Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Synopsis Writing Part II

Today you typed THE END on your manuscript.

I can sense you thrill, your elation, your exhaustion! You might want to bask in those emotions for a few days.

When you come up for air and realize now your work needs a synopsis, come back and read.

Because I'll give you a little tip.

If you've taken the classes and struggled through books and still can't come up with a decent synopsis, then you need a few good tricks in your bag to help improve this important selling tool. This is where I part ways with traditional advice. You've heard it. "You show in your book, but in your synopsis you just tell your story." I don't believe that's true. I think you should show in your synopsis, too.

One of the biggest problems that can affect the impact of your synopsis on an editor/agent is emotional distance. Here's the first rule on how to correct that problem. Watch your Point of View (POV). Using "they" is a no-no.

The first draft of a synopsis is usually riddled with 'they' and 'them.' Anxious just to get it out of your head, you end up in a rhythm of they did this and this happened to them. The coupling of your characters then dilutes the emotion and doesn’t let you feel what they are feeling. That’s why it’s important to assess your synopsis for point of view.

There is a simple technique used on a romance synopsis that helps to identify this problem. You need highlighters. Use pink to highlight any sentence in the heroine's point of view, blue for the hero, and green sentences with a 'they' construction. This helps you see at a glance whether you’ve slipped into passive telling. If you use the Villain’s POV, just assign him/her another color. Then be ruthless about eliminating the green.

My usual method is to try for one paragraph in one POV and then the next paragraph, the other POV. Sometimes, it’s necessary to change POV in mid-paragraph and that’s fine too as long as you can group 2-3 sentences together in one POV so the reading stays smooth. The only time I violate that rule is during the “big fight” scene between the hero and heroine, the one at the end where they fight and break up or are just at total odds with each other and as a reader you wonder how they will work it out. In order to simulate that fight, mix up the POV – one sentence pink, one sentence blue, pink, blue, pink, blue. What you end up with is a he said/she said simulation of an argument. You can do the same with a confrontation with the villian if you are using his/her POV. As long as the sentences are short, you’ve let the editor right into the middle of the argument and that’s good.

I read somewhere once that the opening of a synopsis should keep them reading, but the closing of a synopsis should make them buy it. This little technique leaves the emotion of the story lingering to the end of your synopsis.

One final note, if you change a paragraph to a particular POV and you’re not sure it’s strong enough, try changing it to the other POV and see what you get. Synopsis writing is about tinkering, fine-tuning, slashing, molding, letting your voice sing off the page.


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