The Great Book Synopsis Dilemma

Thursday, August 08, 2013
Surely, one of these books would have an example of the perfect book synopsis!

I swear sometimes if it weren’t for grant applications and writing conference deadlines, I wouldn’t push myself to complete tasks related to selling my fiction. I know it sounds crazy. When you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating the perfect story and spent countless hours revising, you should want to complete any and all steps necessary to make sure your book gets noticed. Right?


The problem is, for me at least, developing a story idea is enjoyable. Trying to come up with an elevator speech and one-page query letter or synopsis? Not so fun. For me, personally, I think I struggle with the mere thought of condensing the gist of an entire book into one or two pages.

This past weekend, I was preparing pages for an upcoming manuscript query I’ve paid for at an upcoming SCBWI Conference. Polishing up the first ten pages for submission? Easy Peasy. Writing a one-page synopsis on said submission? Not so easy for some reason. My voice of reason husband kept repeating the same phrase over and over(“You need to come up with a positioning statement for the book!")to which I simply growled and laid my head upon my desk. I couldn’t figure out if I should lean more toward writing something that sounded like book jacket copy or a straightforward condensed synopsis of the book. Finally, I ended up with a combination of both that I think worked pretty well.

I found this great post by Jane Friedman on the basics of writing a synopsis. Of course, I found it after I already sent my submission off, but those are the breaks. I feel like I probably didn't explain all my characters and their conflicts as well as I could have but in this case, I had a limited word count. A few months ago I had to write a synopsis of a middle-grade novel I'm working on and was able to summarize each chapter of the book, which helped me tremendously.

I wanted to share my story with everyone here as validation that this is something many writers struggle with. Yes or no? Is it crazy that I stress out about query letters and book synopses? Am I overthinking the process? Is it foolish for me to spend time thumbing through books on the writing craft trying to find the perfect example of what I’m looking for? Help!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who loves to blog about books, movies, music, celebrity gossip and writing at Renee's Pages.


Angela Mackintosh said...

You are not alone! I haven't written a book synopsis but I usually do the same thing--panic because the deadline is coming up, frantically search online for any information, ask writer friends what they've done, and finally bang on the keyboard until something is finished.

When we were updating our classroom page, I reviewed the curriculum of Diane O'Connell and Renate Reimann's latest course, Writing Your Novel from the Ground Up, and in Part I of the course, one of the assignments is to create a scene stack and synopsis of your novel. I remember thinking, Isn't the synopsis something that comes at the after you write the book? But then something like this happens! LOL. So I guess it would be best to start with the synopsis in the early stages because you can always tweak it down the road.

Renee Roberson said...

Angela, exactly! I haven't finished this book yet so even though I pretty much know how it ends, writing a synopsis before you finish it is toughie. But every grant application I've ever filled out asks for a synopsis up front so I guess it's something we all need to get used to!

Margo Dill said...

I am not sure if there is a writer alive who doesn't struggle with this! Great link and source. THANKS! And no more banging your head. . .

LuAnn Schindler said...

Maybe I'm lucky(?) but I didn't have trouble writing a synopsis. It could be from all the years of being a speech coach, when I would help kids develop introductions for their dramatic cuttings and needed to pare down a story to a one to two paragraph synopsis.

Still, good advice!

P.S. I got a chuckle out of the picture of books. I have an entire 4 foot bookshelf filled with writing books!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top