Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chapter Thirteen: Chapter/Novel Synopses

This week I started writing a novel synopsis, a part of my publishing submissions package. The intended scenario is that a literary agent will like my query letter enough to request more information including a few chapters or perhaps a full manuscript along with a synopsis of my Young Adult Mystery.

Writing a summary of a novel I've already finished sounds like it should be simple but it isn't. Like the query letter, the synopsis is another task dreaded by most writers including me.

First of all, a synopsis is not a straight-forward, run-down of the plot. That would be easy. The synopsis is a summary of my story that must be compelling and intriguing. It tells what my story is about (the murder of a young woman), what Amy the main character wants (to solve the murder to enhance the reputation she's earned as a hot shot detective and further her career goal of becoming an investigative journalist), and what obstacles she faces in accomplishing her goal (the town police chief who resents her success at crime-solving and the killer when Amy finds and confronts him). My synopsis focuses not just on events but on the emotions, motivations, and concerns of the characters. I'm writing it in the same tone and style as the manuscript and including bits of dialog.

When I started gathering my thoughts to begin my novel synopsis, I turned to my chapter synopses which are short summaries I wrote each time I finished a chapter. I did the summaries as a tool for me and they have come in handy so many times.

Besides a brief summary of the main events in the chapter, I incorporated a time line into my synopsis. This was invaluable to me since the action in my mystery covered a four-day period and after a while, I got to the point that I couldn't remember if a particular event happened last night or day before yesterday or three days ago. When I wanted to insert additional material, checking the chapter synopses was a real time-saver since I didn't have to go back and read several chapters to find the right place to add information. My format is simple - Chapter One: (Day 1/Late Afternoon) or Chapter Twelve: (Day 2/Early Morning. Followed by a paragraph or two, this gives me everything important I need to know about a chapter.

I, also, put each character's name in bold the first time he/she appeared in the manuscript. This gave me a quick and easy reference when I want to add or change information about a character. It'd look pretty silly to mention a character before he/she's been introduced in the story or to introduce the same character twice!

I'm following the chronology of my chapter synopses as I write the novel synopsis. The challenge is to transform them into a catchy and exciting two or three page story that does my mystery justice.

Let's get published!


Glenda Beall said...

Pat, this is an excellent article on writing a synopsis but also on making those notes to help keep the author's mind straight as she writes.
I will recommend this post to others who are working on a book of any kind.

Pat Meece Davis said...

Thanks, Glenda. I've found my chapter synopses to be so much help to me when I'm writing and especially when I'm editing. I hope somebody else can use them.