Writing a killer plot synopsis is probably going to kill me

I truly despise writing plot synopses. They are the bane of my existence. Now, it’s not that I mind summarizing things. That part I enjoy. But a synopsis—like the kind that goes with a query to an agent—those drive me nuts. I’ve written them over and over and I can never capture the emotion behind a story. I think I get too caught up in the plot. Or I’m too easily entertained so the portions of a story I think are important aren’t actually essential.

Synopsis writing is an art form. And I understand the how behind it. But for some reason I can’t seem to translate that how into actual practice.

So this is going to be my focus for a while, teaching myself how to write synopses. The funny thing is that every writer I talk to hates them just as much as I do. Why is that? Is it because you have to strip your story (the precious creation you’ve nurtured since infancy) down to its bare bones? Well, maybe.

Honestly, I think writers so despise synopses because there are no solid rules on how to write them. You can read 12 rules on how to write synopses and take away 27 different ideas and methods when you’re finished. And as much as we deny it, writers need solid rules so we know how far we can bend the laws of grammar and style before we break them.

I’ve been reading blogs on synopsis writing and some agents really offer good ideas and links to a lot of materials. But no one really seems to agree on how many pages or how many words or how much time to devote to each portion of a story. That’s probably good, though, because every story (and every writer) is different. Everyone has his or her own voice, and that’s probably what agents/publishers are looking for. They don’t just want a book to sell; they want an author to sell.

Here is some of what kept me up way too late last night:




I mean, obviously, the whole thing needs to be devoid of spelling and grammar errors. That’s a given. And again, obviously, if you can’t sum up your novel in 500 words, it’s probably too complicated (probably; not definitely).

So I should be able to sum up my story efficiently but still maintain enough punch to get people interested in it, shouldn’t I? So why is it so hard? I’ve chopped the crazy monster down to 86,000 words so summarizing it in 500 shouldn’t be difficult. Well . . . scratch that. It’s not difficult at all. But it’s not supposed to be just a summary. It’s a synopsis . . . attached to a query letter . . . being sent to an agent. And that’s what makes it complicated in my mind.

Thing is, it’s probably not complicated. It’s like everything else we are afraid of. We make it bigger and scarier than it actually is. Honestly, we just need to do it.

So . . . that’s my plan. I’m just going to do it. And we’ll see what happens.

A.C. Williams

Amy Williams left a lucrative career in marketing to write novels about space cowboys, clumsy church secretaries, American samurai, and alternate dimensions. Along the way, she also discovered a passion for teaching other creative professionals how to use technology to make life easier. Through video instruction or one-on-one coaching, she teaches software, blogging, basic graphic design, and many other useful skills that help creative entrepreneurs get stuff done minus the frustration.

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  1. I think you said it perfectly with the idea that its difficult to take your story and strip it down to the bare minimum. After spending so much time painstakingly developing every detail, its torture to give all that up.

    The funny thing is I can do a synopses on any book other than my own. On my blog I write about books not only because I love discussing literature, but also for practice. If I can write a synopsis for Jane Eyre, I can certainly do it for my little novel, (one of these days!).

    Great post! 🙂

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