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Writing a synopsis is a daunting task that every writer must face. Before you can send your manuscript to an agent, a publisher, or even enter a contest, you need to know how to write a compelling synopsis of your story.
When I sat down to write my synopsis, I had read countless blogs, articles, craft books, and guidelines. While I took away some really good points, all of this conflicting information caused a fair amount of confusion. This is when the synopsis demon in your head tells you, “If you can’t relate your story to someone in an intelligent way, you will never become a published author.”
It wasn’t until I heard someone say, “I’d rather go to the dentist and have all my teeth pulled than write a synopsis,” that everything I’d previously read started to make sense. Maybe it’s my background in nursing, but that extreme statement caused me to think about the synopsis from a different angle.
We need to approach our story much the same as a surgeon approaches a body. He can only remove parts that don’t play a major role for our body to continue functioning properly. As humans, we may think we need everything we were born with, but that just isn’t true.
As writers, we believe every character and subplot we write must be told for someone to understand our story. That also isn’t true. They may play an important part in the overall story, but like a surgeon excises a body-part, we must excise them from our synopsis.
What we have to keep for our story to function properly is the main plot and characters – the hero, heroine, and antagonist. Be sure to reveal the plot turning points and character arcs. Turning points move the story forward. And character arcs breathe life into your story, making them relatable to the reader.
While writing a synopsis is never this cut and dry, here is some of the best advice I’ve received about shortening it to meet guidelines. So put on your surgical gloves and sharpen your scalpel.
There is definitely nothing easy about this process. Writers are naturally wordy people. If we weren’t, a novel would be no longer than a synopsis.
5 important points to keep in mind during manuscript surgery:
Has something resonated with you about this topic that helped you understand this dreaded part of the writing life? We would love to hear about it.