If you are writing a novel and you tell anybody about it, inevitably you will be asked what it’s about. This is a tricky question. If you could really sum your book up in a sentence or two, would you really be writing it? In fact, you may not quite know what it’s really about until you are finished. Nevertheless, people will want an answer, and so will agents and editors if you ever try to sell it.
In fact, you’ll not only need a quick ten second pitch, you also need a detailed written synopsis of the entire book. I’ve spent the last couple days working out a synopsis for Heir to Elara and it hasn’t been easy. First, common wisdom indicates that a synopsis should be written in the present tense which really messes with your head if you spend a lot of time writing stories in the past tense. Second, you have to figure out the most important points to include because many nuances of character and plot will have to be left out.
At first this task seemed like an unfortunate drudgery that could never live up to the content of the book itself. But it forces you to think about your novel in a new way, and after a while I found myself enjoying the challenge of creating a condensed version of the story. The process was very rewarding as well, distilling as it did the essence of the storyline, which is very helpful when approaching a second draft.
I also discovered that if you are not quite finished with your book, this is a great way to iron out an ending. Ideas generally evolve from the general to the specific, and synopsis writing, like outlining, is one possible intermediary step. Of course the best part about it is that you’ll finally be able to tell people what your novel is about.