Friday, November 12, 2010



Congratulations. You’ve completed writing what will hopefully be the next bestseller.
You have revised and edited your manuscript until it’s perfect. Now it is time to move onto the next step. Writing the synopsis.
Sounds easy, right? After all, you just finished writing a novel, complete with relatable characters that readers will fall in love with, and a storyline that will blow every agent, editor, and publisher’s mind. And really, the synopsis is just a summary of your story so how hard can that be?
Hold on a second before you just dive into the synopsis. There are a few things you should know in order to write a sensational synopsis that will grab the attention of agents and publishers.
First, make sure you know the book well. Obviously if you’re the author you will know your story like the back of your hand. You can probably recite the book word for word, beginning to end. But if you are writing a synopsis for a book review, make sure you are very familiar with the plot and the characters.
Next, map out a basic outline. Make sure you have the main plot clearly described along with the main characters. These notes will help organize your thoughts before you begin writing. I like to go through each chapter of my MS and make a rough outline of each important scene. This way I know I have all the key conflicts covered.
Open your synopsis with an interesting sentence. Like the opening sentence and paragraph in your story, try to hook the agent and publisher right at the beginning.
Your synopsis should be written in omni pov and in present tense. Keep the wording simple and clear—save the more stylish writing for your manuscript. The synopsis is your opportunity to “tell” your story. Tell the agent, editor, and publisher what your book is about. Tell, tell, tell.
Make sure your transitions flow logically from point A (chapter 1) to point B, the end of your story. And remember, never—I mean NEVER--leave unanswered questions in your synopsis. Agents and publishers don’t want to be teased. They want to know how your story ends. They want to make sure the conflicts—external and internal--get resolved and how they do. If your story is a Who Dunnit, they want to know who dunnit. If your story is a romance, they want to know if the hero and heroine get together and how that happens.
Detail your “main plot” and describe your main characters. Describe all major points in your story, but no need to outline every single detail. Skip minor sub-plots, stick to the main ones. Also, don’t go into great detail about minor characters.
Like I said earlier, your synopsis should be written in present tense, but it should be active like your MS. Avoid passive voice as much as you can.
Try to keep your synopsis brief, but engaging. Remember, the synopsis is a summary. Agents and publishers are very very busy. They don’t have the time to read a long winded synopsis. Look at your synopsis as the skeleton of your story.
Make sure you read and edit your summary. You will probably go through a few drafts before get your synopsis just right. Another important step is get critiques on it for feedback. And check and quadruple check for grammatical errors and typos. This I can’t stress enough!
I think that about covers it. Before I go, I will leave you with a synopsis checklist.
1) Does the opening have a hook to keep reader reading?
2) Are main characters and conflicts clear?
3) Are characters sympathetic? Can readers relate to them?
4) Did you check for grammatical errors and typos?
5) Have you touched on the main scenes? Did you resolve all important conflicts? Answered questions?
6) Did you write your synopsis in present tense and omni POV?
7) Did you avoid passive voice?


Sheri Fredricks said...

I'm having you crit my synopsises (is that a word?) from now on. I feel like grabbing my hair and rolling my head - it's too much to remember! AAhh!!
Thanks for all the great pointers and reminders.

Charli Mac said...

Oh Brenda! I just completed my synop journey. I plan on posting about it myself in the coming weeks.

Biggest lesson for me, have someone who has NOT read any part of your story BETA read the synop. Crucial. You need someone with fresh eyes like the agents who will read it. Your steady crit partner will not be able to be biased enough to crit properly.

I reached out to a few people I know locally, one in NYU's MFA program. She critted my synop and pointed out plot points that needed to be elaborated upon and others I could do without.

My synopsis reads as a chronological order of events, leaving nothing out. The trick is to entice the agent/editor to have to read it asap, even though they know how it will end. They have to NEED to meet your characters.

My first synopsis was not in time order and it was NOT focused enough. In my final synop my secondary characters are mentioned briefly as this is part family saga. But I never mention their names.

The major plot points should have the character's motivations abudantly clear. Why they are going from point A to B and so on.

It should be as interesting/intriguing as the inside flap of the book but with the ending, obviously.

Great post.

Brenda said...

Sheri, I would love to crit your synopsis. And since I have never read your story I will be totally fresh eyes as Charli pointed out.
That is excellent advice, Charli, and it makes perfect sense!! Yes, have some one crit your synopsis who has never read your MS!!!I will add that to my synopsis list.
Thank you so much ladies for reading and commenting!

D'Ann said...

I have just finished The Cowboy's Baby! Nest, synopsis. Have I mentioned how much I HATE them???

Brenda said...

LOL, D'Ann, I hate them too, but super congrats on finishing up your Synopsis. I'm halfway through mine for LP.