The Stinking Synopsis
by Robyn Corum
Life is a grand adventure, don’t you agree?
It’s full of bumps, pitfalls, and opportunities for learning. Some of us, the slow ones, are determined to learn each new thing on our own. And some, the smarter ones, are willing to learn from other people’s life experiences. Allow me to tell you about an interesting thing that happened to me recently.
At the beginning of the year, I completed a 50,000-word novel called, “Melinda Heads West.” I spent a month or so polishing it up and researching publishers. I found one that looked promising. Their publishing criteria seemed to match my book. For initial submissions, they requested a ‘blurb’ and the first three chapters. No problem. I was prepared for that. I carefully worded an email, said a lengthy prayer, and clicked "send."
What a shock when two days later, I received an encouraging email in reply! “This sounds like fun! Please send us a synopsis and the full manuscript.”
My first response was delirium. At that point I didn’t care if they ever published the book—they had liked the first three chapters! That was enough for me!
My next response was: WHAT’S A STINKING SYNOPSIS? A major crash course followed. It took me a week to reply to the editor, and I’m certain that she has seen much better work. Thankfully, she also had the full manuscript, which she evidently liked. I signed a contract on June 22, 2012.
But let’s talk about that stinking synopsis. For those of us who write full length novels, it’s something that should be talked about a lot more.
What is a synopsis?
Wikipedia says it is “a brief summary of the major points of a written work . . . an abridgment or condensation of a work.” But it’s much more than that.
Linda Needham, a popular romance writer, says it’s “a condensed version of your novel, which must contain a dynamic opening hook, an escalating series of turning points, a strong central crisis, a dramatic climax and a satisfying resolution. NOT TO MENTION detailed character motivations, physical descriptions, a compelling emotional landscape, story and personal goals, rising conflict, backstory, tone, tension, theme, suspense, solutions, location, time period—AND all of this in only two pages.”
That’s all! And it must be written in present tense. And it must tell the WHOLE STORY. (Yes, even the ending.) Whew!
The idea is that editors are busy people. They need to know: a.) if you can write, and b.) if you have a compelling story, without having to read every 250-page manuscript that crosses their desk. There are plenty of resources on the web to help you craft your (stinking!) synopsis. I've listed a few that might help below.
Remember to include your name and contact information, along with the name of the work. Double space throughout the document and use Times Roman 12-point font unless they ask for something different.
For more information, you can check out the following sites:
Good luck! Forewarned is forearmed!
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Melinda Heads West (just released) and Pieces of Her Mind (this fall). In the meantime, you can visit her at: http://www.facebook.com/MelindaHeadsWest or at http://robynsrules.blogspot.com/
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