Monday, March 3, 2008

Oh Noes, the Dreaded Synopsis

Tip of the Day: Even though the plural of octopus is octopi, the plural of synopsis is not synopsi. I think it should be.

I’m considering applying for the SCBWI Work in Progress grant, but that means I need to write a synopsis.

A synopsis! Arrggh, anything but that! Help me!

I hate writing synopses. I know, everybody does. In fact, I’m using the grant to force me to write the d@mn thing, because otherwise, I probably never would. And a synopsis is a good thing to have. Keeps you on track and all that. Focus. Emotional arc.

Aaah, I don’t want to do this, I can’t do it!

Okay. Breathe in, breathe out. I have an outline. I’ll start from my outline. I’ll just read this baby for the major conflict points and … OMG, this isn’t an outline! I thought this was an outline? This is a series of sentences unconnected to each other by any cause and effect whatsoever! Seriously, this is direct quote from my so-called outline: “Are they watching a game? Should Vinny act like he likes Celia here? Also—earlier.” I don’t know what I meant by “earlier.” Possibly this means I should move a section of the outline to earlier in the book, possibly it means I want an additional, earlier interaction between Vinny and Celia, or possibly it means I should have started writing this book before my kids were born.

My outline describes little chapter files all over the place. I need to run a disk defragmentor over it. An outline defragmentor. Of course, that would be my synopsis, wouldn’t it? D@mn, d@mn, d@mn.

Here’s something else to stress about: I got lost trying to articulate the spot where my main character think she’s solved the problem but she’s made it worse. I know where, towards the end, she thinks she’s solved the problem. She has a power she doesn’t want and she gets it taken away. It turns out she’s going to need that power to save her friends. So far, so good. But wait … how exactly does her power save the day? Is her nemesis too powerful for this to logically work? Does she use the element of surprise? The more I stare at this, the more my plot is falling apart.

Anyway, send your synopsis advice along if you think I’m strong enough to take it. Or chocolate. Yeah, maybe you should just send chocolate.

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer


Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

Oh, Kate...I feel your pain. I HATE the synopsis. Curse thou foul toad!

I've asked for advice on many occasions. I think the most consistent advice is to think of the synopsis as a summary of your character, not your plot. Of course bits of the plot have to come into it, but it's more about the emotional journey your MC takes. How does she grow? What are her limitations and how does she overcome them? What is the driving conflict?

I would use your outline as a serious of guideposts rather than destinations. What are those events telling us about the journey?

I don't know if that makes any sense at all, but I hope it gives you some ideas. Good luck!

Jessica Burkhart (Jess Ashley) said...

Oooh, those aren't fun! Have a sweet and salty snack and see if that helps. :)

Emily Marshall said...

Yep, synopsis aren't that fun to write. I like Ghost Girl's advice to concentrate on character instead of plot (definitely don't do just a plot summary, you'll kill yourself trying to fit it all in). Focus on the main points and main conflicts and how those are resolved.

Good luck on finishing and on your grant!

Kate Fall said...

Thanks. I think you guys are right about character. Think character. That makes me feel a little better ... mmm, salty snacks.

DeenaML said...

That's a good idea, focusing on character! I never thought of that -- man! Too late now -- I already sent in my application. Now Kate's gonna get the $ instead of me! :)

Misque Writer said...


Yup, hate 'em.