CAN I JUST SAY NO TO THE SYNOPSIS?
by Deborah Elliott-Upton
I know one writer who swears she enjoys writing the synopsis for a novel. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s written so many of them herself, read so many as an editor, or if she’s just so talented that it comes easier to her and therefore enjoyable.
I know that I dislike the synopsis very, very much.
Okay, so I don’t really dislike reading them, but I do despise having to write them.
It’s like planning your baby’s name for nine months, and when she arrives, you look at your precious newborn and the name doesn’t fit at all. In high school, I met a fantastic girl named Lola. She was blonde, had a good figure, and a sweet face. She wasn’t a Lola, but had a girl-next-door personality and attitude. Don’t get me wrong, no one was nicer than Lola. But her name didn’t belong to her anymore than Bob Hope’s real first name of Leslie or Cary Grant’s of Archibald Leach. It would be like referring to Madonna as well, Donna. Or Donna Reed as Madonna. It just seems odd.
If the synopsis doesn’t ring true to the style of the manuscript, there’s a big problem. The author’s voice—that illusive creature—has to shine through the synopsis to show the writer that writes as a Lola is actually a Lola and not an Ann in disguise. Also, an Ann manuscript will not work if the synopsis sounds like a Lola.
Once an author has written a synopsis, it seems easier to have a few people you trust read it and make suggestions and send it out as quickly as possible just to be rid of the darn thing. But, of course, you can’t.
It’s like deciding to sell your house. You usually shouldn’t just call up a realtor and stick a FOR SALE sign on the lawn. First, a bit of sprucing up is probably necessary. A fresh coat of paint, replacing out-dated light fixtures, and cleaning out those overstuffed closets is in order to get top-dollar for your showplace.
The same is true of the synopsis written as a selling tool to agents and editors. It’s not easy to write a concise, yet compelling, one-page synopsis of an entire novel.
At any writers group, someone will be saying, “Why don’t they just read the book and then they’ll know how fantastic it is?”
Time once again is the culprit. The amount of Great American Novels crossing an editor’s desk is staggering. They have to depend on a synopsis (think of it like Cliff’s Notes) to entice them to a full reading of any novel.
Okay, so I have to write a great synopsis in order to find a publisher who is interested in buying my great novel. I’m working on it. These things take time.
Right now, I think I’ll finish polishing a short story. It doesn’t need a synopsis to accompany it to interest a publisher. One more reason I love being a short story author.