Monday, April 24, 2017

What to Know When Writing a Synopsis

Compiled from various author websites and workshops by Paty Jager

Synopsis in the dictionary means – a condensed statement or outline (as of a narrative or treatise)

When an editor or agent asks for a synopsis, whether one page or seven pages, they want a comprehensive view of your story in a narrative form that shows your voice, not an account of the story in a monotone line by line description.

A synopsis needs to tell the editor: Set-up, major developments, and resolution, all the while providing internal conflict, external conflict, and the black moment.  You must always give the resolution. Nothing has an editor rejecting a work more than a writer not tying up the loose ends in a synopsis. They don’t find it cute to be left hanging. It makes them wonder if you really have a satisfying ending.

Not only does the synopsis give a brief description of the story, it should also reflect your voice or writing style. If you have a humorous book, the synopsis should be humorous, if it’s a suspense there should be a feeling of suspense in the synopsis.

You also need to decide ahead of time what you want to devote the most attention to, especially if you are writing suspense. Will the editor jump on the romance angle or the suspense angle?  You need to make the decision and focus on that angle.

In a synopsis, you don’t have room for details. Don’t include secondary plots or characters unless they are necessary to understand the resolution. Don’t use multiple points of view in a synopsis.

Write in present tense. It provides a sense of urgency.

A synopsis should be formatted just as you would a manuscript:
  • Double Spaced
  • Mono-spaced font such as Courier, New Courier or Times New Roman (sized to give you no more than 250 words per page)
  •  Header on every page, (book title, upper left – last name and page number, upper right) formatted so synopsis text begins no less than 1 inch from the top
  • It begins at the beginning of your story and goes to the end of your story

Questions you need to answer in your synopsis:
  • WHAT – happens (Story)
  • HOW – it (story) happens (Plot)
  • WHO – it happens to (Main Characters)
  • WHY – it happens to them (Conflict)
  • WHERE – it happens (setting/location)
  • WHEN – it happens (Time – Seasons , day, night , year)

Writing the Synopsis

Be sure you include Action, Growth, and Romance(if you’re writing a romance) in your synopsis and no back story.

The first paragraph of the synopsis should be a hook. Either a situation, story statement, or story theme.  You should choose the first sentence of your synopsis just as you would the first line of your book. You want to grab the editor’s attention from line one and keep her or him interest to the last line.
·         Mark Smith lost his wife and is trying to raise two children by himself. This is not the way to start.  An attention getting first line would be: Mark Smith wishes every day  for his life to return to normal, but with two matchmaking, teenage daughters, he knows it won’t happen any time soon. This grabs the editor’s attention and sets up the conflict, all in one sentence.

The second paragraph should show the heroine’s motivations, goals, and character traits, succinctly.

The third paragraph should show the hero’s motivations, goals, and character traits, succinctly.

The body of the synopsis should tell how they meet(if a romance) and all pertinent information to the romance, mystery, or suspense  and plot without minute detail. Pick the turning points and emotional highs and lows.

The Black Moment should also be short and to the point.

And then the satisfying resolution.

Always remember to use good grammar and the writing needs to be tight. Editors don’t want pages of beautiful prose. They want the plot, the romance, and whether or not you have put together a saleable book.

The purpose of the synopsis (for an acquiring editor) is to determine whether or not you have a solid plot and it is something that piques their interest.

What don’t you put in a synopsis?

Do not put description of either the setting or characters. No bulging muscles, crimson sunsets, or love scenes. None of that influences an editor. What they are looking for is plot and how well you’ve woven one.

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