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tlbodine
04-14-2012, 08:01 AM
So I'm currently in the process of getting my book ready to shop around. I've got a fairly solid query letter and kick-ass sample pages (and, y'know, the rest of the book), so the only thing left is the synopsis. I thought that part would be easy. I was wrong.

My question is this: is it OK to tell the synopsis in a slightly different order than the book itself is narrated if the book has multiple storylines that all converge at the end?

My book has basically three storylines: one, about a man searching for a missing child in a faerie realm made from dreams; two, about a thief that has not only stolen the child but has also been stealing things from the faeries themselves; and three, about the main character's own messed-up childhood and the realization that he has actually created the thief and now it's his responsibility to undo it.

The three storylines weave throughout the narrative, but when I write them that way in the synopsis it just looks like a jumbled mess. What makes more sense to me is to briefly explain the character's backstory and how, precisely, he created this place -- and then say that the explanation slowly unfolds while x y and z happen.

But is that kosher? Is it OK to tell the story in the synopsis in a different order than the events in the book?

Theo81
04-14-2012, 09:00 PM
*As far as I understand it* No.

A synopsis is an overview of the story, as that story is told.

If the synopsis needs the information putting in a different order for it to be understood, your MS will have the same problem as well.

BenPanced
04-14-2012, 09:23 PM
No. The agent has to have an idea on how your story starts, plays out, and ends. It needs to be in the order that you've written it, not the chronological order of the events. If chapter one is set in January 1981, chapter two in December 1979, and chapter three in August 1964, you need to write the synopsis in 1-2-3 order.

tko
04-14-2012, 09:29 PM
First of all, kick ass story line. I remember your original posts. It immediately appeals to me.

Secondly, I understand your problem. What is easy to explain in hundreds of pages becomes difficult to impossible in a short query or synopsis for certain story types. I can immediately see from your description the difficulty you're going to have.

So my answer would be, for your particular case, yes.

Why? Because I would be willing to bet that in your novel the plot is very clear. You're not going to rewrite what could be a great book. So submitting a synopsis or a query that appears jumbled or unclear doesn't help you. Really. What choice do you have?

Besides, a synopsis and a query are just hooks that get someone interested. If the book is anything like either, you'll be forgiven by a good agent.

Having said that, I think you might want to avoid any WTF moments by the agent in the first couple of chapters. There should be an obviously connection between the synopsis and book. It just doesn't have to be one to one.

So, kudos for writing a complex story and good luck. Keep us informed.


So I'm currently in the process of getting my book ready to shop around. I've got a fairly solid query letter and kick-ass sample pages (and, y'know, the rest of the book), so the only thing left is the synopsis. I thought that part would be easy. I was wrong.

My question is this: is it OK to tell the synopsis in a slightly different order than the book itself is narrated if the book has multiple storylines that all converge at the end?

My book has basically three storylines: one, about a man searching for a missing child in a faerie realm made from dreams; two, about a thief that has not only stolen the child but has also been stealing things from the faeries themselves; and three, about the main character's own messed-up childhood and the realization that he has actually created the thief and now it's his responsibility to undo it.

The three storylines weave throughout the narrative, but when I write them that way in the synopsis it just looks like a jumbled mess. What makes more sense to me is to briefly explain the character's backstory and how, precisely, he created this place -- and then say that the explanation slowly unfolds while x y and z happen.

But is that kosher? Is it OK to tell the story in the synopsis in a different order than the events in the book?

Old Hack
04-14-2012, 10:32 PM
I'm going to disagree with everyone here, sort-of, and say, "it depends".

Your story has three interwoven storylines, right? If it's told with short chapters, alternating through the storylines in strict rotation, and you're finding it almost impossible to write a clear and concise synopsis while telling of the book's events in strict order, you can do it differently.

You start by writing a synopsis which tells a reasonable chunk of the storyline the book opens with. Skip over the other storylines for now, and concentrate on that main one.

When it becomes impossible to tell any more of storyline A without mentioning one of the others, write,


Meanwhile, this happens somewhere else.

