To Shorten a Synopsis …

… there is no better inspiration for a writer than a contest page limit to force one to look at what you thought was a perfectly good synopsis, and ruthlessly cut it. Add to that limit the contest’s drop-dead deadline, and you are set!

Can you tell I entered another contest? Waited until the last day, because I knew I had a great synopsis I’d used this fall to enter the On The Far Side. Passages placed second in that contest. I’ve just been through a series of critiques with the first third of the manuscript through the fantasy chapter critique group and knew the pages were polished to be even better than before.

So I sat down, in the morning mind you, on the last day to enter the Washington Romance Writers Chapter contest, The Marlene. This is one of my local chapters, so I’d been hearing about the contest at monthly meetings. I’d glanced at the rules; I knew the entry was 35 pages, manuscript and synopsis.

But then I read the rules.

First bulletted point: One electronic copy of a synopsis (up to 5 pages) and the beginning of the manuscript not to exceed 35 pages total for synopsis and manuscript pages.

You guessed it; mine was six pages. Six full pages.

Like most writers, I never initiate work on my synopsis voluntarily. But, I tell you, I had decided to enter this contest, to see how my changes would fly and to support my chapter. So I buckled down right there.

Luckily I was already at my favorite Starbucks, with my venti (and BTW, I had to go verify the spelling of that; my MAC dictionary defined it as an opening that allows air, gas or liquid to pass out of or into a confined space. Yikes.) custom recipe hot chocolate, half consumed, and I was ready to go. Er, cut.

My edits took the better part of two hours, leaving a strong five page synopsis. I re-read the pages and put together my entry for the Fantasy/Futuristic and Paranormal category.  I also entered Wildflowers and Winged Boys in the YA category.  I’ve spent the last two weeks revising the start of this novel, but that’s another story.

The final judges for both my categories are of interest to me, and an author critique is awarded to each winner:

Paranormal: Final Editor Judge: Katherine Pelz, Berkley

Critique Author: Gwyn Cready (, 2009 Rita winner for Best Paranormal Romance

Young Adult: Final Editor Judge: Emilia Rhodes, Simon Pulse

Critique Author: Carrie Jones (

It’s weird, but entering contests always gives me a little rush of satisfaction. I think I’ll go check and see what else is out there to enter.

And hope I don’t have to shorten that synopsis to three pages!


About Laurel Wanrow

Fantasy romance tuned to the magic of the land.

Posted on January 16, 2010, in Contests, RWA, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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