Synopsis: Torture device invented by editors/agents or useful tool?

Drafting a synopsis for my novella almost convinced me to quit writing altogether. I mean, why torture myself? But I pushed through the pain and strung together five double-spaced pages (way too wordy!), along with a query letter, and sent the bundle to my always-patient friend Lori Sawicki.

Apparently, she too had been struggling with a synopsis and had come across the following  advice from author Beth Anderson: “So–what does go into a synopsis? 1. What happens at the beginning. 2. What your lead characters want. What problem they’re each trying to solve. 3. What escalating roadblocks, both external and internal, you’ve set up to prevent them from getting what they want. 4. What happens at the end. How they solve their problems.” Read the entire posting here.

Then I stumbled upon Susan Dennard‘s excellent synopsis worksheet, and between Lori (did I mention her patience?), Beth, and Susan, I whittled my synopsis down to one page.

It helped… In fact, the novella now has a book contract but more on that in a later posting…

Not to say the synopsis got me there but it did force me to recognize an important plot hole, which I patched before sending the book off to publishers. Writing a synopsis is still a torturous process, yet I can see myself drafting one–probably making me a bit of a masochist–as a planning tool for my next novel.