Monday, February 16, 2009

Shortening Synopses

I was writing a response to a post about shortening synopses, and I thought, "Hey, this could be a blog post." And since I'm still doing my First Draft Sprint* and finishing proofreading so time is tight, here's my slightly edited response.

When it comes to cutting, I try to concentrate as much as I can on the emotional plot -- how and why the relationship changes. Everything else is less important.

Description - don't need it unless it's really significant (like, oh, your hero's lost an eye). I'll use something like "London, 1815" as my only setting description.

Secondary characters ditto. I only mention them briefly in passing and as they affect the main character's relationship.

Backstory - it's important to explain your characters' reactions and motivations, so you need it, but only as it's required to explain those reactions and motivations. Some people like to do that right up front, with a little character sketch. If you find it makes for a short synopsis if you do, go ahead. If you prefer to weave it into the synopsis as the story unfolds, as you would in the book, that's okay, too. Neither one is better - they're just different, and if you find makes for a shorter synopsis, go for that.

That said, I always try not to cut my voice out of a synopsis. If I think a line is particularly fun or interesting or whatever, I'll keep it in. If I think a one-word paragraph has a lot of punch, it stays. If I think a line of dialogue really sums up the state of the relationship at that point, I don't cut it.

* First Draft Sprint Report

Last week's page count: 85. So far then, in two weeks, I've written 185 pages. I think there's one scene that might get moved (subplot-centric), but I've left it where it is. I'm fairly certain the first draft is going to be several pages too short, but I'm not worrying about that a bit. I knew going in the first draft was going to be lean.


Amy Ruttan said...

Synopses's are a pain in the butt. LOL.

Margaret Moore said...

I love 'em. I just let the ol' imagination fly and worry about editing later. But then, I write them first, not after I've written the whole book, and I think that makes a big difference.

Amy Ruttan said...

Actually it's funny you said that, because I used to totally write them after, but at my very first TRW Critique Session Kelley Armstrong told me to write them first. YES it makes a big difference. Of course this was treason to my muse, I was a panster. I'm a plotter now, well a mild plotter.

But ... I still think they're a pain. ;)