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Which came first?

There is a whole lot of information on how to write a synopsis.  Go on, google it.  I dare you.

See what I mean?  YouTube videos, DVDs for sale, virtual racks of books, tweets galore from the #amwriting strand.  What is the point of synopses, really?  I’ve been to a bunch of panels with agents.  I’ll bet you have, too.  Agents have different takes on them.

At the first panel I attended, an agent said a synopsis was to check that the writer had finished the book.  Clever!  At a later panel, an agent said that it was to see if there was an ending, and what the ending was.  Note to those whose synopses end in ellipses!  But many a writer is told off for having, indeed, submitted their finished book – hurrah – with a synopsis that does not match it, a synopsis that tales a different tale.  Which comes first – the book you write or the book you want to write… or the book you meant to write?

Well, the book is the egg, of course, but sometimes there’s a chicken of a synopsis impelling you to write it.  I had a reading of my first draft from The Literary Consultancy.  To learn more about what they do for you, why not visit my professional development blog for East Kent Live Lit, where they spoke at a recent networking event.)  OK, advert over.  The reading I received, from the generous Sara Maitland, told me that my draft did not match my synopsis and that without said synopsis she wouldn’t have actually known what happened at the end.  Seems I sank under the weight of my own imagery there in the final chapters… Come on, it happens to the best of us!

Now that I’m a few drafts older, it’s time to square up to the old synopsis and slap it around a bit.  But maybe, actually, I should buy my synopsis a drink.  That was Meg Davis’ advice, anyway, from MBA.  (Another from that link above)  She said a synopsis should feel like the writer is at the pub just telling the story.  That’s all it is.  Just tell the story.  What happens, then what happens next.  Easy, right?  You’ve written the book.  You know what your story is… don’t you?

Sometimes the story changes in the writing of it.  Make sure your synopsis keeps up with it.  Then, just tell the story.

Well, that’s the plan, anyway!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Interesting post. I tend to think of a synopsis as something for public consumption only – for a publisher or my agent to read. Or if I’m entering a book in a competition and they ask for one. I write an outline for myself (or not) but wouldn’t call it a synopsis for me. It seems too official for between the four walls of my study.

    June 22, 2010
  2. Thanks for the comment! Fiction seems to be much more hung-up on synopses, but I think you’re right – once you write one, nobody actually needs one. It seems a document designed only to convince agents. Perhaps they use it for the documents they create for publishers… but maybe I’m saying that just to make the process sound more interesting!

    June 22, 2010

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