Blogger: Mary Keeley
Last week some of you commented about your love-hate relationship with writing a synopsis. Some authors say they enjoy it. More often, though, I hear writers express uncertainty. It doesn’t have to be a dreaded task if you pay attention to a few key points.
Some writers create the synopsis before they begin their book, because the exercise of writing it creates a clear road map for the storyline and plot. If you are the type of writer that needs to begin with a framework in order to visualize the rest of the book, starting with our synopsis may serve that purpose, not to mention getting it out of the way early. Chances are you’ll have to edit it after your manuscript is complete, but at that point it won’t be like starting from scratch. An added bonus at the end of the long manuscript process.
However, if you are the kind of writer who works best by discovering what happens as you write, you may feel restricted by an early synopsis, needing instead the freedom to flow with the main characters as you get to know them, their conflicts and goals along the way. But a word of caution. By the time you finish your manuscript, you could be creatively drained and might be tempted to rush through the writing of your synopsis. But don’t give in to that temptation. Agents and editors will read it before they get to the manuscript, so it’s important to create a perfect reflection of the quality of your manuscript, drafting, revising, and editing it to make every word count, just as you did for your manuscript.
A good place to begin is with a review of basic construction rules that show you are a writing professional:
- Present tense
- Third person
- Single-spaced in a proposal
- Use of .5-inch paragraph indents
- Same style and voice as your book
- Approximately five pages long for a trade-length book
- Standard business font such as Times or Times New Roman
Now to the 5 tips for writing a synopsis that shines:
- It should be addressed to publishing professionals, not readers. In other words, don’t leave any confusion or unanswered questions, as you would when trying to grab readers’ attention.
- Introduce the main characters and describe their conflicts and goals in ways that make agents and editors like and care about what might happen to them. If you can accomplish this in the synopsis, they will be assured you were successful doing so in the book as well.
- Stick to the main plot and characters, following their story (emotional arc) and the plot (narrative) chronologically. Again, conveying the emotion in your synopsis shows the agent or editor you can deliver in the book as well. Don’t get sidetracked with sub-plots and secondary characters.
- Transitions from paragraph to paragraph should be smooth and easy to follow. This is where I see many synopsis problems. When I have to read the manuscript in order to understand the synopsis, it defeats the purpose and reflects negatively on the writer.
- Tell the ending. Agents and editors need to see quickly that you are able to bring all the conflicts to final, satisfying resolution.
What pitfalls can you identify in your current synopsis? How can yo remedy them as a result of these tips?
Do you dread writing your synopsis? Here are 5 tips for writing a synopsis that shines. Click to Tweet.
Not sure if your synopsis is good enough to impress agents and editors? These five tips will help you. Click to Tweet.