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Old 03-22-2013, 03:08 AM   #1
JordanRodrig
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Exclamation Writing a Synopsis

Hey all,

Anyone have experience writing a synopsis? I've written maybe one in my life, and it probably wasn't very good. For the past week I've been struggling with writing a synopsis for my comic book series. I either have too much detail, not enough, or I skip important events in the story arc. It should be easy, like pitching a story, but it's not. It feels like something else entirely, and I was just wondering if anyone has some tips.

-J
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Old 03-22-2013, 03:33 AM   #2
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It depends heavily on what the synopsis is for.

Your own reference, showing to a comic publisher, etc.

First contact or further elaboration on the basic idea you already sent... and so on.


It's a good idea though to keep it simple in almost all cases while making sure to touch on the points that will interest the reader and "sell" them on the story as opposed to just picking out what's most important to you.

For example, if you really love the main character, make sure you don't just gush about how awesome your guy is. Etc.


One thing you could try, if it fits the scenerio, is writing a first page of what the entire series is about, then issue breakdowns of what you have planned.
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Old 03-22-2013, 04:16 AM   #3
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It depends heavily on what the synopsis is for.

Your own reference, showing to a comic publisher, etc.
It's for a comic publisher.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CHWolf View Post
One thing you could try, if it fits the scenerio, is writing a first page of what the entire series is about, then issue breakdowns of what you have planned.
Good advice that I've done several times now.

I appreciate the input, but I seem to be struggling to grasp it. I went from three full pages to one, and am trying to, as you said, "touch on the points that will interest the reader and "sell" them on the story." Being a writer, I find it a little ironic I'm struggling with this of all things. I guess it's because I have the whole script and can't imagine how a simple summary does it any justice.
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Old 03-22-2013, 04:24 AM   #4
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You have to stop thinking like a writer-writer and start thinking like an advertising writer. (Bad sentence, but we're all writers here, right?) ...

Put on your best "IN A WORLD..." theatre voice, ie: "In a world where evil reigns, one man must stand against injustice! He is... Ned Perrywinkle!"


It sounds, just IMHO, like you're just working on the skill of ripping out the meat of your project in order to make the sale.

(This is a good and necessary skill!)


Does your character learn he has a twin brother? Does he travel through China over the course of twenty years, looking for him? Does he meet a lot of gangsters and lunatics along the way who make his trip Hell?

Strap on the Ad Man hat...

"Flint Stonely is travelling the land of China to locate his missing twin brother. Along the way, a series of unlikely enemies must be overcome!"

Stuff we didn't need: He just found out he had the brother (we can guess), the trip takes twenty years (irrelevent to selling it and sounds tedious when unelaborated), he meets gangsters (not necessary)... and so on.



I know this is 99.999% guaranteed to be stuff you already know, I guess I'm just trying to reinforce it and maybe psyche you up or get you in the mood for it?

I dunno.
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Old 03-22-2013, 06:16 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by JordanRodrig View Post
Hey all,

Anyone have experience writing a synopsis? I've written maybe one in my life, and it probably wasn't very good. For the past week I've been struggling with writing a synopsis for my comic book series. I either have too much detail, not enough, or I skip important events in the story arc. It should be easy, like pitching a story, but it's not. It feels like something else entirely, and I was just wondering if anyone has some tips.

-J
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Old 03-23-2013, 10:53 AM   #6
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A synopsis to me is more about marketing and less about (lack of a better word) "creativity". I think the best thing you could do is simply read the back of as many DVDs you own. You know the story already, but is that story summarized in one or two paragraphs? What key themes or points do they try to convey? Same thing goes for books.

Something I've noticed a lot of people do that turns me off is use questions in their synopsis. Will our hero survive blah blah blah? My personal opinion, those sorts of questions always come off as campy and just plain unneccary.

Just keep cutting and cutting. You'll get there.
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:04 PM   #7
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Can you clarify for us whether you're looking to write a log line (the basic theme in one or two sentences) or a synopsis? A log line will be the hook that catches their attention and is usually found in the cover letter, whereas the synopsis is what will give them more detail into the story proper. You guide us to helping you.

