We Have a Synopsis (draft)!

Yesterday I (finally) completed my first draft of the synopsis of Dragon.  The technique that finally worked, after all of the different starts I tried, was to use the brief novel summary from my query letter along with my chapter summaries.

I was aiming for a single page, double spaced.  I let myself write past that and then went back and did an initial revision to pare it down to one sheet.  If you’ve never written a synopsis, the advice that I got was to include the end of your novel.  It makes sense, if you think about it.  An agent or a publisher needs to know that you have a complete concept.  They are used to spoilers, if you will, and are more likely to see you as a professional if you include the entire story in your synopsis.

When it comes to characters, the final verdict is that only three got named.  Those three would be protagonist, antagonist, and love interest.  Two others were mentioned specifically, albeit in passing and generically (as in “an elf”), and several got a single mention together as a team.  There’s obviously a lot more depth to the novel, but that’s the difference between 342 words and 55,000.

It’s just a draft, so I’m going to revise it at least once or twice before I submit it, but at least it’s finished.  Revising it will be much easier than writing it!

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Why didn’t I think of that before?

I just realized that I don’t have to start my synopsis from scratch.  I already have a place to start.

My query letter includes both the “back of the book” description and a slightly longer description that has a bit more depth.  That description is where I’m going to start.  It doesn’t have the end of the story, which I need to include in the synopsis, and several major plot points are vague out of necessity.  I think that taking those places and adding details will be exactly what I need to do to get a draft of the synopsis done.

As always, I’ll keep you updated.

Describe it for me

I like words.  I like playing with words.  I use words in writing, in presentations, at work and in my down time.  While I sometimes struggle with the best way to phrase something, or lose a word for a minute (mundane, anyone?) but words rarely escape me.

So why can’t I ever find the right way to describe my stories for people?

Right now I’m fighting my way to a synopsis, which is proving a bit more challenging than I anticipated.  This isn’t just a current problem; when I’ve tried to give people a quick summary of the tale, I find myself struggling to capture the concept.

This seems to be mostly a problem with my own stories.  I can usually summarize a book or a movie for someone, although perhaps not as eloquently as others.  I can usually find a single sentence or two (like the short version I posted a couple of weeks ago).  It’s the longer synopsis, the one that goes to agents, that I’m finding difficult.

Maybe the answer is right here, in what I just wrote.  Maybe the trick is to think of it as someone else’s story, rather than my own.  We’ll see if that helps.

Training

I’ve been slowly working my way through chapter summaries for Dragon, and I’ve discovered something that will make my life easier when it comes to the final synopsis.  The main character spends several chapters in training.

Now, it is interesting training.  Rather than drone on with a lot of repetitive stuff (which is what training is, right?) there are snapshots of her training.  Everything we see is new and interesting, helps develop her relationships and reveals a bit more of who she is.  She’s also learning cool things.   Flying in a thunderstorm?  Intricate magic work?  Dragon battle training?  Yes, please!

The thing about it is that, while every chapter is unique and revealing, it’s all still training.  This (theoretically) makes the synopsis a bit simpler, as I need to summarize all of it and pull out one or two moments that are key to the plot later on.

We’ll see if that’s really how it falls out.

Finding What’s Important

I am an author, and one that is very character-driven.  This means that, by definition, I am attached to every character in my story in some way.

Some advice that I found about writing a synopsis said to leave out anything that isn’t key to the story, including side characters.  This is valid advice, but I now feel like a parent being asked to choose between my children.

Ok, that’s not fair, since I’ve never been a parent and I have no idea what it would be like to choose between children.  I still feel bad about leaving characters out of the synopsis.

For now I’m working on chapter summaries, finding the key actions and emotions from each chapter. It’s hard enough to leave out plot points and sum up the entire chapter in two or three sentences.  I’m bracing myself for the difficult decision of cutting those down, until all that’s left is the key points of the story.  Fortunately, unlike Butterflies, the layering of characters is more distinct.  It shouldn’t be too hard intellectually to know which kids get to stay, even if my emotions want to give everybody a mention.

Summing it up

The agency that I want to query wants a one-page synopsis of Dragon.  I wrote the very short blurb for the query letter, as well as a more detailed (but still short and somewhat vague) paragraph about the book for the query letter.

Now I need to write an actual synopsis.

I just finished re-reading Dragon, so I should be in a good spot for writing a synopsis.  The trick is to not just list what happens, but to capture the essence and emotion of the story.  It also needs to be excellently written.  After the query letter, this is one of the only chances I get to impress the agents.

Looks like I have a new project!

 

With a Little Help…

I need to write a short, intriguing summary of Dragon to go in my query letters.  The one I wrote for the “Novel Synopses” tab is nice, but not good enough.  I have a new one, and I’d love your feedback!!  Here it is:

“Do you ever feel like you’re in the wrong body?”  Ann Waters reached adulthood living with the constant sensation that the shape of her life didn’t match her true nature.  When an heirloom necklace brings on dreams filled with flight and fire, she suddenly finds herself feeling closer to whole and yet brimming with questions.  The gift of the dragon pendant eventually leads her to a new realm where she discovers secrets about her true self and takes on a mission that only she can complete.

So… what do you think?  Should I share more of the plot, or less?  Do you have any suggestions regarding grammar, word choice, etc.?   Would you read the book if that was on the back?

Thank you in advance for your kind assistance and constructive criticism!

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