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The Dreaded Synopsis

The dreaded synopsis. Judging by the many, many tweets I see about struggling with these, I’m not alone in dreading writing them. But it’s a necessary evil—sort of like a query, but scarier. When it gets to be That Time (you know, the time when I’ve procrastinated for as long as humanly possible and have no other option but to write it), this is sort of how my synopsis writing process goes:

Step one: Complain to anyone with ears about how hard it is to write one. Probably tweet about it, even. Open a blank word document three or four times, maybe write SYNOPSIS at the top so I feel like I’ve started.

Step two: Open document of the manuscript I’m supposed to be summarizing. Find some way to procrastinate further by ‘getting caught up in reading the ms’ or some other such thing.

Step three: Finally settle in to give it an actual effort. Write a couple of killer sentences. Feel proud. Get a momentum going.

Step four: Write some more clever little sentences, realize I’m closing in on a page. Feel proud for about two seconds until I realize I've only covered about a quarter of the ms, and at this rate, the synopsis is going to be eight pages long.

Step five: Trudge onward because, well, I kinda have no choice. But after this point, things are a lot more vague, and a lot less well written. If someone were to read it like this, they’d probably think the first third of the book was written and the rest was only outlined.

Step six: Edit the thing until it’s an appropriate length, and until you can tell that the end of the book actually is important to the story. Collapse in relief that it’s over.

So, clearly, I’m not all that qualified to give advice on synopsis writing. It’s one of those things where you just have to do it, and when you’ve finished writing it, you grudgingly admit it wasn’t SO terrible. But to get you through it, here are some helpful links. Sorted into quick, medium, and long reads. And thanks to one of my lovely co-bloggers, Lee Bross, for finding some of these for me!



Guide to Literary Agents (this one has many articles on the subject)

Feel free to share your own helpful tips or links in the comments!
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

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  1. I'm pretty sure you live in my brain. That's exactly how I write a synopsis. Thanks for the links and tips.

  2. Ha, this is SO true. I do dread these and avoid them whenever possible.

    One resource that I've found helpful is "The Sell Your Novel Toolkit" by Elizabeth Lyon -- she has a step-by-step guide (using Wizard of Oz/the hero's journey) as an example. It costs $ but has helped me A LOT.

    Great post and resources!

  3. Everything is great except you got the name all wrong. They are called SUCKnopsis!!!! LOL

    I'm waiting for the template that adds on to Word and will sucknpsize my books for me!!

  4. The title of this post says it all. It really is dreaded, but I'm sort of like you. Once I get going, it's not so bad. It's like exercising. Ha!

    And thanks for all the great linkage!! What an awesome resource. :)

  5. haha Lee I totally wanted to use the word sucknopsis in the title, but I thought maybe I shouldn't plagiarize you ;)

  6. Synopsis what now? *stares at laptop in horror*

  7. Thanks for the post and the links. Elana Johnson left a comment on my blog with a link to your blog. I did a post about writing a synopsis today.


  8. LOL I'm so not looking forward to writing one of these.

  9. ...and they never go away.
    Well, my agent still wants them for my works-in-progress, anyway. Love queries. Hate synopses.

  10. I'm VERY good at step one. LOL! Thanks for the tips - I could use all the help I can get in this area.


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Item Reviewed: The Dreaded Synopsis Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward