Saturday, April 20, 2013

CONFERENCE 2013: Joanna Volpe, "The Dreaded Synopsis"

Joanna Volpe

New Leaf Literary agency head Joanna Volpe wants YOU––yes, you!––to stop freaking out about the S-word.

By which I mean "SYNOPSIS."

For Joanna, and most agents, the synopsis is used in-house, that is, as a tool for agents and editors to help them figure out where your plot is headed. It is NOT, she made clear, supposed to sell your book.

It is supposed to sell your plot. Period.

How does one write this diabolically difficult item?

Like this: (pretend the below is an 8.5x11" paper)

Title of Work                                                                       Genre
Author Name                                                                       Word Count

Your Plot:
End (This is important. You're going to give it away!)

The Rules:
Write in the present tense.
Use 12pt in Times New Roman, preferably
Single-spaced, but space between paragraphs
Characters don't have to be capitalized (that's a movie industry thing)
1" margins around the edges

Do Not Include:
Style, Tone, Voice, Hooks, Setting (unless relevant to plot), backstory (unless relevant to plot)
"Think of this as a book report," Joanna repeated like a mantra. "

As a helpful exercise, Joanna played with the group in a synopsis for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Just you try to figure out how many characters are really necessary for it. (Hint: Can you pare it down to less than five? Four?)

Segueing into a conversation about querying, Joanna gave this analogy:

The synopsis is to a book report as a query is to a movie trailer.

So go think about that.

And please don't freak out!

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