Friday Speak Out: The Stinking Synopsis, guest post by Robyn Corum

Friday, October 19, 2012
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!

* * *

Robyn Corum lives in a small town in North Alabama and thinks big thoughts. They scream at her until she writes them down. Robyn has three children, one son-in-law and a perfect husband. Look for her books, Melinda Heads West (just released) and Pieces of Her Mind (this fall). In the meantime, you can visit her at: or at


Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Sioux Roslawski said...

Robyn--Thanks for the information, and for the links. I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year--for the second time--and hopefully, this one will NOT end up being a steaming pile of poop. If it ends up workable, at some point in the future, I might be writing a synopsis.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Congratulations on the release of your new book, Robyn! I see you're published with Crimson Romance. I've heard they are great to work with.

Good advice on the synopsis. They are essential and what helps you sell your book. It didn't occur to me that they are all written in the present tense, but it makes sense. It adds urgency.

Is your second book with Crimson Romance as well?

Margo Dill said...

Congrats on the book, and I can't agree enough about the adjective of STINKING in front of synopsis. In a rejection, I actually had an editor tell me that i needed to work on my synopsis. This is probably true, but I hope that my rejection wasn't just because I can't write a STINKING synopsis. :) That's a skill I need to practice.

robyn corum said...

I wish you the best of luck, Sioux. It's amazing what that pressurized writing environment can create. No poop this year! That's our mantra!

robyn corum said...

Hi Angela! It's a new experience, working with Crimson Romance, but so far, I love it! (What's not to love, right?)

The links I provided are some of the best I've found to help with that (stinking!) synopsis, so keep those handy.

No, my second book is with a group of 17 other women-poets and is published by Omega Publications. Another GREAT company! I've been twice blessed! Please watch for it. It's a humorous/ poignant/tender look at what it means to be a woman today, but in some cool poem forms. Thanks!

robyn corum said...

Margo - you and I are on the same wave-length, girl. My wonderful editor told me that most writers stink at writing the synopsis (I'm assuming because we're used to dragging things out a bit more!) and that's why Crimson also asks for the full manuscript ALONG WITH the (stinking!) synopsis. Thank goodness - or we probably wouldn't be having this conversation today! *smile* I hope you will give them a try. You can find their submission guidelines at Good luck!

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