But ever since I've returned from the Most Fabulous Conference Ever (SCBWI-New York in February), a statement made by an editor there has been banging around in my head. At the Friday workshop, one of the participants at my table offered a synopsis as her 500-word sample, as opposed to 500 words from a WIP. Her synopsis was, by all accounts, what I've always heard a synopsis should be: a direct account of the plot. It was clean, single-spaced, and on one page. But it was also, unfortunately, dry.
Why is this, we writers asked. She did everything right, so why wouldn't this synopsis catch an editor's eye? Our guru responded that while yes, a synopsis should briefly summarize the plot, what is most important is the story arc of the main character. Smaller plot lines and secondary characters have no place in a succinct synopsis. You should first show where your character is in the beginning of the story (not physically - mentally. Is she sick of her mom? Does she want to overhaul her image? Is she counting the days toward a big event?). Next, show a few major plot points, and how those IMPEDE your character's goal. (And they must, of course, impede. Otherwise, there is no story). Then, wrap it up by showing where your character winds up. (Again, mentally here. She reconciles with Mommy Dearest, or she accepts who she is, or she realizes that she should not base her social status on the prom alone.)
The editor said, (and I'm paraphrasing here): "A synopsis is a summary of your CHARACTER'S story, not a summary of the story itself."
Wow! It's such good advice, it almost makes me want to dash off a few quick synopses, just for fun.