March 1, 2011

How to Write a Synopsis

Part of the SCBWI grant process involves submitting a synopsis. *heart begins to flutter* Although I'm allowed up to 750 words, according to 
SCBWI the professional norm is one page, 250 words, double-spaced.

Wait. 250 words? Double-spaced? The synopsis I wrote for the San Francisco Writers’ Conference was 584 words, single-spaced! *palms begin to sweat*

So how do you cut a synopsis in half and still maintain the essence of the story? Start with the basics—beginning, middle, end—and go from there. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The hard part is avoiding the temptation to include too many details.

My SFWC synopsis clearly tries to squeeze in as much of the action as possible. But you don’t need a blow-by-blow account of the narrative. You need to pull back and look at the big picture.

Begin by identifying the core issue. You can do that by using the Somebody-Wanted-But-So approach:
           1.  Somebody (a character)
           2.  Wants (has a goal)
           3.  But  (something stands in the way/conflict)
           4.  So (s/he tries to overcome it)
           Since a synopsis must include the ending, add:
           5.  How the conflict is resolved.

Bare bones, absolutely, but it covers all the necessary story elements. From here, it’s a matter of fleshing out the plot without drowning in minutiae.

Following these rough guidelines, I’ve reduced my synopsis to 321 words. *rewards self with chocolate* However, I’ve got less than two weeks to whittle it down to 250. *red wine goes well with chocolate, doesn't it?*  
Must. Be. Merciless.

What's the shortest synopsis you've ever written?

Links related to this post:
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