What I've done in the past is put my story into point form. What are the key aspects of the story? What pieces of dialogue are effective in giving a glimpse of the meaning or direction of the story? By brainstorming your outline in point form, you can reverse your writing process and cut those things that don't have any real significance to capturing their interest. If you wrote an outline to develop your story, you're already half way there. Cut cut, and cut some more. You'll find those key points that will stand out the most. Then it's just a matter of finding the right words. I do copy writing as an editor and would be willing to take a look at what you've got once you get to that point. Just send me a PM.

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Old 03-25-2013, 07:02 AM   #8
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Just keep in mind that a synopsis is not a pitch. A lot of people use the two terms interchangeably like they're the same thing, but they're not. A pitch is pure tease. It's just a blurb (or even a single word) you throw out to create interest in your story. It's also the stock answer you will give anyone at a convention or on the street who asks "what's this comic about?" Along the same lines is a solicit. This is a slightly more detailed version of a pitch (usually around 50 words) you will have to write to describe your book to retailers, distributors, critics, etc. Book-jacket type stuff.

The thing about pitches and solicits is that they are both meant for public consumption. You want them to have some pizzazz because they are sales tools. You also want them to be purposefully vague. You're not telling the story, you're just trying to get people to read it. Give them just enough info to suck them into your sideshow.

A synopsis is a whole other animal. For one thing it's generally not meant for public consumption (mostly because it gives away all the best parts, including the end). For another thing it's more of a technical document than a creative one. Like a blueprint. What the person reading it wants to know is what kind of story this is and if you're capable of telling it. Naturally you want it to be interesting to read, but don't make it too flowery. Flowery adds words. You want it to be as short as it can possibly be and still make sense as a story. You don't need to include every detail, just the crucial ones. Only mention stuff that needs to be mentioned in order to follow the story. Like Creativesynergy said, know your crucial points. This is where outlining and a good grasp of story structure helps.

Every story follows the same basic formula--a protagonist encounters a problem (conflict is the fancier word) and starts struggling with it (usually there's a villain driving the conflict, but there doesn't have to be. Conflicts can come in all shapes and sizes). The struggle get more heated as we go and complications start to pop up making it worse until it builds to a climax where the protagonist either solves the problem and defeats the villain or gets beaten by it. Then we are shown the results of the whole thing. The End. There are countless variations on this formula, but this is the basic roadmap any story has to follow to qualify as a story. With this formula in mind, a synopsis only has to answer a few basic questions: who is the protagonist? What is the central conflict? Who is the villain driving it (if there is one)? How does the conflict build and what are the complications that pop up? What's the climax? And what is the final resolution? Including details that don't address any of these questions will just weigh down your synopsis. Ultimately you're going to have to leave out more than you include.

in the end there's no shortcut or perfect synopsis formula. it just takes practice.
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Old 03-25-2013, 10:11 AM   #9
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Excellent explanation, Bulletboy-Redux.

Another thing about writing a synopsis is the matter-of-fact nature of the style, all in present tense. Here's an example.

"Steve Rogers, a determined yet physically frail young man, is chosen as the subject of the Super Soldier program. After the procedure is proven to be successful, a secret Axis agent makes his presence known and kills Dr. Erskine.

Jump ahead 70 years. Captain America wakes from unconsciousness, bringing him back to the present where the Red Skull stands over him as he lies strapped to an examination table. Arnim Zola is extracting blood from Cap's arm. "I intend to drain every ounce from your body", explains the Skull."

That's just a part of the synopsis, but as you can see, even the past was written in present tense. It's like taking bulleted notes and making sentences out of them. Another thing you need to do is take out any extraneous fluff. I could have written "Captain America wakes from unconsciousness to face the man who ordered the assassination of Dr. Erskine: The Red Skull, who stands triumphantly over him as he lies strapped to an examination table." Notice how that just adds words and doesn't add value? Be short and concise, making sure to capture the essence of the story.

Something to remember: The editor's time is precious. It took me being on this side of the desk to realize just how busy an editor can be, and nowhere more than in my present situation working with ComixTribe and freelancing. They may put aside a brief amount of time for reading submissions, but if you don't capture them in a short amount of time, they're going to put your work into the waste basket.

