Monday, May 7, 2007

Synopis Part 2

by Josi S. Kilpack

Last week I posted about synopsis—what it is, what format to use, why it’s important. This week, will be how to write it.

The first thing I do is finish the book. There are those that write the synopsis first, or midway, or whatever—more like an outline—I don’t. My books change too much during the writing process and I need the whole thing in front of me.

Once the book is finished, and revised, I go back to page one. I read through Chapter One, doing my final proofreading, and when I finish I open a new document and I summarize chapter one into one, maybe two, paragraphs. It will read something like this.

Chapter One
Garrett is looking for an identity, and the seller has several to select from. After reviewing the candidates information, he wants Chressaidia Josefina Salazar, a Mexican American women with no criminal record, US citizenship, and who lives in Idaho Falls. She’ll be perfect and he’s willing to pay ten thousand dollars to own her name.

Then I move on to Chapter Two, proofread, then go into my new document and summarize chapter two.

Chapter Two
The real Chressaidia Josefina Salazar, Chrissy, shows up for her most recent blind date with a chip on her shoulder and a stat sheet in her pocket. At thirty-five, she’s tired of meeting whatever men her best friend Amanda thinks will be perfect for her. This guy is white, wears jeans and a baseball cap, and has a penetrating stare that throws her off guard. However, it’s his quick wit and willingness to spar with words that captures her interest and when all her attempts to put him off are parried right back to her, she wonders if perhaps there is something special about him. After finally coming to terms with the fact that she will likely be single forever, could this guy be THE guy?

And so it goes for every chapter in the book. When you’re finished, you have what’s called a Chapter Outline and typically I end up with one page of outline for every twenty pages of the manuscript. You want to keep this, as it can come in handy later on. Once saved; copy and paste it into a new document—this is the one that will become your synopsis.

The next step is to condense the Chapter Outline down to about five pages. This is the longest synopsis length I have seen requested by editors and agents so it’s the longest one I bother with.

Start by putting the author/book information in the upper left hand corner, single spaced.

Eye of the Beholder
LDS Romantic Suspense—85,000 words
1200 word synopsis
Josi S. Kilpack

Then, change the rest of the spacing to double and start condensing each chapter paragraph into one sentence, maybe two. The first two chapters end up reading like this.

Garrett is in the market for a new Identity, Chressaidia Josefina Salazar is exactly the Identity he needs. At thirty-five, Chrissy is finally making peace with the fact that she might be single forever, until the blind date with Micah topples her defenses and leads her down roads of expectation she thought she’d given up on a long time ago. Amanda has been setting her up for years, and Chrissy’s enthusiasm for these dates is definitely waning, that’s why she does everything she can to put Micah off, convince him she’s not the girl he’s looking for. But Micah doesn’t seem dissuaded and by the end of the evening Chrissy wonders if maybe he is different. Maybe she won’t be alone forever.

Follow this pattern through the entire chapter outline, you’ll end up with close to five to seven pages of information. At which time it’s necessary to polish it, transition the sentences into one another and make sure that the flow is there.

Chressaidia Josefina Salazar is the exact profile Garret is looking for. At the moment her identity is being sold, Chrissy is meeting yet another man on yet another blind date that she is sure will be yet another dead end. However, Micah is nothing like the other poor saps Chrissy’s best friend Amanda has set her up with. In fact, he’s the first man in a very long time that Chrissy hopes will ask her out on a second date.

Keep in as many details as you can, introduce as many sub-plots as possible, but be sure the focus is on the main character and the main conflicts. After you’ve polished your five pages, save it, copy it, and paste it into another new document. It’s now time to cut it down to two pages. You do this by basically taking two sentences and turning them into one.

At the moment Chrissy’s identity is being stolen, she is meeting yet another man on yet another blind date that she is sure will be yet another dead end. However, Micah is nothing like those other dates. Until he doesn’t call her.

The last sentence is what comes about in chapter three. So, I just summarized three chapters into three sentences. I’ve lost details in each phase of the synopsis, but the story is still there. Once you finish your two pages, save, copy, paste into a new document and change the spacing to single. You’ll likely have to cut out a couple sentences to make it fit, but once you finish this one you have a Chapter Outline, a Five Page Synopsis, a Two Page Synopsis and a One Page Synopsis. You’ve also completed boot camp for tight writing, as you had to weigh each word, each sub plot, each character against the book and see what was imperative and what could be cut.

Happy writing!


Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Very helpful, Josi! I'll print this one out for when I finish another 60,000 words!

Heather Moore said...

Even though it might seem tedious, summarizing each chapter is very helpful. It also comes in handy when you want to change something in a plot. You can find the thread immediately and work from that point on. Thanks, Josi!

Julie Wright said...

writing this also helps clear your mind so you're prepared to condense it even further into one simple paragraph in a query letter.