Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! The wonderful and talented Nan Reinhardt is visiting this week and commiserating over a common woe of many writers. You know, that one thing that's easier to write about than to write?
Take it away, Nan!
Today, I spent the morning writing the synopsis for novel four in the Women of Willow Bay series. I’m trying something new—writing the synopsis before I write the book. It feels backassward, but once I started this book, I realized it’s going to be pretty plot-driven so I think I need to find my way before I write it. I’m already struggling with this synopsis, but that’s nothing new. I’ve always suffered over synopsis writing. Logically, you’d think that if one has completed four novels and has a pretty decent start on the fifth, 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.
But, for what it’s worth, here’s my method for writing a synopsis after a book is done. 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.
I try to start with the setting for the story, sort of like the intro in Star Wars, “Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Get the idea? Then I introduce my characters and their conflict. What follows is how they resolve that conflict and how they get to happily ever after. I write and write until I’ve told the whole story in present tense.
After I’ve gotten it all down, I go back and start taking out what feels extraneous. Ask yourself, “Is this crucial to understanding what my story is about?” 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—that scene follows scene clearly—and that I’ve stayed in the present tense throughout. Trust me, it’s very easy to slip into past tense when you’re writing a synopsis.
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, who will take it apart, edit, and comment and then it’ll be my turn again. I consider her edits, accept changes I think make it work better (most do!) and reject what I don’t want to use.
Synopses are critical if you’re looking for an agent. She (or he) will read it to see if she’s interested enough to read the whole manuscript. When she sends it to editors, no doubt they’ll read the synopsis before they even open the manuscript file. This is where you hook them, where you create enough interest that they want to take a look at your book.
Synopses are also significant because they give an editor a feel for your 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 to the novel itself?
Synopses are important…that’s why I suffer over them. But, later this week, as I sit waiting anxiously to get my crit partner’s comments and edits, I’ll be cringing because I have to do the blurb next. Eeeek…my story hook in only 50 words? Not hardly…but I can do this, and so can you.
But writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!) and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! She’s still writing romance, but now from the viewpoint of a wiser, slightly rumpled, menopausal woman who believes that love never ages, women only grow more interesting, and everybody needs a little sexy romance.
Visit Nan’s website at www.nanreinhardt.com, where you’ll find links to all her books as well as blogs about writing, being a Baby Boomer, and aging gracefully...mostly. Nan also blogs every Tuesday at Word Wranglers, sharing the spotlight with three other romance authors.
Talk to Nan at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with writing the synopsis before the book, Nan, and thanks for sharing! The last time I tried that method, my synopsis had to be almost completely rewritten by the time the book was done. Ugh. What works for you may not work for me and what works for one story may not work for another. Flexibility and no single correct way make writing interesting!
Romance...With A Kick!