Hi. It’s me, Ollie. I hope you’ve been having a wonderful new year. James and I have been snowshoeing over the last two weeks. We apologize for the late post. I been visiting with friends in a kennel, and James marched in Washington, DC. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe it was a military march in which James participated. But I could be wrong.
As promised, I’ve allowed James to use my blog for yet another of his writing concerns. He’s been querying agents over the past month or so. He tells me that part of that process is providing agents with a synopsis of his novel. When I asked him what a synopsis was (no, I don’t know everything even though I pretend that I do some times), he told me to read my blog. Without further ado, let’s get reading….
The first thing to consider is the purpose of a synopsis. A synopsis helps the agent (or publisher) decide whether your novel is worth reading. Since their time is valuable, and reading a novel takes time, a synopsis should be short, concise (sweet) and let the agent know how the arc of the story progresses and ends. Yes, it has to divulge the ending.
The second thing to consider is the length of a synopsis. Typically it should be no more than six hundred words. A common theme: less is more. However, make sure you follow an agent’s submission guidelines as one agent will ask for a one page synopsis while another may not specify, or ask for a longer version, i.e., a full synopsis.
Once you know the purpose and length, it is time to think about how the synopsis should flow. What are the major plot lines that should be discussed? Which characters and their conflicts should be mentioned? In order to keep the synopsis short and to fulfill its purpose, many twists and turns and characters will need to be left out. As such, only the most salient pieces of the story should be included. Remember, major conflicts and resolutions should be spelled out.
Next on the list is to begin writing the novel’s synopsis. The first paragraph should identify the protagonist, his/her major conflict and the setting (time and place). The last paragraph should provide the conflict resolution – how the book ends – and what this means for the protagonist. What comes between the beginning and ending should include the plot lines driving the conflict and how it is dealt with.
That’s all there is to it.
Actually, there are other things to consider, as well as some things to avoid.
Things to consider:
- succinct, crisp language in a synopsis is more impressive than literary language
- write the synopsis in third person, active voice
- include only those plots and characters that help make sense of the ending
- incorporate key emotional reflections: express feelings
- at the first mention of key players, put their names in all caps
- a synopsis is where you tell and not show
Things to avoid:
- don’t include back cover (sales) copy
- do your best not to only include sterile language
- forget about including every character’s name
- never try to unravel what the story means
- avoid the use of dialogue unless pertinent to the story
- flashbacks and backstory should be left out unless the conflict, actions and ending wouldn’t make sense without them
- don’t put subheads or sections unless the narrative structure requires it
Have you ever written a synopsis? Did it follow this format? What experience do you have to share? You are welcome to let us know in the comment section. We always enjoy hearing from you, so please leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.
In two weeks, James and I will begin a new series. I asked him if I could revisit the first year we were together. He thought that was a wonderful idea. James wrote a series of poems that I’ll incorporate. We hope you’ll stay tuned and read each one.
Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)