Dispelling Popular Fallacy

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.

Posted in writing

9 Responses to Dispelling Popular Fallacy

  1. Larissa says:

    What you said! I’ve actually sold books on 3 chapters and NO synopsis — just a one-page, 4 paragraph overview of entire series…1 paragraph blurb per book.

    So, yeah. Fallacy! :)

  2. Fallon says:

    Thank you! So encouraging for those of us who are beginners and slightly terrified of the big bad syno :lol:

  3. Ann Aguirre says:

    Fallon, I really think it’s more important to capture the feel of the book. Nothing is more boring than a simple recitation of events, divorced from humor and voice.

  4. Amie Stuart says:

    if I outline or plot, I lose interest in writing the story.

    One of my Cp’s has the same issue Ann!!!! If she thinks too long and hard about a story, fugedubadit!!! I’ll never make fun of her about it again–sorry ya’ll!! :blush: I got my second K contract on spec–ed rejected option book but offered me a contract anyway. I sent her a four or five paragraph/1 page “blurb” for the first book of that contract. That’s all.

    I DID make myself learn to plot/write a synopsis to sell on proposal and that still works for me, but if I had to sit down and think about it, I randomly end up writing one of three ways–just don’t ask me what those three ways are. :lol: And even with a synopsis, it’s still just a roadmap to remind me where I’m going.

  5. Michele Lee says:

    Last night the hubs and I were talking and I told him the plot for the fourth Bloodwalker/Raven book. He answered with “So when do I get to read it?”

    So I know it’s possible to intrigue people with the mere sketch of the idea. It’s all about being enthusiastic yourself and presenting it right.

  6. Laurel Newberry says:

    Wow! This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m not much of a plotter and this gives me a concise frame to play with for my attempts at synopsis. You certainly have a gift for cutting to the chase. :cool:
    Now, I need to go thank Patty Briggs for sending me over here. Then, I’ll go watch some Viggo in LOTR.
    Or maybe Viggo first and then Patty.

  7. Geez. I love you even more for posting this! There are so many myths that are shoved down aspiring authors’ throats and some of them can really cripple a would-be writer.

    I kept hearing that agents were impossible to come by and I won mine through a contest. I heard that getting a book deal was nearly impossible in the current (and recent) economy (a myth you and others dispelled with your previous sales, too). I got a deal in a poor economy, too.

    And yes, people can sell on a synopsis, on a strong pitch, on a previous track record… On little more than a character’s voice… There are almost as many options as there are publishers.

    Glad you’re setting the record straight. :-)

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