Not too long ago, my agent was preparing to submit my YA novel to editors. Before doing so, he wanted me to write up a synopsis for the second book in the proposed trilogy. My problem? I hadn’t written the second book. I’d never even written a synopsis for the first book. But the synopsis for book two was essential, and I needed to prove to potential editors that it was going to be a scintillating read. Without giving away the ending to EVERLASTING (due out Summer 2010), I want to share some of my self-editing process for book Book Two’s synopsis.
1) Don’t get bogged down in backstory. Too much reminding the reader of what happened in the previous book is a pitfall for sequels, and the same could be said—at least in my experience—for the sequel synopsis. My own trick was to pretend the editor had just finished reading the first book, and then immediately picked up the synopsis. The details would still be fresh in her mind, and I wouldn’t need to do any catching up.
2) Keep mentioned characters to a minimum. Who are the integral players in your story? Who must you absolutely bring into the synopsis? I went through and checked off who would be joining my protagonist in the second book, and who would be staying behind. If they were no longer in the story, or played an active role, I didn’t mention them. Instead, I placed heavier emphasis on the new characters to be introduced, and a character from the first book that takes on a much bigger role.
3) Focus on the action. The synopsis needs to keep moving, just like the actual book. I kept asking myself: “Then what happens?” not “Then what is she feeling/thinking/considering?” That’s not to say the protagonist’s wants should be ignored—but try integrating those things into the action.
4) Choose plot points wisely. Try looking at the “big picture” for a minute. What does your character want? How is she trying to get it? What is standing in her way? How does she get over the obstacles? For the brief synopsis (1-2 pages), there isn’t a lot of space to delve into subplots, though touching on one might do well to add some depth to your story. For me, I chose to touch on my protagonist’s love triangle, since of all the subplots, it’s the most important. I chose to ignore the budding relationship between two other characters because it just wasn’t essential to the “big picture.” Choose only what is most important to you, and your protagonist.
5) Be liberal with your first draft. My first try at this sequel synopsis turned out to be five pages! I got down all I thought I wanted to say, and then was able to go back and hack away at it, until only the most important plot points were there. Each editing round, I was able to see unnecessary details, or things that would raise too many questions that couldn’t be answered in a synopsis. The synopsis is extremely challenging to write, so give yourself time and space to do it.