Recently I completed an online workshop run by Savvy Authors. The course was called Pass the Shovel. In this course each lesson was about breaking down your story, your plot, your voice, your dialogue and your characters. I found the whole course very worthwhile but the lesson that I found the most enlightening was lesson 1. Lesson 1 was about breaking down your book into a summary or what the writing industry calls a synopsis.
synopsis |səˈnäpsis|noun ( pl. -sesˌsēz|)a brief summary or general survey of something : a synopsis of the accident.
• an outline of the plot of a book, play, movie, or episode of a television show.
DERIVATIVES synopsize |-ˌsīz| |səˈnɑpˈsaɪz| verb
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via late Latin from Greek, from sun- ‘together’ + opsis ‘seeing.’
synopsis – noun
the synopsis was so intriguing that I just had to buy the book summary, summarization, précis, abstract, outline,
digest, rundown, roundup, abridgment.
Then on my writing groups that I belong to, there have been various discussions about the horrors and necessities of the Synopsis. So I thought today’s post should be about the topic of the month: Synopsis ~ Are you in or out of sync with your synopsis?
So why is a synopsis necessary?
- A synopsis is needed when you write your query letter and you pitch your book.
- An agent does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that lands on their desk. They need a “taster” to see if your book is going to be featured on their menu. Cue in your synopsis.
- An editor does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that an agent lands them. They also need a “taster” to see if your book is up their alley. Cue in your synopsis.
- Your synopsis is your billboard advertisement that gets the passing agent’s/editor’s attention on the highway to a sold and published book.
- Your synopsis is the clincher in getting your book from your bottom desk drawer to the hands of an agent then an editor and finally your reader.
- Your synopsis is a SELLING TOOL. It is a way to convert your manuscript from a story to a published and saleable book.
- To write a successful synopsis you need to think with a sales mind and not a writer’s mind.
- The synopsis is your SPIN-DOCTOR for your book.
So we have just a few reasons here to tell you that a synopsis is vital to the success of you finding an agent, an editor and a publisher. So now we come to the crux of the matter:
How do you write a synopsis?
How do you get “in sync” with your synopsis?
One of the tips that I have learnt about over the last few months has been the value of being able to write a maximum 50 word synopsis. This will encapsulate the Hook of your story. Then from there build that up to a paragraph long synopsis. Next try building that up to a page long synopsis. Finally try building that up to a 2 page synopsis. Now you may still be reading this and scratching your head in consternation. You are still stuck with the idea that you have to hone down a 70 000 – 100 000 word novel into 50 words then finally into 2 pages. Well here are some questions that may help you break down your novel into synopsis form.
- What’s my idea?
- Where does my story take place?
- When does my story take place?
- What is my timeline?
- Why is this happening?
- What is my POV – Point Of View?
- Who are my characters?
- How will I begin my story?
- What is my plot?
- What is my complication?
- What is my climax?
- What is my resolution and anti-climax?
The main points that should be in your synopsis are:
- The HOOK – This is your USP or UNIQUE SELLING POINT. This is the part that you want to put front and centre and at the top of your synopsis. This is going to be the GRABBER.
- The CHARACTERS – Stories are about people. Tell us about your Main Characters. Tug at our heart-strings. The main points here should be: Motivation / Conflict / Goals. What makes this character’s story interesting? Why would a reader want to invest time and emotion in this story/this character?
- The BODY of the STORY – Here is where you want to focus on the PLOT of the story. Keep your writing tight and concise. Only put the necessary plot points here. Tie together your plot with your main characters.
- The CLIMAX / ANTI-CLIMAX / RESOLUTION – This will pull the whole story together. This is the part where you tie all your different colours of strings into one seamless ribbon. This is where all the questions of your story will be answered. This is where your character will change and grow. These will be the A-HA moments in your story.
- Use present tense at all times. Irregardless of whether your book is set in the past or the future, the present tense of a synopsis will put the agent / editor directly into the heart of your story and allow them to walk in your character’s shoes. This will create an emotional pull for them.
- Use strong adjectives and emotive language when writing your synopsis. This is your one chance to get the agent/ the editor’s attention. Use your best written skills for this synopsis. Do not waste space or words.
How are you feeling now? Are you feeling more confident with tackling The SYNOPSIS? Are you feeling more “in sync” with your synopsis?
Now lastly, when do you write a synopsis? There is no hard and fast rule that you can only write the synopsis at the end of the novel. In fact, if you leave it til then the nerves and doubt will kick in. Try your hand at writing a loose synopsis at the beginning stages of your novel. You will have the bare bones of your final synopsis. You may even find that your synopsis may be a guiding point for your story. I have written a synopsis both at the end of a WIP and now I have written one at the beginning of my current WIP. In this latter synopsis, I reached a moment of EPIPHANY in the conflict and the anti-climax of my story. Now I can tackle my WIP with renewed vigour and when it comes to the final synopsis, I have already completed half the task by writing my synopsis first.
Now it is time to get IN SYNC with your SYNOPSIS!
© All rights reserved Kim Koning.
- The Dreaded Synopsis (kaitnolan.com)
- Why Is The Submissions Process So Strict? (efharvey.wordpress.com)
- Characters and their secrets (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
- Bona Fide? Who Cares! (marnimann.wordpress.com)
- The value of putting something down on paper (gointothestory.com)
- Another Reason To Nail Your Query Pitch Paragraph (pubrants.blogspot.com)
- write your synopsis (cherstinieveen.wordpress.com)