Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How important is a synopsis?

This is a question that is often asked at writing meetings and events.

Some highly established writers claim to have never written a synopsis in their life - such as Dee Williams and Iris Gower.

Others, like Marti Leimbach, tell you it is harder to write than the actual novel. Whereas, some very lucky people like Lee Weatherly claim they are easy to write.

You can read Lee Weatherly's Tips on How to Write a Synopsis on Candy's excellent blog Notes from the Slushpile. Unfortunately, I lost my notebook which had all my notes from the Lee Weatherly talk – I kept saying to myself it was bound to turn up and it never has. I may have left it on the train!

Then, I have been told at conferences by agents and publishers they don't even read the synopsis. You should have heard me groan at that news. I spent hours and hours on mine and they're not even going to read it. I could have stood up and screamed. Is a synopsis a waste of time?

But, other editors and agents have said – much more recently – they read the synopsis first and if they don’t like it don’t bother reading the rest. Arrggghhhh!

So, what do we do?

I believe the most important thing is how good your writing is. But, I do think a synopsis is a useful tool to see how well the story hangs together and if it has a defined beginning, middle and end. So I will persevere with my synopsises and hope they help me to clarify my own story, even if they are not being read.


Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I could happily do without writing synopses but I have to say, having been writing some non-fiction for the press has helped me really hone my synopsis writing and get it tight - and I suspect that getting an entire novel down into one or two pages might be viewed as an entertaining challenge. Ha! Who am I trying to kid! ;-)

Wilf said...

I have the notes on computer if you want a copy?

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

Hi Addy,
Yes please. that might be helpful. i was cross at myself for losing my notbook. Besides losing my notes on Lee's most excellent talk, I also lost some very important notes and ideas for my Arthurian children's book I was working on.

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

Hi Nicky,
Another thing that helps to get your writing tight is writing short stories for the women's magazines.
Best wishes,