Blogger: Mary Keeley
This week an author asked me to take a look at her synopsis and offer suggestions because she was struggling to get it right. She isn’t alone. I talk to writers all the time who say the synopsis is the most dreaded part of a proposal, but it’s less confusing when they understand the important relationship between their story arcs and the synopsis. These four tips will show you.
Get off to a good start.
In the first paragraphs introduce the main character and a likeable trait, her inner struggle (emotional arc) that affects how she is viewing the mainStory arc2 problem (conflict) and why she needs to overcome it (motivation). In a romance, you need the same introduction for the hero too. If you don’t make the agent or editor care about the protagonist and what happens to her, they’ll know readers won’t either.
Stick to the main plot.
Some editors go straight to the synopsis when they pick up a proposal because it reveals a lot about the writer’s craft. They want to see the main character’s weaknesses, how and when you introduce each new obstacle that moves the plot forward and how it causes your character(s) to rise above it in a believable way and grow emotionally as a result. If they can’t follow this progression easily, your proposal may be on its way to the rejection pile.
Don’t get sidetracked.
Veering off into sub-plots, as interesting as they might be, disrupts the forward progression. Think of how three strands of hair cross over first one and then the other—layer over layer—until your braid is neatly tied off at the end. No stray ends, no added strands that make it messy.
Every word counts.
The synopsis for an 80,000- to 100,000-word novel must explain your story in about four pages or around 1,200 words. This means every word must earn its right to be included. Hunt for the strongest, perfect verbs and adjectives. Some authors like to draw a line down a piece of paper, listing the main crisis, the character’s emotional arc, and the motivation in the beginning of the book at the top of the page and how the main character has changed as a result of her motivation to overcome the main crisis at the bottom. When they name the smaller crises in chronological order down the page, they have a visual skeleton of the plot. Then they add a word or two that identifies the motivation and character’s growth at each one. Whatever method you use to map out your synopsis, it should help to ensure everything is present that should be and nothing more.
What do you like least about writing a synopsis? What didn’t you know about the important relationship between your story arcs and the synopsis? How many drafts does it usually take you to get the synopsis right? Do you write your synopsis before you start your manuscript or when it’s finished?
Here are four tips for writing a synopsis that will impress agents and editors. Click to Tweet.
The important relationship between your story arcs and the synopsis explained here. Click to Tweet.