It has come to my attention that there’s a bad, nasty rumor going around the internet. I am here to shine the light of truth on… well, bad nasty rumors going around on the internet. I live to serve. (And watch Viggo Mortensen movies. So totally watching Appaloosa tonight. But that’s another post.)
So here we go.
Popular Fallacy #147: “If you don’t plot your books in advance, you can never sell on proposal.”
My dear friends, this is hogwash. You only need to know the building blocks of creating a bullshit synopsis that is 98% character and backstory and 2% vaguely delineated hints of a plot. For some of you, the art of BS may not come naturally. This is too bad. You should have done what I did, which was join the debate team in high school because I had a crush on one of the guys but I was far too lazy to prepare for matches so I did extempore events. It taught me to make shit up on the spot, a skill that stands me in good stead to this day.
Let’s say you want to sell a romantic suspense, so here’s a good starting point for your synopsis.
Man meets woman. They conflict. They have smoking sex. Danger happens. They fight bad people. A few things blow up. Car chase. They make out in the rain. Terrible misunderstanding! Then they make up and live HEA.
Are you laughing? Azteclady said I needed to put a spew alert on that synop. But here’s the thing. From this, you can totally build up. Add the names. Put in a couple of paragraphs about how Pamela, your heroine, was abandoned as a child and she now has trust issues, which cause her to physically assault the hero in the ultimate romantic suspense meet cute. The point isn’t summarize the whole dang book. The point is to give a feeling for what the book will be like–that means your synop needs to reflect the actual voice you’re going to use in the book. It’s more important for it to be interesting, have a great hook, and keep the reader’s attention than lay out what happens from page one to page 342.
I’ve sold quite a few books now on proposal, and I can’t plot. I think it’s cool when people can, but if I outline or plot, I lose interest in writing the story. So you can totally start with a single paragraph that looks generic as hell and build outward, depending on your genre. If you build it, they will come. Can you sum up your book in a single paragraph? (Not a blurb, mind you, but a super mini-synopsis.) Give it a shot in comments.