Monday, February 8, 2010

Struggling to do a synopsis?

Here's one way of doing the one-page synopsis of your story from the blog of Jennifer Hubbard, author of THE SECRET YEAR:
Once upon a time, I did some posts about synopses. I said there were three basic types I'd encountered: the one-line, the one-paragraph, and the one-page. I proceeded to blog about the first two, and even did a postscript, but then I shamelessly left you hanging on the third one.

As I may have confessed in those earlier posts, I'm not a big fan of the one-page (sometimes it's two-page) synopsis. I can see the value in a one-liner: writers get asked all the time, in casual conversation, "So what's your book about?" And the one-paragraph version is useful in a query. But when it comes to going longer than that, I would much rather write the book than write a long synopsis of the book.

Still, we sometimes need to write that kind of synopsis, perhaps for a grant application, or when selling a project that hasn't been written yet.

I've heard of people doing this in a chapter-by-chapter format; that's certainly one way to proceed. I haven't used that format myself, but in writing this post, I looked back at the first successful sample of a one-pager that I did use. It's the synopsis for a project that got me into the Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference a few years ago. Here's the approach I used, FWIW:

  • 1st paragraph: General statement of what the book was (contemporary YA) and what it was about (essentially, the one-line synopsis). Included the "hook" and mentioned the main characters.
  • 2nd paragraph: Described the setup, what the main character wanted, and the first plot complication.
  • 3rd paragraph: Described next plot complication, and described main character's central dilemma.
  • 4th paragraph: Described novel's climactic scene.
  • 5th paragraph: Mentioned subplots and summarized how main character changed.
I also tried to write the synopsis in the same general tone as the manuscript. The synopsis was also accompanied by a three-page writing sample; I used the first three pages of the novel. (For writing samples, it's almost always recommended to use the opening pages.)
Here's more about her book.
Follow her on twitter: @JennRHubbard

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