Another thing about back then: You could read books on how to write a novel, but nobody wrote one about how to write a synopsis. Nobody taught any courses about it, and you couldn't find any information online. Heck, you couldn't find anything online. Chances were, you hadn't even heard the word modem then.
So I spent a lot of time trying to igure out how to do a decent synopsis. I still have one of my earlier ones, and I'll guarantee, it is awful. It's a 12 page list of events in chronological order, in sentences that all have the same structure, short and clipped, and bare. No wonder no one was interested in buying my stories then.
But no matter who I asked, no one could, would maybe, tell me what I needed to know. There was "You've got to get the emotion into it." Yeah, I did ask over and over how to do that and got what amounted to blank stares in return.
And mine were long. The first one I wrote was 42 pages. I did have the sense to not submit it, and realized it was really a story outline, the kind I'd use for myself. With great effort, I got it down to something almost useful. The above-mentioned 12 pages.
So what have I learned over the years? Well, most of that is covered in these three links to some great information for synopsis writers. I swiped this list from another author, Jenna Bayley-Burke, right out from under her nose, because I thought you could use them:
Synopsis Creation-Plot Revision by Alicia Rasley - example of how to fix a bad synopsis
Honing your Synopsis Skills by Joanne Rock - emotional landmarks make the synopsis, not just a string of events
Synopsis by Linda Needham - synopsis worksheet
What did I personally do to make my synopses work? Well, I started with my first tool, whiich was my first excited notes/outline of the story. Sometimes, if I'd finished the story, I'd go back and briefly edit to make the synopsis fit however the story had changed. Then I'd get out my YELLOW highlighter and mark all my major points- plot turning points, emotional turning points, motivations-- everything I thought needed to be in the synopsis. I'd then copy and paste them into a long list, which I would whittle down further by using the PINK highlighter in the same way as I'd done the yellow one. That makes orange, by the way. Delete the stuff that's still only yellow. I'd re-phrase next, trying to consolidate sentences. This usually got me down to the 12-15 page stage. Still too long, and it didn't exactly make exciting reading.
Next, I'd look for ways to generalize the plot. Instead of the detailed interaction of the hero and heroine going fishing, I'd just say they went fishing, where he rescued the trapped otter-- whatever, and she saw a softer side of him.
I discovered that by making a separate emotional plot line, which sometimes I run in a separate column side by side with the physical plot, I can see how it's the emotional line, the romantic growth, that makes the story strong. Then it's much easier for me to write sentences that combine the two, while minimizing plot and maximizing emotion.
A number of times my first plot sketch has been good enough to work into a synopsis. This has usually happened when I set out to keep my story-teller voice in the sketch. I just act like I'm explaining-telling- my exciting new story to my best friend. Somehow it ha better voice and shorter, too.
Another approach when I'm stumped, and need a much shorter synopsis but it wont trim down: I go to the extreme in shortening it. All the way to a blurb that would fit on the back of a business card. Sometimes not any more than a sentence. The question I ask: What's the essence of my story? Think Elevator Pitch. How would you describe your story to an editor if she asked you in an elevator, and you know she's getting off on the eighth floor?
An example: Sunrise on the Cornish Coast: Two ladies. One spyglass. Two naked men dashing into the surf. One of them is the man Lady Juliette hoped would never find her.
Sure, there's lots more story after that. But this captures the theme, suspense, setting-- go from there.
This one better encapsulates the entire story: What was intended to be a restorative tonic for women turns out to have an entirely different effect on men. And the bachelors of the Ton re running scared.
The object is to keep your tiny blurb in mind as you expand it. Build your synopsis from that point, maybe occasionally checking with your long one where you think you had it just right before. But build like you're putting up house framework, then adding on the remainder. Stop with the framing for a very short synopsis- just the emotional guts with clear but very general plot line. Add more detail for one that's 3-4 pages long, more emotion and motivation, more plot. Then your 7-10 page synopsis can be your mainstay that fleshes thing out. But again, keep your concentration on motivation and emotion.
Hope this helps! Now go get busy and polish up your synopsis!