one question you should never ask a writer

Monday, March 25, 2013

Generally, we all have that one thing we really don't want someone to ask us. For a writer, that question is "Can you give me a synopsis of your book?" Jenny has mentioned this before, along with other writer friends of mine, so I am convinced I'm not alone. ;)

Why is this question so hard? Well, it's like this:
 As writers, we put so much into our books - we pour out every ounce of inspiration, carve those hard and unforgiving words until our hands are blistered, and sweat with our characters through each moment of the book, living vicariously through them. What would you say if I asked you to sum up your life in a few sentences, without giving away the big plot twist?

To combat this horror, as synopsises are absolutely necessary in selling your book, I've come up with some tips. There's no perfect formula that will concoct a killer synopsis. There are two thngs you can do, though.

They aren't great for nothing, friends! They surely were on to something. :) Read a couple synopsises that really drew you in or pleased you. What was it about those synopsises that made them so good? Write it down for reference when it comes time to write your own. But here is the tricky part: that synopsis belongs to someone else: you can't copy it. It's important that you don't steal someone else's idea. Finding a good balance between borrowing some good tools & copying something is not easy, but it's doable. Consider this: if you can write a book, you can write a synopsis, right?

Nothing makes you more adept at your skill than practice. But, as a dance teacher once told me, practice makes permanent, not perfect. You can practice that synopsis 100+ times and it will still come out wrong if you aren't using deductive reasoning. No need to turn into Sherlock, but the only way to improve is to look over you work and determine what you don't like about it, instead of simply scrapping it and starting again. Keep the good parts, rewrite the bad parts.

After a bit of practice & the like, I've come up with this synopsis for Psithurism. It's not complete, but it's getting there...

Adara grew up in a world of finery and wealth. She had just about everything...except wisdom. But wisdom holds the key to success, especially in a time of perfidy. 
Hopefully that will help somewhat, next time you are asked to tell your story. And please remember that a person is more likely to want to read you book if you don't stomp on their toes in your hatred of that question. ;)


  1. i love your perspective and wisdom. you are gifted, my dear. so gifted!

  2. such a beautiful blog!



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