Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Now write it short-like

Okay, so lets say you have a 100k word story full of snappy dialogue, compelling characters, and action scenes that keep the reader on the edge of her seat (or maybe you just worked out the idea and need to write a proposal.) Now, distill it into a two page synopsis. Oh, but while you are pulling out your hair trying to turn 100,000 words into a mere 500, remember to make sure your voice still comes through. Oh, and show the full progression of the plot. And make sure the reader gets a feel for your character. And your motivations should be clear. And watch out for leaps of logic. And...


If you can't tell, I'm not a big fan of writing synopses. I bang my head on the keyboard, a lot, and once the delete key is permanently imprinted into my forehead, I still have more words/lines/ideas to tighten so that I can create a snapshot long version of my plot. Recently, I have been surrounded by synopses. I wrote one three weeks ago for my 'pet project', last week the Tri Mu worked with NLBerger to get her query packet (including a synopsis) ready, and this week I have to finish up my proposal for the second book in my Haven series. Over the course of these, I worked out a 'paint by number' type of approach to writing a synopsis. It's probably not the best method for writing one, but it preserves some sanity. If you are interested, below is the 'recipe': (**note, this is just one idea for how to write a synopsis, and probably will not work for everyone.**)

Pre-synopsis writing: (yes, all good recipes include prep work.)

-Write one to two sentences that encompass the main idea of the book.
This is basically a micro blurb. So, for Once Bitten, these sentences would be something like: "Kita Nekai, a runaway shapeshifter and the smallest of her kind, is accused of creating a murderous rogue. She has two nights to hunt this rogue and prove her innocence, or her life, and the lives of her friends, will be forfeit." Not great, and it leaves a lot out, but it captures the major plot. Let's keep moving.

-Write a sentence that connects the reader with the main character and tells the reader where your character is in the beginning of the book.
If you are writing a story with two main characters, like a romance, you will have two of these lines. You should be looking for what makes your character unique as well as what will push him/her into the story. "Kita Nekai, a shapeshifter with the unfortunate second form of a kitten while the rest of her clan shifts into lions and tigers, has fled her world to blend in among humans."

-Next summarize the conclusion of the main plot in one or two sentences
Okay, I'm obviously not going to give you the conclusion of any of my stories, but lets use, uh, Dracula: "Van Helsing's group tracks the count back to his castle and kills him. As Dracula turns to ash, the spell on Mina is broken and she and Johnathan go on to live happily every after." These sentences are not meant to be epic, just to wrap up the main plot.

-Next write five sentences. Each should mark a major point in the main plot.
You might think of these sentences as the inciting incident, the first turning point, the mid point, final turning point, and the black moment/climax. If you're not sure what those terms mean, or what those points are, you can also just pick out the five most important scenes. (They will probably end up being the same.)Try to limit these sentences to the main plot and keep them simple. The goal is to capture the plot progression. Going with my Dracula example above, some sample sentences might be "Johnathan Hawker realizes he is prisoner in Dracula's castle" or "Dracula creates a flesh and blood bond with Mina." Keep it simple. Also, as you go along, see if all of these sentences relate back to your micro blurb you created first.

Okay, so now you have all that pre-work written but you still don't have a synopsis. Time to put it all together.

Writing the synopsis
Character is who/what the reader latches onto, so copy that line you used to introduce her and make that the first line of the synopsis. Now, it might not be the snazziest line, but we can fix it later.
So, we have a character, next use a line or two to kick off the story. Don't get into a lot of detail, just a sentence or two. Once done, you probably just crossed the first plot point sentence. Look at the second plot you listed, and write two to three sentences to get to that point. Once there, expand that plot point sentence a little, but don't go overboard, you shouldn't use more than three sentences. Once you are done with that plot point, move to the next in the same way. Once you reach the black moment/climax, spend several sentences expanding on that and then move on to the conclusion. You should now have a very rough synopsis of about two pages.

Now go back through and look for leaps in logic. You will probably have a couple extra characters you need to explain and some small things here and there between the steps. Try to do each of these in only a sentence or two. So far you've only focused on the main plot, but at this point, if you have room, you can gently weave in subplots. Once the synopsis reads logically, begin your micro edit. Focus on using active verbs, varying your sentences, and all those other good writing tips you use in your novel writing.

That's it. You now have synopsis and hopefully at least most of your hair. ^_^ Good luck! I am now off to take my own advice and finish the HB2 synopsis.


purpleprose 78 said...

Excellent post! It also helps to have someone yelling at you when you say, but I can't do it!

Kalayna Price said...

Yes, maybe I should mention that this process works best when you have a critique group pushing you on? LOL

haricot vert said...

cool post.
nicely written, and i will take that recipe (/yoink!) to see how it will work for stasis et al. :)