Jim C. Hines (jimhines) wrote,
Jim C. Hines

Plot Synopsis Project

I almost opted out of jpsorrow's synopsis discussion project. I've sold six books to DAW, but it wasn't until #5 that I sold one based on a synopsis. And that book won't be out until late 2009/early 2010, so I can't even share it.

A lot of this has to do with the speed (or lack thereof) at which the publishing industry moves. My first book, Goblin Quest, was originally a small press release. I wrote a sequel, and my agent sold both books to DAW. Of course, while he was shopping those around, I was hard at work on book number three. By the time the deal was signed, I was mostly finished with the next manuscript.

I went ahead and finished up book three, and off it went. At this point, I could have done a synopsis of the next book. I probably should have, really. Instead, I just started writing it. To be completely honest, I think I was scared. I had a fair amount of practice writing books, but no experience writing synopsis, so my brain decided it was easier to write a full manuscript than to do the synopsis. Not the most logical decision in the world, but since when did I ever claim to be a clear-thinking logician?

It was nine months before we got an offer on book three, at which point they went ahead and bought number four unread as well (which was pretty damn cool!)

By the time DAW bought those two, I was seeing my writer friends selling books left and right based on synopses, and I started to get jealous. So I took a deep breath, then talked to my agent about selling my fifth book on synopsis. My agent, evil genius that he is, said no. He wanted me to write two of the things, so he could sell books five and six together. And who am I to argue with that?

I'm happy to say the synopses weren't quite as scary as I thought it would be. I suspect it would have been harder if I hadn't had experience writing short fiction; structurally, a synopsis is a lot closer to a short story than it is to a novel. You still need to grab the reader's interest, create tension, and build to a satisfying resolution of the conflict. (Check the links below to see some examples of synopses that worked.)

An unexpected benefit is that it's a lot quicker for my editor to read a synopsis than a full manuscript. Remember when I said it took nine months to get an offer on the last full manuscript I submitted? With the synopses, we had an offer on both books within weeks.

It's still scary. I'm now committed to turn in two books I haven't written yet. I have deadlines and everything, which has definitely left me feeling more stressed about my writing. On the other hand, I very much appreciate my publisher's faith in me, and there's a lot to be said for job security.

Plot Synopsis Project participant links:
Tags: writing
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