Blogger: Mary Keeley
I talked to two writers this week who were struggling to get the synopsis for their books right. I understand the challenge. Knowing what is necessary to include and what isn’t can feel more like an obscure gray blend than clear black or white, partly because you are so close to the story and the weaving of characters and events. Now might be a good time to review a few tips on writing the dreaded synopsis. It’s your first impression, which is why it’s so important. As the saying goes: You have only one chance to make a first impression.
This checklist will help you to avoid key downfalls and perfect your synopsis.
_____ I address publishing professionals, not readers. That is, you don’t leave any unanswered questions or a cliffhanger ending that you would have when trying to grab readers’ attention.
_____ The first paragraph has a strong hook to grab the agent’s or editor’s immediate interest.
_____ It is written in the same style and voice as the story.
_____ I introduce the main characters and describe their main conflicts and goals in a way that will make agents and editors like and care about what might happen to them. Showing that you can accomplish this in the synopsis promises that you can do this successfully in the book as well, and they’ll want to continue reading.
_____ I stick to the main plot and characters, following their story (emotional arc) and the plot (narrative) chronologically. I don’t get sidetracked with sub-plots and secondary characters. Again, showing you can focus on the emotional journey of your characters through the main plot to final resolution in your synopsis gives the agent or editor the initial impression that you can deliver in the book as well.
_____ My transitions from paragraph to paragraph are smooth and easy to follow. This is where many a synopsis fails. If there is confusion between what was happening in the previous paragraph and the next one, or if important details are missing, agents and editors are prone to reject the proposal because you’ve given us the impression that your main plot isn’t clear to you. This might not be accurate, but we don’t have time to read the whole manuscript to find out.
_____ I tell the ending. Agents and editors need to see that you are able to bring all the conflicts to final, satisfying resolution.
_____ It is free of any GPS (grammar, punctuation, and spelling) errors. If you aren’t sure about this, get help. Several of these errors in a synopsis give the impression that you aren’t ready for publication.
If you continue to struggle with your synopsis, it might indicate a problem in the story that you need to address. But the beauty of writing the dreaded synopsis is in identifying this before you begin submitting your book proposal or contest entry.
What pitfalls can you identify in your current synopsis? How can you remedy them as a result of these tips? What had you already done well? Noting this is good too because it boosts your confidence.
The dreaded synopsis. There is so much at stake. This checklist will help you to do it well. Click to Tweet.