Synopsis Writing is Hard

nan01~ By Nan Reinhardt

* This post originally appeared in December, 2011. But, synopsis writing is a timeless topic that is worth discussing. So here it is again! 

Today, I spent the afternoon writing the synopsis for the third novel, which I finished this week. It’s out to the beta readers, and I already got back one good report. YAY! Now, logically, you’d think that if one has completed three novels and has a rip-roaring start on the fourth, then one could certainly produce a five to seven page synopsis. After all, you wrote the damn books, you’d say, surely it’s not that hard to sit down and tell what they’re about.

Well, you’d be wrong. Synopsis writing is really, truly hard! I sweat bullets over writing a decent synopsis. How much of the story do I include? It has to be enough that an editor can get the flavor of the whole story without getting bogged down in the details. But, I have to include everything that happens to my heroine.  It’s an arduous process, I’m telling you.

First, I reread the manuscript from the beginning straight through to the end all in one sitting, making notes as I go through on what I think is absolutely crucial to include in the synopsis. Then I sit and write and write until I’ve told the whole story. After I’ve gotten it all down, I go back and start taking out what feels extraneous. Then, I go back and cut some more. Then, I go back and tweak what I’ve written, making sure the story is told in a linear fashion and that scene follows scene clearly.

After three rounds, I close up the file and walk away for a while. I need space from it, so that when I reread it, I’ll see it more clearly. I take one more stab at it and then I save the file and ship it off to my critique partner. Sandy will take it apart, edit and comment and then it’ll be my turn again.

Synopses are critical–my agent will read it to see if she’s interested enough to read the whole manuscript. When she sends it to editors, I’m guessing they’ll read the synopsis before they even open the manuscript file. This is where I hook them, where I create enough interest that they want to take a look at the manuscript.

They’re also significant because they give an editor a feel for my ability as a writer. I’m not sure a synopsis is a true expression of my voice, but it probably gives an editor a taste of whether or not I can tell a story. After all, if I can’t tell the story of my own novel succinctly and clearly, why would they bother to move on the novel itself?

Synopses are important…that’s why I suffer over them. But,  as I sit waiting anxiously to get my crit partner’s comments and edits, I’m  cringing because I have to do the blurb next. Eeeek…my story hook in only 50 words? Not hardly…but I can do this. I can because…I am a great writer…I am a great writer…I am a great…

Hi, I’m Nan and I’m a writer of sexy romance novels for older women. Yeah, women still have sex, even after 45! Imagine! I’m also a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and grandmother to a precious boy and a sweet golden retriever. I’ve been an antiques dealer, a bank teller, a stay-at-home mom, a secretary, and for the last fifteen years, I’ve earned my living as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

But writing is my first and most enduring passion. I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t writing—I wrote my first romance novel at the age of ten. It involved a love story between the most sophisticated person I knew at the time, my older sister (who was in high school!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. I’m still writing romance, but this time from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, menopausal woman instead of a starry-eyed preteen.

I’ve completed three novels; Rule Number One, and the first two novels in the Women of Willow Bay series, Once More From the Top and Sex and the Widow Miles. The third book in the Women of Willow Bay series, The Summer of Second Chances, releases in March 2015. Like Jo March (Little Women), I write late at night, after the editing gig work is finished for the day and my household is asleep.

7 thoughts on “Synopsis Writing is Hard”

  1. I’m not sure a synopsis is a true expression of my voice, but it probably gives an editor a taste of whether or not I can tell a story. After all, if I can’t tell the story of my own novel succinctly and clearly, why would they bother to move on the novel itself?

    WOW! What a truth that may be hard to hear, but at the same time something very much worth considering. Whether writing a synopsis, blurb, or the final one-liner, I’ll remember your words.

    Thanks, Nan.
    Jillian Jacobs

  2. I’ve only written one synopsis and wish I had this advice before I submitted. I re-wrote it a couple times but now feel I should have given more attention to the whole (grueling) process. Thank you for this post Nan!

  3. I think the problem is they are indeed dry and there’s no way around that. We just have to get the facts in there and hope for the best, I guess. Hugs, mon amie!

  4. Yes, what Roben said. However, I still think all mine have a lot in common with that toast. I’ve tried looking at it as an editor would, and that hasn’t worked either. Great post, Jo March!

  5. Yep. I hate writing the synopsis too, Nan. I try to think of them as opening (showing character) turning points at the end of each act, black moment, resolution. Then I cross my fingers and deep breathe and pray it isn’t as dry and boring as cold, unbuttered toast.

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