Monday, January 23, 2012

Short and Sweet: The One Page Synopsis

So you've got a wip, or a finished novel, and whether it is for a contest or a proposal, you are asked to write a synopsis of your 300 page book, in O-N-E P-A-G-E. Hm. Seriously?

Yes, yes, it sounds like torture, but if you step back and think about it, this is a GREAT exercise. A one page synopsis makes you sit down and hash out your story, understand your character arc, and weed out the unnecessaries. Actually, if you do the synopsis before you have completed your manuscript, you might just tighten your plot and find yourself able to write the rest of the story with clearer vision.

After a couple of years of struggling with these babies, I've had some awesome critiques and advice from fellow writers that I'd like to share.

Tip #1: Only include major plot points that move the main character(s)/plot line forward. Your plot may have some great twists and turns, and the use of secondary characters to move the plot forward, but be sure to only focus on the significant things that get your character from point A to point B.

Here's an example from my own synopsis (keep in mind that Yana and Andres are the main characters):


The chief's second wife, Shina, births a stillborn. Chief Vio shuns her because of this. Shina has a history of lusting after other men, so when Yana discovers Shina and Alvarez in intimate conversation, she tells Andres to warn Alvarez about Shina's shameful desires.



When Yana discovers the commander in a heated embrace with her father's second wife, she warns Andres that the entire crew of Spaniards could be put to death.

NOTE: Think of the synopsis from the perspective of your main character, and what it does to move the plot forward in their perspective.

Tip #2: Cut out unnecessary words as much as possible. Who loves flowery speech?? I do! I do! But one page is the limit:

My example (although, as I write this, I see even more ways I can cut this down!):


When they come to a great river, Andres is anxious to board their crude vessel, but fears the savages they may face on their voyage.

To the point:

When his crew comes to a great river, Andres boards their vessel, fearful of the savages they might find.

Tip #3: Use an active voice. This is something I have struggled with in my writing's so easy to slip into passive voice (the dreaded “tell vs. show”). If you use the active voice, you have a better chance at keeping your word count down also.

My example:


From Andres's heart-filled journal entries, he embellishes on his constant reliance on God's provision in the face of wild creatures, and disease among their crew.


Andres is determined to rely on God's provision in the face of wild creatures and threatening disease.

Tip #4: Let your voice sing! What judge, agent, or editor wants to read a monotone play-by-play? Be sure to weave your voice in the presentation of your synopsis. Say it like you would write it in your book. Maybe even use some lines in your book if you can make them fit with the flow of the synopsis. Make it unique, make it YOURS!

What are your biggest concerns with a one-page synopsis? Do you have any tips you'd like to share?

Cami Tang offers her EXCELLENT professional advice on the one page synopsis! Check it out here.

 Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and CEO of a family of six.


Anonymous said...

I have been working on a synopsis for my new WIP. I haven't even started it yet, but am trying to come up with the basics before I even begin. (new for me)

And Cami's stuff of synopsis is the BEST! I have her synopsis worksheet pulled up on my computer right now!

Pepper said...

Fabulous tips, Ang - and particularly helpful as people prepare for the Genesis.

A one-page synopsis is TOUGH - and I like flowery too :-) I have 3 WIPs right now and DEFINITELY have to rewrite two of the synopsis(es?) to make them tighter. Probably all three, but I haven't the courage to look at the third one yet :-)

Jeanne T said...

Angie, you covered great points on writing a one page synopsis. Thank you! I'm finding that, with my wip nearly complete, it's easier to write a one page synopsis. I know the story well. The trick is keeping it concis and still letting my voice shine through. Thanks for sharing!

Joanne Sher said...

This is GREAT advice, Angie! Thanks so much!

Casey said...

Great, great post Ang!! I haaatteeee writing a one page synopsis and really struggle getting it down, but I love your one tip about thinking of it from the character's perspective. Great advice, I'm going to remember that!

This couldn't have come at a better time, Angie. :)

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I like your tips.

Angie Dicken said...

Sherrinda- I need to do that for my next wip...I think it would help me move along faster with it.
Pepper and Casey- With Genesis around the corner, the synopsis seems to be on everyone's mind!! Are you all part of the Scribes group that helps with this?
Jeanne-That's a great point about waiting until you're almost done to write the synopsis!
Joanne and Peaches- Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Great tips, Angie! I took Camy's synopsis class a couple years ago and it was EXCELLENT. I think I need a refresher, lol.

Katie Ganshert said...

Synopsis and Sweet should never ever be so close together. ;)

Great post, Sarah!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

This is an excellent post, Angie. Thanks for the tips. I DO NOT enjoy writing synopses. My biggest problems are either being too vague or putting in too much of the side stories. This is so timely for me because I'm going to write my synopsis soon. Thanks!

Mary Vee Writer said...

You were so smart to post about synopsis writing at this time.
Tips beyond belief, including Camy's

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks, Ladies! I have "Synopsis", "Proposal", and "Entry", on the BRAIN! ;)

Julia M. Reffner said...

This is quite interesting and helpful. I like the thought of looking at it from the character's perspective. I love Camy's tips, too.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Angie!!! I missed your post yesterday. So sorry. :( Anyway, it's great to read this post on synopses. Makes me smile to see how awesome your new synopsis is!

Angie Dicken said...

Naomi!!! You were such a huge help on that, thank you!

Sheri Salatin said...

This is great! You know what I would love to see? An actual written synopsis. I have never seen one. Would you be willing to post one? Perhaps from a book that you've already published?