Synopses Are Difficult

I’m trying to bring my 400 page manuscript down to a compelling 2-5 pages that capture my writerly voice and the important issues and situations of the book.

It’s hard.

I’ve done it twice before.  I wrote a synopsis and edited it for a long time before giving up.  I found some online tutorial-type methods for writing a synopsis and edited that new one for a long time.  I’ve given that version up as well.

Problem is that I have a hard time avoiding telegraphic style while summarizing.  I can’t seem to get away from some version of “and then she, and then he, and then they”.  And when I try, those phrases are lurking silently before and after the telegraphically short sentences of my attempt.

So I’m trying yet another tricky method.  I’m using MS Word’s autosummarize feature to highlight main concepts (or whatever they call it).  Now I’m going through the whole damn book, sentence by sentence, bringing the highlighted bits closer together by summarizing the rest.  It’s a mess and I think some of the highlights are silly, but I have managed to get each chapter down under one page.

That’s the best I’ve done so far while maintaining voice and story.

Once I finish this go-round, I should have a document of between 30 and 50 pages.  I can then read that document and decide whether or not I’ve captured the story in all its abbreviated glory.  Once I’ve cut the book down to 1/8, I can run the autosummarize again and kick some more page-ass.  I need to get this down to 5 pages.

I’ve heard that you can have 2 synopsis pages for every 100 manuscript pages.  That puts me at 8, but I’ve also read that fewer is better.  And I’ve seen literary agents’ submission guidelines requesting synopses of no more than 2 pages.  Or worse, 1 page.

I don’t know.  One page is almost easier than 5.  With a 1 page synopsis, everyone involved knows that you’re leaving out all the little happenings that bring about your ending, keeping only ground situation, change catalyst, main problems, and resolution.  At least I hope everyone knows that.

Anyway, I’ll be posting my new synopsis soon.  When I do, I need to know whether or not you’d choose to read the whole book based on it.  Because that’s the point – getting an agent or editor to request the full manuscript.

Synopses are difficult.


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