Yes, I know—the very word “Synopsis” strikes dread into the heart of a writer. And yes, I know—after the year-or-years long marathon that is writing a book, the very last thing anyone wants to do is come up with a one or three-page synopsis of the 400 pages you’ve just written.
But whether you’re an author or a screenwriter there is no getting around this one. You need to surrender to the inevitable and get good at it.
I’ve heard from a bunch of you who are writing synopses right now and this is showing up as a common sticking point. I’m always happy to answer questions and address specific issues you all are having!
No matter where you are in your writing process, it’s important to take the time to do this synopsis work. Because just like your Premise, the synopsis is a road map of your book. Even if you’re just starting to write it, the sooner you bash out a page or two on the story line, the more confident you will be about where you’re going.
So let’s get into it.
First, there’s a big difference between your OUTLINE — and the SELLING SYNOPSIS you will submit to agents, editors, or contests.
You probably have an outline, beat sheet or working synopsis you use as your guide while you’re writing your story, and/or that you show to your writing group or critique partner(s), or to me or other writing teacher you might be working with. Basically it’s the scenes of your story in rough order, each as a sentence or a paragraph, and hopefully following the Three-Act Structure. Even better if it’s organized roughly in the Eight-Sequence Structure. But that working synopsis should be whatever you need it to be! It’s your road map for writing, although your book or script may very well go off in different directions during the writing process. That’s fine! The working synopsis will evolve and change. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
If you’re sharing your synopsis with a critique group or parter, or a writing teacher or coach, of course it needs to be more readable! But you’re still probably just trying to give those helpful people an idea of the beat by beat ACTION of your story.
And then there’s the SELLING SYNOPSIS:
A selling synopsis is what you submit to agents and editors or contests or producers to get your book or script repped and sold.