Jennifer tackles the dreaded synopsis
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that authors hate writing synopses. Now, if you’re one of the few who don’t, I won’t call you weird—there are plenty of things that I like that no one else does—but you’re definitely out of the ordinary. Regardless of anyone else’s opinion, I hate them.
My daughter asked me why and I had to think for a moment to formulate my answer. She was sitting on the sofa doing her homework, homework that quite often requires summary writing. And when you think about it, a synopsis is really just a summary. I’ve often told her they’re not that bad, so why is my opinion about a synopsis different from my opinion about a summary?
As I explained it to her, I realized there is a key difference, at least in my mind. Editors and agents use synopses to find out what the story is about, but they also use it to see how you write. Sure, they say they won’t judge your writing style solely on the synopsis, but it’s still something they evaluate. And I find it almost impossible to get my voice and my writing style across in the synopsis. That’s why I hate them.
I can have the most interesting story ever; after writing the synopsis, it sounds about as fascinating as dry toast. One of my critique partners and I were discussing this very topic the other day and we both wished that we could submit outlines instead. They would show we could plot from A to B, come up with an ending, and get the story across just as well.
I attended an RWA workshop several years ago on how to write the dreaded synopsis (that might have even been the title). I keep the tutorial on my computer and pull it out whenever I finish a manuscript. It’s helpful and I’d be lost without it, but it doesn’t make the process any easier.
So last week, I pulled the file out and began following the tutorial—identify your characters. Come up with a one-sentence beginning, a one-sentence ending, a one sentence summary, etc. I was just about to start writing the actual synopsis when I realized I didn’t know how long to make it. Every editor and agent is different, and I’m submitting my current manuscript to my current editor. I searched the submissions guidelines on their website and it said nothing about a synopsis.
Now, I hate being a pest. I avoid almost all conversations on author loops because I don’t want to get pulled into conversations that may inadvertently get inappropriate. I want to be known as easy. And when I have a question, I go either to my editor or to my very good author friend who knows almost everything. In this case, I emailed my editor. Being me, of course I apologized in case I missed it on the website.
Turns out, I didn’t. It also turns out, that as a current author with my publisher, I DON’T HAVE TO WRITE ONE!!! After declaring my undying love for my editor (sure, that’s professional) and doing at least one happy dance, I closed my file and went back to editing my manuscript.
Sure, I’ll put together a small summary, and my plan for the rest of the series, but I can’t begin to describe how happy I am not to have to write the synopsis.
Do you hate it as much as I do? Or is there something else you hate more?