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Many authors dread writing a synopsis. I admit it takes time and effort, but with a few pointers, a synopsis can become a useful tool for both the editor and the author.

Definition

A synopsis is a concise but thorough summary of a story, an overview that includes all main characters and high points.

Note: A synopsis is not the brief summary for back cover copy. That is much shorter and has a unique function.

 

Purpose                                                                                                                                                                                                           

A synopsis is a selling tool for writers, a way to pitch their story ideas to editors and agents. Properly executed, it reveals not only the storyline and book idea, but also the author’s style and ability to complete the project.

 

Content                                                                                                                                                                                                            

* “The Hook” to catch the reader’s interest from the beginning, just as in the manuscript.

* The synopsis should employ a similar “voice” to the story itself.

* A synopsis follows the storyline as it is laid out in the book, not necessarily chronologically.

* A synopsis always includes the ending. Don’t be coy with the editor by withholding the outcome.

* While we strive to “show” in the book, the synopsis requires us to “tell.”

* As in the story, we should not allow author interruption but remain in omniscient point of view.

* We may use a brief quotation or two from our story, but this is not required.

 

Format                                                                                                                                                                                                             

* In my experience, the best synopses run no longer than two (2) pages, single-spaced.

* I single-space mine, but the final answer on single or double has not been declared.

* A synopsis is always written in third person (he, she, they), even if the book is not.

* A synopsis is always written in the present tense (she runs, she sees…), even if the book is not.

* A synopsis is written in omniscient point of view.

* The first time a character’s name is used in the synopsis, it should be capitalized (SARAH DINSMERE).

* Use the same character name throughout; no nicknames in the synopsis.

* Write (POV) after the point of view character(s)’ name in the first usage.

 

Synopsis Checklist:

– Does opening paragraph have a hook to keep the reader reading?

– Are your main characters’ conflicts clearly communicated?

– Can the reader identify with your characters?

– Can the reader relate to them and feel concern about them?

– Have you obsessively checked grammar, spelling and punctuation?

– Have you included all major scenes and plot points, including the ending?

– Did you resolve all important conflicts, as in your manuscript?

– Did you use present tense, omniscient point of view, third person?  

 

Resources

* http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/how-to-write-a-synopsis.html

* http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/

* http://www.marissameyer.com/blogtype/6-steps-for-writing-a-book-synopsis/

* Here’s another great resource I found after the fact (since this was posted). It’s by Erin Buterbaugh, posted on Chip MacGregor’s blog:  http://www.chipmacgregor.com/conferences/craft-for-a-conference-part-2-a-synopsis-that-tells-not-teases/

 

Top Ten Mistakes in Writing Synopses (from http://home.pcisys.net/~pammc/Synopsis.htm)

1.  The format is incorrect.

2.  The synopsis concentrates on the first three chapters of the novel.

3.  The tone is inconsistent.

4.  The writer speaks directly to the reader.

5.   The synopsis ignores market considerations.

6.   The synopsis lacks emotion.

7.   There is too much detail.

8.   The synopsis leaves questions unanswered.

9.   The characters aren’t interesting or sympathetic.

10.  The synopsis lacks transitions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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