another take on the synopsis

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I’ve been thinking about the synopsis and the enormity of smashing my 87,000 word manuscript into a one page document. While the synopsis plan was on a slow burn in the back of my mind, I had a great idea for the beginning of my second novel. I was also in love with Hélène Boudreau’s post on Plotting OCD Style. My idea was a great opportunity to work with Hélène’s typical story flow headings that begin with an Inciting Incident.

As I’m typing away, thoroughly enjoying using the Document Map to work through my Inciting Incident, I thought about how great this very concept would work in writing a synopsis. Think about breaking your novel down to its most basic elements and you have Ms. Boudreau’s headings.

Start your synopsis with the introduction of the protagonist and antagonist, then quickly move to what Ms. Boudreau calls the “Inciting Incident (or the big problem)” and write  a couple of sentences about that. The Inciting Incident will correspond to Act I for those who use the three act novel structure.

Act two will begin with Plot Point 1, which will be your protagonist’s first obstacle. Devote a few sentences to Plot Point 2, which is your protagonist’s second obstacle, then take the synopsis to Plot Point 3, the third obstacle where “the situation is about as bad as it can get.”

Now you’ve reached Climax A where you spend can spend a sentence or two “lighting the fuse” for the action that is to follow. Climax A is where you spend just a little time in your synopsis creating the tension before you move to Climax B then to Climax C.

The final paragraph of the synopsis will contain the third act or in keeping with Ms. Boudreau headings, the Denouement and Resolution of the novel.

By using Ms. Boudreau’s headings, you can break your novel down to the most essential elements or plot points. This is the information you want to convey to an agent or editor about your novel.

A few points to remember when writing your synopsis:

  • The first time a character’s name is mentioned, it should be in all caps;
  • Mention only the major characters in the synopsis;
  • Use either Times New Roman or Courier New 12 point font;
  • Double space the synopsis;
  • Don’t use flowery phrases or try to make your synopsis as nuanced as your novel. You just want to convey two things to an agent or editor: 1) you can write clear, concise paragraphs, and 2) you know what your novel is about.

I have a few links on another post I wrote on Writing the Novel Synopsis. I think I’m going to use Ms. Boudreau’s OCD plotting style to break my novel into synopsis form. How are you going reduce your novel into synopsis form?


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10 Responses to another take on the synopsis

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  2. kat magendie says:

    Oh, the dreaded synopsis — gerk gark gork! but, love this post and this is a great idea – now, if my chaos will only cooperate *laugh*

    • Teresa says:

      It helped me get over the hump of focusing on character, which is what the novel is about and plot, which is what the synopsis is about! 😉

      I’m like you and a bit too chaotic for all this outlining, but it’s really starting to help me focus more on the major issues in my novel. Now if I can just find time to write them! 😉

      Thanks for stopping by, Kat! It’s always a pleasure to see your smile.

  3. jenniferneri says:

    Hmm, it’s been a while since I tackled mine, but sounds like you have it. Main plot points one tow three. Main characters. Setting. That’s it, that’s all. For me, the difficult part was setting the atmosphere with such limited tools.

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  7. Alex Moore says:

    although i believe it’s part of the writer’s job to write the synopsis, and although i know i should suck it up and spend +more+ time on it than my novel, and although i know i shouldn’t complain about the process: i must admit i hate it.

    dare i admit that along about my 3rd attempt, i simply used MSWord’s summarize button? Yeah, that didn’t work either.

    • Teresa says:

      Hi Alex, how nice to have you stop in for a visit!

      I don’t believe that your synopsis should take more time to write than the novel, but I think you were kidding there. 😉

      I do believe on invaluable trick I’ve learned is to have other people look at your synopsis. It especially helps if the person has been involved with critiquing your novel. Then ask them what the novel is about. You may be surprised at what you hear. 😉

      I think the OCD Plotting helped me to focus on the very important issues in my plot. I didn’t restrict myself too much in the first draft of the synopsis. As I edit, I hope to whittle the whole thing down so I can give it to another person who is familiar with my novel. They’ll be able to help me shave more of the excess information off.

      It’s time consuming, but like the query, it’s well worth the process. It really helped me narrow my focus on what my novel was about too. I look at it as a way to expand my writing abilities.

      I did try using the summarize button just to see what would happen, and I was really surprised — not in the happy “oh my, look at that!” kind of way, either.

      Thanks for stopping by, Alex!

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