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Sunday, November 6, 2016

How to cram 80,000+ words into a synopsis

cj Sez:  For all of my fellow authors who’ve undertaken the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write 50,000 words in thirty (30) days, remember, word by word gets the job done.
Keep On Keeping On !!!

   I’m feeling better than I was last weekend (thanks for asking). In fact, I’m feeling so much better, I’m starting on a synopsis for my work-in-progress. Since I don’t do a formal outline of my story (gasp), I tend to use the synopsis as a form of outline. Someone asked me once how I knew when I’d reached the end of my story if I didn’t know where it was going. The reason I don’t outline is because once I’ve gone through that whole process, I feel as if I’ve written the entire story. I need the excitement of finding outas I writewhat kind of trouble I can create for my characters then figure out how to get them out of it. I write until I’ve solved all the characters’ problems then I’m done. I am, however, beginning to see the advantages of outlining for this mystery I’m writing. I’m researching a few how-to-write sites which I hope will teach me to be less of a pantser, though I like to think of myself as a pathfinder.

   I’ve talked with writers who say they have absolutely no problem creating a synopsis. Not so me.

   As with learning how to outline/plot, I need a step-by-step, how-to, synopsis cheat-sheet and would love to find the one I safely filed away a few years ago. But I do remember some of the important rules. As I’ve said before, some rules are made to be broken, but first on the list is to know what they are. I would never advise a novice writer to break any rules when submitting a manuscript, especially if the instructions are spelled out on an agent’s or publisher’s website. And always, always use the agent/publisher instructions for font, page layout, and number of pages s/he expects.

   So here’s my synopsis outline:

* Write the synopsis in third person, present tense.  Since my stories are written in past tense, I need to keep that directive on a piece of paper taped to the monitor in front of me.

* Start with a hook (the character or the inciting incident) and reveal the story premise. I think of this as my “elevator pitch” . . . the twenty-five words or so words and the amount of time an author has to impress an agent if perchance they should get caught on the elevator together.

* Concentrate on the primary story line, the turning points, and their effects (internal and external) on the characters . . . and do this in the chronological order of the story.

* As for the characters, only include primary characters by name. Use all capital letters on the name the first time (s)he is introduced within the synopsis. Then be consistent with how the character is referred to in the rest of the document. For example, JOHN DOE might understandably become Johnny for the remainder of the synopsis if that's how he's referred to in the novel. Secondary characters can be described by what they do rather than by name . . . the sheriff, the teacher, the doctor.

* Very important is to show the complete narrative arc for the primary character. How (s)he felt at the beginning of the manuscript and how the character is changed by the end of the story. FACT: You must include the denouement in your synopsis.

* Write in active voice. Use strong verbs and words that show emotions, motivations, conflict, and tension.

* Don’t go into lengthy descriptions and backstory in a synopsis. Unless a character’s physical description or age is pertinent to one of the story threads, keep focused on the nitty-gritty of the main story line.

* The synopsis should be written in the same tone (voice) as the novel. If the novel is lighthearted, the synopsis should be also.  

* It looks soooo simple, doesn’t it? One, two, three and done.  Ha!

   Just like every other writer who’s typed THE END on the last page of their novel, I’ll be trying to cram thousands of words and hundreds of pages of manuscript into a concise document that is sometimes restricted to maybe four or five pages. Though I have read that some peak at eighteen pages, depending on who’s asking for the synopsis.

   Do you have any helpful hints on writing a synopsis? I’d certainly appreciate hearing about them.

  And do stop by on Wednesday when guest author Judy Penz Sheluk offers some thoughts on gremlinsthose editing bugaboos we all encounter.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and PLEASE VOTE ON TUESDAY.

PS: Here’s another reminder for a great gift idea to make your holiday gifting $$ go further: Set aside a buck (less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of tea) and buy “More Than Friends,” a bundle of six novels offered by Crimson Romance on Amazon. For 99 cents, you can buy hours and hours of reading enjoyment for yourself, a BFF, or a grab-bag party gift. Check it out at…
Amazon Central Author Page:
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

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