But even if no one else in the world ever saw my synopsis, I still have to write one.
A synopsis verifies the plot, pacing, and logic of the story.
WUT? I'm not talking about the one-page "short synopsis" that is essentially the hook, the inciting moment, and the ending. No, no, the truly useful synopsis is the longer 5pp minimum one. Think of the construct as each chapter gets a paragraph. Each paragraph contains 3 sentences:
- The Goal of the POV character for that chapter
- The Action taken by the POV character
- The Result/Repercussion of said action
G.A.R. = Goal. Action. Result.
You must force yourself to succinctly state what exactly the character wants, what they do, what price they pay. If you cannot do it, then there is something wrong in the story. Sometimes, the scene is too complex. Sometimes the chapter is unnecessary. If the Goal does not build on the Result of the previous one or two paragraphs, again, something is wrong with the story (probably a tangent that shouldn't have happened). Fix what is broken. Rewrite your synopsis.
There are those who include a sentence for setting and another for other characters on stage to help them track the Where and With Whom logic. If a character or a setting is only used once, then you've caught an opportunity to simplify and strengthen your story by re-staging the setting or replacing the character with one who is more present in the tale.
Writers who are aware that conveying emotion is their weakness will include a sentence regarding emotional change or frame a summary sentence with emotion.
Caution: Do not make these summary paragraphs long. Brevity is what will help you see what is working and what isn't.
This is why--even though I'm a Plotter--I always write a synopsis after I've written the story. Anything written before the book itself cannot accurately reflect what is actually going to be placed before a reader.
Synopses are not some punishment created by agents and publishers to test your mettle. If you're an author--no matter how you are published--you need to have a synopsis. You need to make sure that what you think you've communicated has actually come through in the story. You should never be in such a rush to publish that you forsake double-checking the actual storytelling of your novel.