Or words to that effect. Move to Storyline B. And continue in that vein, making it clear as you go that the story is made up with various interwoven storylines.

Yes, it's important to relate the events of your book in a synopsis: but it's also important for your synopsis to be clear. Write it however you have to to make it work for your book.

tlbodine
04-14-2012, 10:52 PM
Thanks for the feedback guys :) And TKO especially -- I appreciate your enthusiasm :D I'm really excited about this, especially when all of my beta readers (including a number of fellow english major alumni that I can trust to tell me straight-up, "dude, this is horseshit") all basically said, "Stop obsessing, stop editing, and send the book out already."

Anyway. After a LOT of false starts and hacking and trimming, I put together the synopsis last night. It's just over 3 pages. I'd like to be able to cut that down to two, but I'm not entirely sure at this point what I can afford to cut.

What I pretty much ended up doing was this:
-- Detail out the primary through-line story
-- Say "inter-cut with this is this other thing, that tells a, b and c"
-- Greatly hacked down the third through-line and gave only the information that was absolutely essential to end the book

I don't know if it's effective. I tested it by sending it to a bunch of people I know who I've never talked about the book with and asked if the story made any sense and if it sounded interesting. (I know, that's a highly technical experiment).

I may toss it up into Query Letter Hell here momentarily.

Thanks again for the feedback. I guess this is one of those things (like other parts of writing) that comes down to, "Do what works, and do it well."

HoneyBadger
04-14-2012, 10:53 PM
I did something like what Old Hack suggests- my novel's told through 3 rotating POVs, but the synopsis follows one character and one plot line straight through from beginning to end. (I've only been querying for 2 weeks, with good results as yet, but we'll see how wise my dumb choices actually are over time.)

Like the query (and please do correct me if I'm off-base) the synopsis serves to: entice the agent to read more and prove that you can tell your story concisely. If you succeed on both those points, agents won't fault you for not telling every little bit of your story.

Let the novel do its job, and let the synopsis and query do their own jobs.

Old Hack
04-14-2012, 11:19 PM
The synopsis isn't meant to entice, so much, as to show that you can put together a good plot and tell a good story. In fact, I'd say that synopses which entice and tease aren't doing their jobs properly. Business-like, clear and to the point. That's what synopses should be.

Sage
04-14-2012, 11:50 PM
Sometimes synopses are better if you don't stick exactly to the strict chronology of the story. If, for example, you have two POVs that are equally important to the plot but the back and forth of POV switches doesn't allow for you to tell their story coherently in the synopsis (vs. showing it unfold in the novel). In this case, it might make sense to tell a chunk of one character's scenes before switching to a chunk of the other's, and then switching back.

I've never seen one with alternating timelines in a synopsis, actually. But I bet the squirrels have, and now I'm interested to see what they suggest to you.

HoneyBadger
04-15-2012, 12:45 AM
I mean "entice" more in the "stir interest" area, but that's a really good point. Clarity is king, and conciseness is his queen.

Susan Littlefield
04-15-2012, 01:37 AM
I agree with Old Hack and also say it depends.

TL, I think your book sounds interesting. What I know about synopses: they need to be written in present tense, in the same voice as your novel, and include the main characters and conflicts.

I think including the three story lines and their relation to each other, and how it all comes together in the end, is a must. I don't think your synopsis necessarily has to be in chronological order. It can be in whichever format that tells your story the best. I would practice different types of synopses and see how you feel about each one. Maybe post one or more of them down in SYW for feedback.

Good luck.

BethS
04-15-2012, 03:01 AM
My question is this: is it OK to tell the synopsis in a slightly different order than the book itself is narrated if the book has multiple storylines that all converge at the end?






Yes. You can definitely structure the synopsis in a different way than the book is structured. Since the synopsis is an overview of the story, not an exact representation in form, information does not have to be revealed in the same way it would be in the book. This is particularly true for stories with multiple storylines and/or non-linear stories.