As writers we know that writing a synopsis can prove to be harder than writing the actual novel. Why is this? Because a synopsis is our selling tool. It’s what the editor/publisher will use to decide if you’ve written a novel he wants to sell. It’s your ticket into the door of publishing and you can make or break it with your synopsis. Here are some tips to writing a synopsis that sells…
What goes into a synopsis?
It is an outline that describes the general events of your novel written in a present tense narrative form. Each editor/publisher wants your synopsis in a certain way and guidelines can be requested with an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). Some want a 2-page synopsis while others want a more detailed 20-page. If there is no specified length, try to keep your synopsis to 10 or 12 double spaced pages.
What does an editor look for in a synopsis?
The editor wants to know what your character’s conflict is going to be and whether it is strong enough to hold readers to your novel. Then they decide how well you’ve built on that conflict throughout the story and whether it will hold the readers attention through to the end. The editor will also want to be convinced that your book fits in the genre that they publish – otherwise you’re wasting their time and yours.
Remember: Editors usually read your sample chapters first. Once they’ve decided if they like your writing, then they read your synopsis to see if you have created a compelling novel.
Some key questions to answer in a synopsis
What is this story about?
Who are the main characters?
What do these characters want?
Why do they want it?
What stands in their way of getting it?
How to write a great synopsis
Write your synopsis in the present tense.
Focus on your characters and what is happening to them.
Give the editor a sense of the setting, tone and pace of your novel – they are your reader and you have to entice them.
Make sure you follow the editor’s instructions/guidelines for your synopsis. Some editors ask for short, single-spaced synopses. Others like longer synopses that are double-spaced.
Don’t just reproduce the first pages of your novel. Make your synopsis as creative as you can but it must also be a true representation of your story at the same time.
Do not leave out your ‘cliff-hangers’. As hard as it is, you have to tell them exactly what happens in your book – this means everything!
Include all the sub-plots and how they interact/affect your main plot and characters.
Don’t include your character’s physical description unless it affects the plot in an important way (i.e. ‘Kathy’ has long brown curly hair, brown eyes, and a beautiful smile…etc. It is more of; ‘Kathy’s stubborn streak only increased her chances of coming to blows with ‘Richard’…).
Don’t include any secondary characters unless they are important to the plot and also affect your main characters.
Put your name and the book title in the upper right-hand corner. Papers easily get shuffled and this helps keep your submission together.
Try reading your synopsis aloud to yourself. Listen to the flow of your sentences. You’ll find room for reconstruction by doing this and it will make all the difference for your synopsis. Also, have someone read it out loud and listen to how it sounds like a second party – this will give you a good indication of what the editor will read/hear in your synopsis.
If you’re still having trouble creating your synopsis, try writing a brief descriptive paragraph like those found on the backs of novels. Try summing up your book in that way first. Be explosive. Then begin to expand it from there, making sure to include all the important events of your book and main character information.
**Important: If and when the editor requests to see your manuscript, make sure you mark your proposal/manuscript ‘requested material’ on the outside of the package so it will not get buried in the ‘slush’ pile. This will ensure that your editor will get your manuscript immediately.
Writing a synopsis is not an impossible feat and but it does take time, energy, and patience. When writing your synopsis, write with confidence. A synopsis is your way of selling your novel. Take your time in writing it but don’t take forever! These tips for writing a synopsis will only aid in making yours better. Good luck with your writing!