The Dreaded Synopsis

Tell me, how do you write the synopsis to your W.I.P.? Because here’s how my typical synopsis writing day goes. 

First, I remind myself and anyone within earshot of how much I hate writing the synopsis. Then I open a Word Document. After staring at said blank page for about three straight minutes, I toggle over to Twitter and tweet about how I despise the synopsis.

Then, I eat something. After that, I let the food digest. We’ve all heard our mothers remind us to wait twenty minutes after we eat before working on our synopsis. Don’t want any writing-related cramps after all.

Finally, I go back to the blank page and eek out two lame sentences. I berate them. I judge them. Then I take the time to berate and judge myself. You suck, Kerri!

If there is any time left I send my BFF an email expressing my extreme suck-age. And then she tells me over g-chat that I don’t suck and reminds me of her favorite thing I ever wrote, which was my first attempt at a romantic suspense novel and involved a shattered woman, FBI agent and a fat cat. Personally, I think it blew. But seven years later, she still insists it was fabulous.

And then she tells me what she had from Starbucks that day. Usually, a Chai Latte.

Why do I hate the synopsis so much? It’s a part of writing after all. And I love writing! When I’m writing a novel the words just flow from my brain (or heart?) through my fingers onto the keyboard and out to my computer.

But the stupid synopsis? That feels like work. Like school. Except I actually liked school. So like the gynecologist. Yes, that is more appropriate. The synopsis as a gynecological visit.

Or, maybe… writing a synopsis reminds me that I have finished a manuscript. I’ve spent countless hours conceiving of an idea, creating characters and plotting out the best story I can. That means it’s time to send all that hard work out into the world for editors and agents to have the opportunity to reject.

I’ve dreamt the same dream scenario as many of you. You get a call on the first query you send out begging you to sign with that agent or editor. I will be the exception to all of the rejection stories we’ve heard.

But dream time is over. I have to send my baby out into the world. For better or worse. (And then I call my BFF just to hear once again how much she liked that sucky story seven years ago….)

So I ask you, fellow writers: Any synopsis-writing advice?

20 thoughts on “The Dreaded Synopsis

  1. Congratulations on completing your novel! And now the fun begins. Just start. Remember Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird and the “shitty first draft”? this also applies to your synopsis. So try not to stress the first draft to much. There’ll be many more…

    1. Thanks Laurie! You know, you are right. I should congratulate myself on my finished draft. I will go open a bottle of wine now. And who knows – the wine might help with the synopsis writing.

  2. Kerri,
    I hear you. I always wonder how am I going to condense a 100k novel into 2-5 pages. Someone told me to take it a chapter at a time and like doing those dreaded outlines we had to do in English 101 break it down by the action/main scene in each chapter that moved the story along. Just brief bits of each chapter. I always hope for at least five page synopsis because anything less than that and I’m not sure how to write my pitch.

    That was hard for me–I agonized over my pitch for a week or more. I guess the shorter the condention the more difficult. I was one of those geeky kids who when the teacher said “Do a 10,000 word essay”–I was like cool–only 10k? I have problems with short stories, novellas and category but I’m trying for a category with the series I’m working on. (Though I alwasy say that and end up with a single-title.)

    Great blog! Funny too!

    Loni Lynne

  3. Good luck, Kerri! Put your butt in the chair and don’t get up until you have that “shitty first draft.” And then reward yourself lavishly.

    1. I’m all about the rewarding part of this equation. Thanks, P-Mermaid! 😉

  4. Great post, Kerri – Your post title made me think of the book I own with the same name. I’d love to say it’s a great book, but I never finished reading it… and the synopsis remains a tough one for me as well. But I like your two lame sentences. It’s a start!

    What if you started with your elevator pitch? And typed it out. And then typed the pitch you would make in an editor/agent session? And then made it a 2-page pitch, because the editor is so fascinated they keep asking questions. And so on…

    Or, what if you g-chatted the story to BFF and then used the transcript of that as the basis for your synopsis?

    And I agree with Pin, reward yourself lavishly.

    1. Good suggestion on the elevator pitch! That’s a great way to start it! 😉

  5. Oh, Kerri! I feel your pain, sister! I DESPISE the synopsis. The only thing I hate more than the synopsis is the query letter. I wonder what we could do to secure an agent and editor without those two?!
    I’m going to start a workshop for that. LOL. Don’t know too many writers who will find it beneficial, but at least it could be a major bitchfest about the topic. One to two hours venting is always good. 🙂 BYOC. Bring Your Own Chocolate.
    Are you in?

    1. You KNOW I’m in for that! Get an agent without a synopsis or query letter? Hmmm, I’m thinking interpretive dance. With ribbons. Oh yeah, I’ll start practicing. 😉

  6. Yep, what they said up there. You just gotta bite the bullet and git ‘er done. Several shitty drafts later, you will have the perfect synopsis and then get to experience the joy of writing the query letter, which should be easy by comparison. And know that lots of us are rooting mightily for you.

    1. Thanks Jen! You’re the best!

      I’m much better with the query letter, I must say. I think because I get to talk a little about myself in that one. And I’m soooo good at that. Ha-ha!

  7. You are too funny! I think we all despise the synopsis. I mean how in the heck do you condense so much into so little?! But at the end of the day you just gotta put your butt in the chair and do it. You can’t edit what you haven’t written.

    1. You are right! Still, I will come clean your house if you write it for me… interested? 😉

  8. Guess what? I loved your synopsis even better then that book I read, seven years ago. Is that saved on a floppy disk somewhere? Was that really that long ago?
    I think they should call it something else to make it sound more fun and less like homework. When I read it I thought it was a great summary of your story and so I will call it and future synopsi you submit Story Summaries, SS for short.

  9. And I would like to introduce my BFF, Danielle, to everyone. Ha-ha! Thanks, D.

    I’m thrilled you liked my current synopsis more than that damn book from 7 years ago. Yep, it WAS that long ago!!!

  10. Okay Kerri, so here it goes…I actually like writing the synopsis. Before you think I’m crazy for coco-puffs, let me tell you why. Hmm, okay, that’s a tough one. But here is what I think I want to say. It’s just the same darn thing as you sitting down with your girlfriend and dishing about that Nora book you love or that movie you just watched that you can’t stop talking about now. You love your book that you’ve spent countless hours writing, so therefore you have no other option than to love writing about it…and that my mermaid friend is your synopsis.
    It’s all the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the laughs and the cries. That’s all it is. I promise. And you’re gonna write a really awesome syopsis!

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