Workshop – Synopses and Query Letters

I attended the first of four sessions of a workshop on synopses and query letters last night. I enjoyed it, although an unfortunately timed case of indigestion kept me form focusing as much as I would have liked. We talked about the structure and purpose of synopses and had time at the end to look at two – an unfinished synopsis from one of the instructirs for her new novel and one from a class participant. Next week we have to write and bring our own for critique.

I knew that was part of the deal with the workshop but I’m really nervous about getting critiqued. Obviously I need to get over it if I want to publish my novel, but it’s scary to think of eight strangers telling you (to your face) how your writing stinks. And of course it stinks – that’s the whole point of a workshop. If I knew how to write a great synopsis I wouldn’t be taking the class! I read through the synopsis I wrote two years ago for a conference and it’s… well, it’s informative. It’s also choppy, dry, and long. In effect, it’s an outline of the story. I think my novel has good voice but in reading my synopsis, you can tell that my default writing style is academic.

But I got some good ideas about how to fix it last night and now I just need to find time to work on it before next week’s class. One of the best suggestions was to create a “tag line” for the novel – a one or two sentence blurb to answer the question, “what’s the book about?” To do that, I need to actually figure out what the book IS about. Is is about scientific discovery? Is it about the persecution of science by culture? Is it about the potential abuses of government in time of crisis? Is it a love story? Is it a coming of age story where our heroine finds untapped resources of strength and personal character? Yes. It is. So how do I boil that down into one or two sentences? I need to identify the strongest and most important theme and focus on that in the synopsis. I’m glad I have a whole week…

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