On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting Your Material Ready for Submission, Part 4: The Fiction Synopsis

The synopsis for the novelist is perhaps the most intimidating document to write as you prepare to submit your work. You need to boil your story down to one or a few well-thought-out paragraphs.

There is no *one way* to write a synopsis, although the synopsis must tell a story engagingly and concisely. Back cover copy synopses are shorter synopses written to hook the reader with questions, and are effective to use in the query letter. Slightly longer synopses of 1 single-spaced or 2-3 or 5 pages tell the whole story, including the ending. I go into synopsis writing in detail, including examples, in my book The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story.

Remember that writing the synopsis is a doable process. A 3 page synopsis will comprise about 10-15 paragraphs and maybe 1000 words.

An absolutely fabulous book for writing the synopsis, and even for general help in building a storyline, is Pam McCutcheon's Writing the Fiction Synopsis: A Step by Step Approach. This book is quite expensive on amazon, so I recommend if you get it to buy from the publisher Gryphon Books for Writers. The price is $18.95, a bit pricey, but well worth the investment. This book sits in my top writing books hall of fame along with five or so others. Highly, highly recommended.

OK, let's get started.

There is no way that you're going to be able to convey your entire complex novel in a few pages, so the first thing you have to do is pick out the MAIN OUTER story. This is what you'll be writing about.

McCutcheon identifies 5 important points of a story that you'll describe. They are:

A Ordinary World
B New Direction
C Change of Plans
D Black Moment
E Resolution and End

Star Wars as an example: (from McCutcheon's book)

Main Story: Luke's story

Ordinary World:

Luke is working on his uncle's boring farm on the "farthest planet from the center of the universe."

New Direction:

Luke's aunt and uncle are killed, Princess Leia calls for help, and Obi-Wan Kenobi urges Luke to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Jedi Knight.

A Change of Plans:

The good guys are captured by the Death Star.

The Black Moment:

Just as victory is imminent and Luke is about to make his pass to aim for the small two-meter target that will destroy the Death Star, he hears the warning bell as Darth Vader's missile locks onto his fighter.

The Resolution and End:

Han Solo shows up and sends Darth Vader's fighter spinning off into the void. Luke is then free to aim for the target and hits it. The Death Star explodes, the Rebel Alliance wins, and Luke and Han receive medals for their victory.


You may notice that McCutcheon's points line up quite nicely with the Story Posts of the Template:


A Ordinary World (McC: Ordinary World)
B Inciting
(argument) (McC: New Direction)


(adaptation to new world)
C MIDPOINT) (McC: Change of Plans)
(disintegration etc.)


(problem gets worse)
D Darkest Moment (McC: Black Moment)
E Help from Outside
E Climax
E Resolution (McC: Resolution and End)


OK, that's enough for today.

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