Monday, November 24, 2008

In a Synopsis Mire

Any advice for writing a synopsis for a book that has a very twisty plot? It's all I can do to make this thing sound coherent. Which, of course, makes me wonder if my novel is coherent.

If you know of any tricks, I'm listening. Right now, I'm going to try to give myself one paragraph for each day of the action. That's seven days.


  1. You might try "pulling a thread." By that, I mean take one subplot and identify the big swings, writing just enough to flesh out that storyline from start to finish. Do that for each plot line important enough to include in the synopsis. Then you can stand back and see where they intersect and maybe flesh them out more as you begin to weave them together into the synopsis. It might make it easier to concentrate on just the high points of the plot, while also ensuring you give a cohesive picture start to finish.

  2. Sounds like an interesting technique. Thank you. This might work.

  3. Ok, that helped. It made me realize I was focusing on too many things. I wrote out six brief phrases that outlined the broadest plot points. Then, I crafted a paragraph (or two) out of each plot point. I ended up with seven paragraphs taking up one page. I'm not crazy about it yet, but at least I have a draft of a complete synopsis. I'll work some voice into it over the weekend and maybe I'll have some more queries waiting for some agents on Monday morning, after the holidays.

  4. Are you talking about Starcaster?
    It has a strong plot and is most certainly coherent!
    Don't focus on all the little side plots and diversions which is pretty much with Joely said. Feel free to add some subplot points as your going on along as long as it works with the flow.
    If adding a subplot in a prevoius 'paragraph' prevents the flow to the next major element of the bigger picture, don't speak or speak much about that subplot.

    I'm so excited for you! I have a good feeling about Starcaster!

  5. Yes, it is for Starcaster and I did follow Jolie's advice. I now have something to work with.

    Thank you and I hope you are right!

  6. Excellent, I'm glad that helped! What I personally do is write a sentence or paragraph about the beginning (of each major thread), then the end, and only pick the BIG turning points to cover. If I start at the beginning and try to go through chronologically start to finish, I get hung up on too many details and end up with a neverending summary!

  7. It took me a while to figure out which were the BIG plot points. I did this for my last novel as well, but it was much more straightforward, making it easier to pick out the biggest plot points.

    Now it's time to spit-shine and polish! Thank you!

  8. I had a ton of trouble trying to condense my 150k word fantasy novel into a one-pager synopsis, mostly because it has numerous viewpoint characters (though not so many as GRRM, I really wonder what his synopsis/query must have looked like!). I did a lot of analysis of the book, a chapter-by-chapter and scene-by-scene description on index cards, then just put down one paragraph that hit the main points of each character regardless of chronology. My "short synopsis" is over on my blog if you search under the "The Ninth Avatar" label. It was a lot tougher coming up with an "elevator pitch," but it's just something you get better at after gads of query letters & rejections.


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