Monday, November 13, 2006

Creating a Synopsis

I have finished my first novel and am embarking on the
terrifying process of trying to find an agent. I have
been researching how to write a good synopsis.
However, nowhere have I found an answer to my
question: should my synopsis narrate events in
chronological order? Or should it narrate events in
the order in which they occur in the novel? The two
are not the same, in my case. The story takes place
over a span of 60 years, and is told through
alternating points of view, so a chapter set in 1949
might follow upon a chapter set in 2005.

That's a tough call. I don't pay particular attention to a synopsis unless I have to, but I know a lot of agents and assistants do. I would say .... it depends on how often you flip back and forth, because you don't want to be writing "Meanwhile, in the future" all that often. I wrote a manuscript with two parallel storylines - one involving a news reporter in 1996 and one involving his brother in the year 2016, and honestly, I would probably be stumped on a synopsis, and then eventually end up just writing it the way it appears in the book. There's not a hard and fast answer to this question that I know of. You may want to check with some other agent's blogs.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Synopsis Writer, here's a suggestion based on my experience.

Start with a chapter by chapter synopsis. Try to get each chapter down to two or three sentences, if you can. It'll be too long and too indepth, but you'll have all the major plot points down on paper.

Next look for places where chapters can be lumped together in the name of plot. Take three or four chapters from one timeframe and try to condense them into a few lines or one short paragraph. That should separate out the information you don't need for a synopsis.

The idea is this--you want to convey that two things are going on but you also want to give enough of one part of a story at any give time so the synopsis reader doesn't feel detached from the story.

You'll want to indicate in your query letter that your book is structured with alternative viewpoints. Ideally, your last paragraph will demonstrate how the two timeframes converge to create a cohesive story.

It took me about a month to get a decent synopsis ready--hopefully my suggestion will shorten your time.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah--and give it to people to review who haven't read your book.

They'll tell you if it sounds like you're describing a dream (which isn't a good thing. :) )

Dave Fragments said...

Read through a the "Face Lifts" on the Evil Editors blog

These will give you an idea of what an editor or agent is looking for.

Also, if you look in The Rejecter's Links for Miss Snark and read through her Crapometer on queries. It's very educational to see what is wrong.

Anonymous said...

For the short synopsis, why not start each new paragraph with the year? Single space paragraphs and leave an extra space before you start a new one. It's going to be very difficult, however, to fit on one page.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should have been "alternating viewpoints" in my first post.

Sheesh. I need more coffee.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rejecter, as well as everyone else! This helps me a great deal. I was beginning to think I was the only one who had ever encountered this problem...

Divaberry said...

Okay, I know this was posted years ago, but reading it now I just have to wonder: what was the synopsis like for Timetraveler's Wife? That must have been utterly insane...