Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Hardest Way to Write a Short Synopsis

Try to condense a long one.  That was the comment of  Tony Perona at an Indy Author Fair, in Indianapolis.  He, S.M. Harding, and Terence Faherty led a session on marketing the mystery.  Harding suggested telling yourself you have to summarize your story in something like 300 words, no matter what.  Her advice was met with skepticism, and there was a time I would have been skeptical, too.

How can the complexity of your mystery, the depth of the characters, the beauty of the setting be told in a few hundred words?

Try. If you can't make your point cogently, it will be hard for someone to want to read your book.

The synopsis is your hope to hook a potential agent or publisher. These busy people need to be able to capture the idea of your story quickly (including the ending). You want to surprise your readers, not your publisher.

What finally helped me learn the art of condensing something I was very close to was to force myself to write what I thought should go on the back cover of a paperback.  That's the chance to convince a bookstore to stock your book and a reader to plop down the money to buy it. True, the purpose is to entice rather than inform, but the rigor of condensing is similar.

I looked at the initial  synopsis that I wrote for Appraisal for Murder, first in the Jolie Gentil series. It read more like a summary. Once I wrote the lengthy piece, it was hard to part with some of the words, and took a long time to cut the length. 

Now, I start with the book flap version, so to speak, and add as few words as possible.

The more you practice writing brief synopses, the easier it becomes.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a product description (the blurb you write for Amazon or BN to promote you book) and the synopsis for a potential agent or publisher. As with all writing, audience is everything.

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