Writing the Synopsis to Find the Heart of Your Story

I did what I imagine most people do, and I waited to write the synopsis until I was almost done with the book. After all, until I was ready to market, I didn’t need a synopsis, right? Well, I discovered that in honing my synopsis I actually learned more about my story and what the heart of the story was. I would recommend writing a synopsis somewhere in the middle of drafting, when you know the story well enough to have an idea what the theme/core/arc is but before it’s to the point you won’t want to revise if you discover the arc is different than you thought.

I have about 50 synopsis drafts. About half of those are full-on, start-over drafts and not just revisions. The first drafts have a lot of setting and back story. The middle drafts are focused on what I call the external plot—the events of the world. Finally, my last drafts focused in on the internal plot—my character’s inner conflict. That was a challenge. My MC has a couple of inner conflicts, and I had to figure out which is the one that drives the story.

I also had trouble with making his story sound compelling. I think it’s super compelling and heartbreaking, but how to get that into one to two paragraphs and less than 250 words? The MC is a young man who just wants to be accepted for who he is. His whole life, he’s been told he won’t be accepted unless he is as great as his father. He finally thinks he has a chance to do both—to be like his father and to be judged on his own merits. But the man who gave him that chance turns against him. Super compelling and heartbreaking. Especially because I know all the motivations, ha ha. I hope that an agent finds it as compelling as I do!

(Alan Cumyn, I remember more about your lecture than the cheese sandwiches!)

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