10 September 2009

Synopses pave the road to hell

I've been battling a synopsis for a week now, and the dread beast is winning.

You'd think that creating a synopsis for my latest book would be a breeze. After all, it's a summary of what I just spent the last six months (or year) working on. I just need to tell the story in as few words as possible. Yet of all the activities that come with this crazy business, writing the synopsis is the hardest.

Whether I write it before I begin the book, after I finish it, or while roaring drunk, it's always a tedious, painfully uncreative process that requires me to reduce my intricately woven plot, my complex, three-dimensional characters and heart-rending conflict to a few descriptive phrases that also reflect my voice and writing skill.

Sure. Fine. No problem.

I envy authors who can whip out a synopsis in an afternoon. I honestly can't imagine how they do it. Each time I try to condense my story, I seem to follow the same path. First, I create a 20-page draft that reads like a five-year-old telling a story, i.e. "and then... and then... and then." Eventually, I manage to trim it to about 3 pages, but have to go back and surgically reinsert key turning points so my editor will recognize the book when she gets it.

And no matter how long or diligently I revise, the synopsis always falls far short of capturing the essence of my story. So I rewrite it again. And again. And again.

With each pass, disappointment and frustration breeds in my soul until self-doubt flourishes in me like a glyphosate-resistant weed in a soybean field. After all, if I can't write a decent synopsis, why in the world do I think I just wrote I decent book?

Honestly, synopses are the only thing I don't like about this business. I love the story telling, get jazzed by revisions that improve the story, and even enjoy the self-promotion ( although I'm not very diligent at it). But the synopsis? I'd rather be at the dentist.

Still, the synopsis is a necessary evil, a critical part of the process. It's what you gets your manuscript read if you're unpublished. If published, the synopsis is the critical component of the proposal, the outline that sells your book before it's written.

So I'm curious. What do you do to make the synopsis come together? When do you write it? How?


Unknown said...

KEENA--I dare any editor to say she/he loves to read synopses.As you said, no matter how hard you work on it, and how brilliant your novel is, the synopsis always falls short of depicting the essence of your story. I do not have a magic wand. I do have an easy pattern I found on the Harlequin website--"How to write a Good synopsis." Three parts--begin with a question--well, I can't explain it all here, but even though it sounds easy, I become bogged down anyway.Besides, I can't find it.Celia

Jeffe Kennedy said...

hmm. I'll have to try the roaring drunk method! I paid Laurie Schnebly to do mine. LOVED that solution.

Keena Kincaid said...

Oh, Jeffe, I love that solution, too. What's Laurie's number?

LK Hunsaker said...

"and then... and then... and then..."


I've only tried to do one so far. It's sitting there stuffed behind every other Word file because when I look at it, I'm convinced I need to give up writing and go paint lines in parking lots. ;-)

Liana Laverentz said...

Start small and expand instead of the other way around. Start with a blurb like you get in the TV guide and go from there. One paragraph to one page, one page to two, then three, then five, then ten, layering all the way.