Writing a synopsis (again)

Here I am, writing another synopsis, probably the most despised of all writerly tasks. And I’m not even finished with the first draft of Fragments of Legend yet! So why am I doing this to myself?

1) I’m trying to learn how to use the synopsis as a tool for finding holes in my plot

2) The next Villa Diodati workshop is coming up, and I can get some valuable feedback from my fellow expat writers

Anyway, while I’m at it, I thought I would put together some tips I found useful, both to share with others and for myself, so that I would have them all in one place.

– Give your synopsis a hook, a reason to keep reading. If you can’t come up with one, then maybe your novel still needs one too. This is what I came up with as my hook:

“What if the most famous epic of medieval German literature, the Nibelungenlied, had been written by a woman? Kyra Silberburg, an American book conservator in Germany, discovers evidence in the backing of an old herbal that could mean precisely that.”

Ok, so it’s a literary mystery, not a Big Idea plot in which the goal is to save the world. But I like literary mysteries, and I like stories that challenge received notions of gender, and this beginning would promise a reader like me precisely that.

– Leave out the sub-plots

This is going to be a bit difficult with the synopsis of this book, since it plays out on three different levels: the modern level in which Kyra discovers the manuscript fragments; the medieval level telling the story of the woman who wrote her own version of the Nibelungen legend; and the mythic level of the events surrounding the downfall of the Nibelung Burgundians.

But since I’m mostly writing this for myself right now, I don’t have to worry about that yet.

– Don’t include every step along the way to the resolution, only the major turning points

This is turning out to be very useful for me as a writing tool. When I started doing this for the modern level of Fragments of Legend, I soon recognized a number of logic gaps on the one hand and unnecessary scenes on the other. Hopefully now that the important turning points are clearer to me, I won’t have to write as many questions to myself in my manuscript. Maybe I will even be less likely to get stuck on a regular basis!

Some useful links:

How to Write a Synopsis

5 Steps to Writing a Synopsis:

A page with links to a lot of links to different articles about writing the synopsis:

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