to identify the slow parts of my novel.

When I had to cut and cut and cut, I looked for the scene descriptions that didn't add anything to the synopsis. That led me to wonder what that scene added to the book. I also found that long chunks of the book were people sitting around talking. In some cases they were building character depth, but others were just infodumping.

Cut.

This distillation also showed me that some plot developments happened without good support, or in a jarring fashion. It led me to write a few new bridging scenes, to refocus some characters, and to merge some scenes in order to trade around some dialogue.

Creating the rough draft synopsis was greatly facilitated by the yWriter5 software, but the process of editing it down to three pages was still hard work. However, I can attest to the value of that work, and to the improvements it can engender in your novel.

Anyone with experience writing a synopsis want to chime in? Did you see the same salutatory effect?

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

6 comments:

  1. As Scrivener has similar capabilities, you're giving me an incentive to try it. Having read over drafts, I know I have a bad habit of dropping in abrupt shifts (especially acute in the novellas I've been working on lately), but don't have a good feel for whether/where I infodump too much.

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    1. It's a good tool, which I'd neglected.

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  2. I hate doing the synopsis. Thanks for the handy tip.

    mood

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  3. To me the biggest pain is cutting side-plots. The brief synopses require zeroing in on very few characters, or else they look like random plot-ants.

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    1. No kidding. Entire chapters got whittled down repeatedly, then cut entirely from the synopsis. Made me worry about their overall value.

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