It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a manuscript seeking to be traditionally published, must be in want of a synopsis.
It’s also a truth, universally acknowledged, that most writers visibly cringe when the word “synopsis” comes up in conversation. Don’t believe me? Try it at the next writerly meetup. See how many silent stares of death you receive for simply bringing up the subject.
(Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating – but maybe not).
Truth is, grappling with a synopsis can be as difficult, or more so, than completing the manuscript itself.
Think about it: you’re stuffing your 60,000-word+ story into a couple of pages for the sole purpose of attracting an agent or publisher, who will rely on that synopsis to decide whether or not he/she/they wants to read the rest of that thing you languished over for months, or years.
Almost every writer conference I’ve attended has had a synopsis workshop. Whenever I had the chance, I’d go to it, praying that this time, something would click. Spoiler alert: never happened for me.
Then, I came across this glorious post from Pub Crawl: How To Write A One-Page Synopsis.
Yes, you read that right. ONE PAGE Synopsis.
After cleaning up the tea, I read the post. It includes a lot of great tips, many that I already knew myself, thanks to all those conferences, but all still relevant for anyone who is just getting started.
At the end, she gives us the worksheet, using Star Wars as an example.
I copy+pasted the worksheet into a doc and filled it in with my own draft. It took a couple tries, but then, somehow (magically, might I add), I had a synopsis. In one page.
And it made sense! I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, except the sub plots, which you don’t always need in your synopsis anyway (unless they have a direct effect on the conclusion of the main plot).
A few weeks later, I had a new story idea. As you may know from previous posts, I’ve been grappling with pantsing vs. plotting. This time, I thought I’d try using the synopsis worksheet first.
Magic happened again. I’ve never felt more clear about a plot in my life, but there’s still enough wiggle room for pantsing.
Is this the writing Goldilocks zone? Maybe. We’ll have to see when I start the draft, but I’m feeling pretty good about this. It’s even better knowing that I already have a completed synopsis.
So, for all my fellow writers, I suggest trying this worksheet. It doesn’t matter if you’ve finished your manuscript completely, or if you’re just starting out. Try it. Experience the magic. It’s almost like you’re at Disneyland. (Okay, I’m exaggerating again – maybe).
Has anyone else already used this worksheet? How did it go for you?
Or, if you have other synopsis-writing methods, leave them in the comments below!