Monday, August 16

The Synopsis

Today's guest blogger is the fantabulous Liz Flaherty! Liz's latest novel, Home to Singing Trees, is out from The Wild Rose Press soon! Thanks for joining us, Liz!

There is nothing I hate to write more than a synopsis. Even though I’m learning—after 15 years or so in this business—to put a little plotting into my pantsing way of writing life, I still don’t do synopses until the story’s done, I have typed “The End,” and I’ve started the first run-through to catch the 4000 times I used the words “just” and “that.” I even, thanks to the insistence of CPs, remove a few dialogue tags here and there. But then there’s the synopsis. It is the toothache of writing, and there is no Novocain that will take away the pain of it.

So mine are bad. This, like the use of dialogue tags, that, and just, is a part of my writing I’ve learned to live with. I read articles about synopses by published authors I admire, read every “example” synopsis that comes down the pike, and try—as has been suggested in most of those articles—to put my voice into the synopsis when I write it.

Well. The truth is, if my synopses are indicative of my voice, I need to shut up and go home. Since I’m not going to do that in this lifetime, I pretty much accept that mine are awful and hope my books sell on their own merits. That’s what it’s about, right? Not formatting or which font I use or if my synopsis sucks.

Except that the other day when I got a rejection from Carina Press on a project, the synopsis was part of the reason for it. As rejections go, it was as well thought out as any I had ever read. It was kind as well as blunt, and I appreciated the time and skill involved in the writing of it. One thing stood out. Editor Angela James wrote, “As an aside from an editorial POV, a synopsis is crucial to us in disclosing all aspects of the story, including conflict and secrets. Essentially, we should feel as if we've read the book without all of the dialogue/narrative included!”


This will probably not change me—or my abysmal synopsis skills—overnight. It may not allow me to sell my next submission, though I hope it helps. But it will make me work harder at this least favorite aspect of what is my most favorite thing to do: write stories.


  1. i love that...the toothache of

    it was nice of them to point out about your synopsis being - we'll just call it weak. It's just one more area we all need to work on!

    Pass the novocaine!


  2. Thanks, Carrie. It's very accurate!

  3. Oh, sure!
    Bring up toothaches. Liz, I'm so confused, I didn't realize this was your post.
    It's very good.
    I, too, hate the synopsis.

  4. I'm in the process of writing a synopsis. And by process I mean I'm steady staring at a blank page, day after day.

    This will be my second syn, and like before, I really would like to meet the guy who first came up with the idea of a synopsis. I'd stab him in the eye with a rusty two-pronged fork, then force him to write mine. Violent, I know. But thinking of writing a syn brings out my violent tendencies.

    I've decided this weekend is D-day. No more lounging around, feeling sorry for myself. A first draft of the synopsis must be written by midnight on Saturday.

    Yeah, we'll see how that works out.

  5. Maybe we should start a synopsis/query only critique group, so that people who haven't read your book (cp) can give you a fresh eye on your product. Like everyone else, I hate writing them, but would like to get to the point that it's as effortless as the next chapter. I do like Avril's suggestion about the rusty pitch fork. I'll bring by sickle :)