That Pesky Synopsis

So I've stumbled upon something that I believe might be harder than writing the book itself. Maybe they're being asked for more consistently now, or maybe I queried agents who didn't require them, but recently I've found myself needing to come up with a synopsis. And let me tell you, we did not become instant friends. I sat down at stared at the blank screen for who knows how long, thinking, How do I summarize every point in the book in a way that won't sound like a list, and still be interesting? There was no hope for it, so I just started writing and did the best I could. The synopsis taunted me and called me mean names, like incompetent and silly. I defied it, of course, and cursed it under my breath. But when the struggle continued, I did what every smart person does: I googled it.

It was then I discovered something else: everyone says something a little different about how to write a synopsis. I compiled the sources and came up with simple guidelines. Mind you, some agents have guidelines or preferences on their website, and some don't. But these are the concrete details I came up with: double-spaced, present tense, no and thens, and short. I kept mine to two and a half pages, though some say agents accept up to ten pages. (Yet another source said five max, so, keeping in mind that agents don't have too much time on their hands, I limited it to two). There are no cliffhangers in a synopsis, so even though it felt like going against the grain, I gave away my big plot twists and climaxes as well as the ending.

There still needs to be set-up and structure, which just makes it all so much more fun. Hook, flesh, conclusion. Build-up and tear down, so to speak. We need to figure out a way to introduce our characters in a compelling way, describe the setting without over-describing. To me, it sounds impossible, so I applied advice I give to other writers: I just did it. I plowed through, ignoring the fact that it was horrible, until I'd typed the last word. It was only then that I went back and tore it apart and allowed myself to be consumed by self-loathing. I did more research and sent it to a friend (this is why it's great to have critique partners). Eventually I had a decent synopsis (I think), and while the synopsis included nearly every chronological event it didn't sound like some monotone narration.

Your turn. Have any of you guys had to write a synopsis? What were your methods, discoveries? This is an excellent source for those of you who are in the same place I am. It helped me immensely; there are guidelines as well as professional examples .

Dear Synopsis... I win.