marion leigh

"It's Minx, Petra Minx."

The Dreaded Synopsis

Posted by Marion Leigh on June 01, 2016 . 0 Comments

Remember precis-writing in school? How you had to read a text then summarize it, keeping all the main facts but stripping out the detail? Not easy to do, even on a text of a hundred and fifty words.

So how do you summarize a full-length novel of 80,000 to 100,000 words? Literary agents and publishers typically ask for a 500 or 1,000 word synopsis. Do you write it first or after the novel? Apparently the late great Sidney Sheldon was never sure where his plot was going until he’d finished writing.

Marion Leigh has done it both ways. For The Politician’s Daughter, her debut novel featuring Marine Unit Sergeant Petra Minx of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Marion wrote a chapter plan for the first two-thirds of the novel then followed her nose to the end of the story.

When she came to write Petra’s second adventure, Dead Man’s Legacy, she tried a different approach and wrote a detailed synopsis before starting. This worked quite well, although the plot changed as she went along. Still, if you read the original synopsis of The Killarney Connection, as the novel was initially called, you’d recognize the story.     

Now Petra Minx’s third adventure is well advanced, under the working title Destination Wedding. This time, Marion made a lot of notes but didn’t attempt to formulate her ideas into a lengthy synopsis.

She did, however, adopt the method suggested at a seminar by Harry Bingham, author and founder of The Writers’ Workshop: write a one-sentence summary of the concept then flesh it out into a paragraph. As Harry says, without a strong premise a book won’t sell, and you only have a few seconds to make what he calls “the elevator pitch”.

Here is the basic concept of Destination Wedding:

During the course of a wedding in South Africa, RCMP Marine Unit Sergeant Petra Minx discovers that the bride’s stepmother and stepbrother are using diamonds and young women to fight the regime in two very different ways.

The full summary for submission to agents and publishers will come later!