In honor of the fact that Nanowrimo has just ended and many of you participated, I thought I'd address one of the next steps you'll be tackling: writing a synopsis of this marvelous novel you just produced. You did win and reach the 50,000 word mark, right? No cheaters now, go back and finish before you read this post if you haven't hit the 50,000 word mark yet. It doesn't matter if it's December, you should see the project through to the end for your own peace of mind. Then click through the jump break to follow some quick and easy steps for summarizing the novel.
A novel synopsis is usually written in the third person, present tense and has emotionally-charged words to engage the reader at a basic level. It is not a book report. It is not a book outline. It is a synopsis of the novel. Here are 5 easy steps to follow to guide you through creating one.
Step 1: Define Your Main Character's (MC's) goal and conflict preventing achievement of the goal.
This is fairly straightforward. Most of you have figured this one out in your head as it's the heart of the plot, but have you figured out how to say it in 50 words or less? See if you can define the goal and then the conflict in one sentence each. Then in a third sentence, define how the MC will overcome the conflict to reach the goal. This is your story's plot--summarized. Yeah, yeah, there's all kinds of glorious detail left out but this is it. This is all a reader (or editor or agent) needs to know up front.
Writing these 3 sentences (which are probably about 25-50 words combined) should give you a feel for how to write a hook that leads into this plot summary. You'll want to put that sentence (or phrase) first. Do not bury the lead, as they say in journalism, but you probably needed to write the plot in 3 phases first before you could verbalize your lead, right? Okay, set that aside.
Step 2: Define the Traits of Your MC Which Make Him/Her a Sympathetic Character.
Sorry, but even if your story is not character-driven, your MC really needs to be a sympathetic character for anyone to care about them and their goals, let alone their struggle to overcome obstacles and conflicts. Be careful here, the term "sympathetic" does not necessarily mean "nice" or "likeable" but rather, someone the reader can identify with and whose motivations can be easily understood. If your MC does things for obscure or selfish reasons, they might not be a very sympathetic character. You might want to rethink making them the star of your novel.
Step 3: Define the Beginning, Middle and End of the MC's Journey.
Yeah, this seems kind of obvious or redundant but if your story does not have a beginning, middle and end, it's not a story; it's a ramble. It might have really interesting people and be fun to read but it needs a structure to make it a novel.
The beginning of the novel should start at that exact moment when the MC realizes life is intolerable the way things are (due to the conflict). The middle of the book is the MC's approach to and engagement with the obstacle (overcoming the conflict) and the end of the story is a demonstration of how the MC and/or their life has been transformed as a result of encountering and overcoming the conflict. This also is how one defines a character-driven story ^)^ but honestly, even event-driven stories require this structure. Please notice that the conflict is as present in this structure as the MC (haha)
Step 4: Rewrite in the Correct Voice to Match Your Novel.
Yeah this basically amounts to editing. Why, you might wonder, didn't I suggest you write in the voice or diction of the novel in the first place? Because it's really hard to actually summarize and address specific points while also writing "in character." You can edit the wording (what I call "wordsmithing" because you're simply polishing the word choices and arrangement without changing the meaning, just polishing off the rough edges). You have to write the words first before you can wordsmith them.
Step 5: Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
This is going to be the first thing anyone anywhere sees of your book. Whether you are sending this synopsis to an agent or editor or going to use it as marketing blurbage, this is your book's first impression on the world. Do not do it with jam smeared on your cheek and mustard dropped on your tie. Clean up your synopsis with the same care you'd use to clean up yourself. Ask a friend (or relative) to proofread it for you the same way you might ask "Does this make me look fat?" but actually listen to the feedback you get. (LOL)
If necessary to clear you mind, set it aside for a week (not a few hours or a few days, but a week or more!) and then read it again to make sure it both sounds okay and has no typos. After a week or more away, you'll see things glaring out at you if they're there at all.
That's it! I know, easier said than done but it should be fairly easy once you have the story clear in your mind. Give it a try!
Next week I'll look at market research on my Monday Marketing blog but in the meantime, if you haven't checked lately, my 30,000th Hit Giveaway is now GINORMOUS! with over 55 authors donating some 70 different books. There's something for everyone!
Winners will be drawn starting Friday, Dec. 14 and run through the weekend, until Sunday, Dec. 16. Hope you'll join in!