The Dreaded Synopsis

I’m at the stage I hate most – writing the synopsis. This is where the book is stripped of all style and characters and quirks and everything unique and becomes just the bare bones of a plot. I can see the point of this for the possible publisher/agent – they can at least see where the book is going – but as a writer its deeply frustrating.

My precious book, cut down to plot, doesn’t seem so clever or fascinating any more. The plot seems awfully thin, all of a sudden the leaps from one point to another are preposterous, or weak. And my characters – which for me are the most important part of the book – are silent.

I often wonder how books of the past would have survived the synopsis stage. One of my favourite books is To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I read it for the first time at university, and I remember someone saying they didn’t like the book as nothing really happened. I burst out with ‘it’s not a book about things happening, it’s about people’. Which of course, it is – but in synopsis form, it’s about a paragraph long, and all those complex people and heartbreakingly beautiful prose is gone.

But if I want to sell my book, these are the rules. First three chapters (rarely the best part of a book! And does the prologue count as a chapter by itself, or part of the first chapter?), synopsis of the rest, all in courier font, all laid out exactly as wanted, all posted off with a stamped addressed envelope to return the answer.

So I’m off to write my synopsis in as an interesting, personal, individual style as possible. And then treat myself to cake afterwards for a reward.

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