One of my October goals in preparation for NaNoWriMo is to write a synopsis for Hag’s Hollow. I’ve never written a synopsis. After sweating over it, I decided a first-try synopsis won’t be perfect. I just need to give it a try in order to learn the process.
I love Google. I found out when you write a synopsis you should:
- Write the synopsis in present tense, third person.
- Capitalize characters’ names when you first introduce them.
- Put a “slug line” at the top of each page in the header: Last Name/Book Title/Synopsis.
- Number your synopsis pages.
- Use 12-point type, double space, and indent paragraphs.
- Don’t show, just tell because it’s not a dynamic scene but a perfunctory synopsis.
- Remember that a synopsis is not a blurb. Blurbs raise questions. (Will Thelma become a zombie herself?) Blurbs have cliff hangers. (Theodore decides to investigate the vampire lair and is shocked by what he finds.) Synopses tell it like it is, including spoilers like whodunit in a mystery novel.
- As to length, that depends on each agent’s requirements, so it’s best to have short, medium, and long synopses ready to go, like 600, 2000, and 6000 word synopses.
- And just to confuse all the newbies like myself, a standard query letter also includes a mini-synopsis in which you tweak it to read more like a blurb, and it can be single spaced.
The NaNoWriMo website has a handy-dandy window for typing in a synopsis. I entered the query-style, mini-synopsis. (I have a longer version tucked away on my computer.) This is what I entered:
CATHERINE DONOVAN is a forty-year-old woman with selective mutism and hyper-reactive senses. Because of her peculiar grunts, frantic scratching, and sensitive startle reflex, Catherine’s peers treat her like a freak. She lives with her family in Roanoke, Virginia. Catherine’s adopted daughter, nineteen-year-old HANAKO, is the only person with whom Catherine can be verbal.
Catherine’s husband, BO DONOVAN, inherits a piece of ancestral property in rural Giles County. Bo uproots the family and moves them to the property known locally as Hag’s Hollow. Hanako gives her mom a gold necklace with a cross to celebrate the move, saying a new start with quiet surroundings will be good for Catherine. But a witch’s ghost haunts the hollow, and she’s anything but quiet.
As for the witch, she is a 19th Century woman named HESTER DONOVAN. In her timeline, a rogue judge is determined to eradicate unholy practices from the county, and Hester’s rituals threaten the safety of the whole clan. Hester’s family banishes her to the hollow where she will surely starve to death.
In the current timeline, Catherine’s health fails to improve at the family’s new location. In fact, when Catherine is alone, her behavior becomes even more bizarre. She turns animalistic and prowls the night woods naked. Catherine is convinced that Hester has cast a spell on her. It must be a spell, Catherine reasons, because she is disgusted by her secret behavior but can’t stop.
Even worse, Hester kills a boy and frames Catherine. With the sheriff’s deputies out for justice, Catherine tearfully says goodbye to Hanako and flees to safety deep in Hag’s Hollow.
Back in the 19th Century, Hester is alone and on the verge of starvation. She sinks into madness. Hester’s rituals become single focused: revenge.
Hester’s spirit stalks Catherine in modern day Hag’s Hollow. Catherine must learn to embrace her beastly behavior in order to survive alone in the elements, but Hester thwarts her every move. When Catherine is caught upside down in Hester’s snare, Catherine’s cross falls off. The two women are then free to battle corporally across the passages of time, and it’s a fight to the death.