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A two page synopsis sounds impossible? Critically acclaimed romance writer Karen Wiesner shows us how.

Composing an In-Depth Synopsis {in a two-page-maximum world}
Karen Wiesner

You've heard the rumors, and I'm sorry to confirm that they're true. The romance market is moving toward a standard two-page-maximum synopsis. For most of us, writing a thank-you note as short as two pages is impossible. How in the world can we cram everything contained within a 250-page-plus novel into a measly two page synopsis?

If you look at the figures, it seems even more impossible:

10 pages=2500 words
5 pages=1250 words
2 pages=500 words

But maybe the old-fashioned way isn't completely useless. Maybe we can use it to our advantage. It easier to write more than what you need instead of less than what you need, right? Because that way it's just a matter of cutting out the extraneous. Composing the old-fashioned way.

There are two steps in writing a synopsis. Step one is the background, where you give details concerning the hero and heroine's past. Personal and external conflicts are explored as well as why they were or weren't resolved. Step two is the present. Here you bring the reader up to speed on how the characters have dealt with the past and you introduce new developments. For now, concentrate on including everything you feel is important to your story. Worry later about the length of the synopsis.

To make sure you've covered everything, follow this list:
WHO? (character name, age, career, and personality)
WHAT? (internal and external conflicts, as well as goals, both separate and mutual)
WHEN? (the time period--historical, contemporary, time travel, etc.)
WHERE? (the setting)
WHY? (why are they in this situation? why are they in it together? why do they fall in love with each other?)
HOW? (how do the hero and heroine meet (again)? how do events and the relationship progress and how are they resolved?)

For an in-depth synopsis, your totals will most likely shake out like this:
WHO? 3 lines for each character
WHAT? 3 paragraphs for each character
WHEN? 2 lines
WHERE? 2 lines
WHY? 5 or more paragraphs
HOW? 5 or more paragraphs

Unless you write extremely long paragraphs, the majority of synopsis pages have around four paragraphs each, which means that the old-fashioned synopsis is going to be much too long. It's time to get out your sharpest pair of scissors.

Composing the two-page-maximum way.
WHO? (In a synopsis this short, you probably don't need to put in more than the names and a brief description of their careers. Cut out anything else. Be ruthless here because this will be the easiest place to whittle away the unnecessary.)
WHAT? (Depending on how far your characters go back with each other, what isn't crucial to the synopsis should present itself almost immediately. All you need is what their main hang-up is (a personal one), the thing that threatens them from the outside, and what they plan to do about each conflict.)
WHEN? (In a contemporary, it's always assumed present time. In a historical and time travel you might need to be specific, but keep it down to one line if at all possible.)
WHERE? (Unless the setting is absolutely pivotal to some conflict in the story, leave it out altogether.)
WHY? and HOW? (These are the two areas you'll have the hardest time keeping short. Remember, a synopsis (especially one this short) isn't the place for in-depth details. Describe the events briefly, give viable explanations for the situation and the characters' motives, then cap it off with their resolutions.)

Now we have:
WHO? 1 line for each character
WHAT? You could conceivably get this down to 2 lines for each character if your plot isn't too complex
WHEN? 0 to 1 line
WHY? 3 paragraphs
HOW? 3 paragraphs

This is manageable. With those sharp scissors, you can get your synopsis down to two pages without having something that resembles a hollow log when you're done. Just remember to keep a copy of that in-depth synopsis. The market still has a few souls (God love 'em!) who prefer a synopsis written the old-fashioned way.

Good luck!

. . . . . . . .

Karen Wiesner, named a "leading romance writer" by The Writer Magazine, is the best-selling author of the Gypsy Road Series, the Angelfire Trilogy, Dare to Love Series as well as upcoming Wounded Warriors Series (coming 2002) from Hard Shell Word Factory http://www.hardshell.com. Her fiction novels from Hard Shell have been nominated for Romantic Times' 1999 E-Book of the Year, the Frankfurt Award and multiple Eppie's. In Fall 2001, Hard Shell Word Factory published ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING Q&A, the compilation of Karen's now-defunct Inkspot column. The book includes bonus columns never previously released.

Karen is also the author of ELECTRONIC PUBLISHING The Definitive Guide {The Most Complete Reference to Non-Subsidy E-Publishing}, a bestselling, Frankfurt nominated writer's reference. The Guide was a finalist in the 1999 EPPIE and won the 2000 EPPIE for Best Non-fiction. The 2001 Edition is published by Avid Press, LLC http://www.avidpress.com, is excerpted in the 2001 Writers Digest Novel & Short Story Market and made the Inscriptions Books of the Year list http://www.inscriptionsmagazine.com/BOTY.html. A FREE preview (zipped HTML format) of the Guide is available by sending an e-mail to kwiesner@cuttingedge.net with "EPTDG Preview" in the subject line.

Avid Press is the publisher of Karen's first paranormal romance, SWEET DREAMS, which was a Reviewers' Top Pick for 2000 http://www.ebookconnections.com/Eclectic%20Reader/reviewers'_2000_picks.htm, received a coveted 4 1/2 star Top Pick review from Romantic Times Magazine and is a finalist in the prestigious 2001 Daphne du Maurier Award http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org.

Karen won the 2000 Inscriptions Engraver Award http://www.inscriptionsmagazine.com/Engravers.html for best online columnist, the Year 2000 for eXcellence in E-publishing Award: E-author from ebookadvisor and was a recipient of The Simply Charming Award for outstanding promotion of e-books. She was also nominated for the 2000 EPIC Florence Moyer Service Award.

Upcoming releases for Karen include: a book of poetry, titled Soul Bleeds The Dark Poetry and Other Wanderings of K.S. Wiesner (Atlantic Bridge Publishing http://www.atlanticbridge.net, July 2001), the 2001 edition of the Guide (Avid Press, July 2001), another non-fiction/writer's reference titled THE PRODUCTIVE WRITER {or how to avoid carpal tunnel with all those revisions} (Avid Press, LLC, Late 2001), a children's story written with Linda Jablonicky, called THE CODY KNOWS CHRONICLES (CrossroadsPub.com, Late 2002), as well as the first book of the Wounded Warriors Series, RELUCTANT HEARTS (Hard Shell Word Factory, Early 2002.)

Projects in the works for Karen: a mainstream romantic suspense called NO ORDINARY LOVE, the second book of the Wounded Warriors Series-WAITING FOR AN ECLIPSE, as well as a psychological thriller written with author Christine Spindler http://www.christinespindler.com titled DEGREES OF SEPARATION.


For more information about Karen and her work, visit her web site at http://karenwiesner.hypermart.net.

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