Finally, the precision in which you write your synopsis is an indication of how you will write your story, with similar precision. If you can't weed out the unnecessary information, then it tells them you will be doing the same with your script, which means more work for them in the long run and less time to dedicate to those projects that are better developed, even if your premise has more potential for sales. It's a matter of weighing their time commitments.

This brings it back to having an editor look at your synopsis before it gets sent off.

Definitely some points to consider.

Steve
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Old 03-25-2013, 06:43 PM   #10
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Hello Everyone,

Thanks for all the input. After I cut it all down, I came up with the great idea of sending two versions. A short and simple synopsis, and including the larger version if the publisher really wants something to chew on. I think this might be my best bet to cover all bases while still giving a taste if that's all the publisher wants.

Wish me luck, and thanks again.
-J
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Old 03-25-2013, 09:19 PM   #11
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Did the publisher request a long and short form? I know as an editor working with a publisher (and having been EIC of another company in the past), I'd be seriously annoyed if someone sent in two versions of the same story synopsis. To me, it shows you can't make up your mind and can't isolate which best reflects your skills as a writer. If they didn't request it, don't do it.
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Old 03-30-2013, 07:23 PM   #12
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This brings it back to having an editor look at your synopsis before it gets sent off.
Can you recommend any freelance editors who provide such services? And what should one expect to pay to have a synopsis reviewed?

I looked around for a freelance editor to help out on my comic, but the ones I found were well out of my price range. Several of them wanted a higher page rate than I paid my penciler. Is that common?
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Old 03-30-2013, 08:10 PM   #13
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Can you recommend any freelance editors who provide such services? And what should one expect to pay to have a synopsis reviewed?

I looked around for a freelance editor to help out on my comic, but the ones I found were well out of my price range. Several of them wanted a higher page rate than I paid my penciler. Is that common?
Very often, you get what you pay for.

I know that I'm pretty good at what I do, but I also don't price myself out of contention in many cases.

I charge about as much as a good letterer, maybe a bit more. That's for doing scriptwork only. If you also want me to take on the headache of project management, then you're going to pay more--possibly as much as your penciler, if not more. Project management is a big job, so the pay should reflect that.

Do I charge for just a synopsis/pitch? Sure do. Either shoot me a pm or an email at stevedforbes (at) gmail (dot) com.

But I agree with Steve: if you sent me two versions of the same thing, I'm going to be highly annoyed. Not only that, you probably wouldn't be able to place the project with me. Not unless it was extraordinary in idea and execution. (Lots of great ideas are hampered by poor execution.)

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Old 03-30-2013, 08:15 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Screwtape Jenkins View Post
Can you recommend any freelance editors who provide such services? And what should one expect to pay to have a synopsis reviewed?

I looked around for a freelance editor to help out on my comic, but the ones I found were well out of my price range. Several of them wanted a higher page rate than I paid my penciler. Is that common?
I know my IDW editor Mariah Huehner would probably take freelance. Not sure how much she'd charge though

(EDIT: Sorry for the double post below!)
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Old 03-30-2013, 08:15 PM   #15
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Consider how important your log line/high concept is and then consider the importance of your synopsis. The first captures the theme in one or two sentences while the synopsis tells the story in a double spaced page or two. Some publishers are strict on that one page maximum while others will allow up to five pages for a mini-series pitch, but definitely not for a single issue worth of story. The right words and right amount of words need to be written in the right order in just the right fashion. If it weren't for an effective synopsis, the story wouldn't be considered. And thus why editors charge what they do for a project of that importance level.

There are also three degrees of editing: Comprehensive editing, copy editing, and proofreading, so with that, there are going to be different fee ranges. In other words, you get what you pay for.

I'm a freelance editor who works with publishers of various sizes, whether small press or self-publishing. I also work with creators who are seeking to have their work submitted to publishers, what I call pre-submission editing. Whether writer, artist, or other creative position, I look at the project and price according to these types of factors. I'm also reasonable given I've been editing and instructing for a quarter of a century. Anyone wanting me to look at their projects can contact me at scolle_creativesynergy@hotmail.com and I'll take a look.

Steve
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Old 03-30-2013, 08:16 PM
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