How to write a synopsis for your novel
Finding a person who likes to write synopsis is very difficult. In fact, we can go to the extent of saying there is not a single person who likes to write synopsis. But then, synopsis are a very important part of the submission process and until they are outlawed by some courageous publishing company, they have to be indulged in. So, here, we are sharing with you 5 basic tips on how one can compose a synopsis in case you are query agents or someone who is preparing to give a presentation at a writers’ conference.
A summary of your book is what is known as a synopsis. If you are an author of an adult novel or a children’s novel, either young adult or middle grade, or a memoir, literary agents and editors may ask initially for a synopsis. The purpose of requesting a synopsis is for the agent or editor to assess the happenings in the three acts of your story to determine if the plot, characters and conflict warrant a complete reading of your manuscript. And if you have not come to the conclusion, synopsis are pretty difficult to write. If you seriously intend to write one and send your work out, take a look at the tips below:
- Reveal all major events that happen in your book, including the ending.
A unique characteristic that defines any synopsis is the revelation of the story’s climax. A query on in-person pitch may not reveal the story’s ending but a synopsis definitely leaks it out. At this point, please note that a synopsis is meant to reveal everything major that happens and not to tease. So language like “David walked into the apartment to a big surprise” should be avoided. Instead of saying ‘surprise’, just say what happens at that point.
- Your synopsis should have two pages, double spaced.
Some disagreement on the length of the synopsis still exists. This originates from the fact that earlier synopsis used to be longer like six, eight or sometimes even twelve pages. But, over the last couple of years, shorter synopsis have been requested by agents with most of them settling on one or two pages in total. If you intend to write your synopsis in one page with single space, it would be the same as writing two pages, double-spaced, and both are equally acceptable. Occasionally, you might find an agent who would request something strange like a ‘4 page synopsis on fawn coloured paper that smells like vanilla’. But, on the whole, if you produce a sound 1-2 page work, you’ll be just fine.
- When writing genre fiction, take more care and time.
If you are writing character-driven or literary fiction, it is extremely difficult to compose synopsis, as not a lot of play may exist in the book. This fact is understood by editors and agents and they put little or no weight on a synopsis written for character-driven or literary stories. On the other hand, if you are indulging in genre fiction – especially categories like fantasy, romance, thriller, horror, science or mystery fiction – agents would want to take a quick look at your characters and plot points to ensure that your story has a comprehensible beginning, middle and end as well as certain unique features that they have never seen before in another story. So, if you are preparing to submit a genre fiction, it is very important not to blow your synopsis.
- Being dry is fine, but take care not to step out of the narrative.
When writing your prose or even the pitch in your query letter, using style and voice in the writing is very important. But, your synopsis on the other hand not only can be dry, but in all probability should be dry. Everything that happens in the book has to be explained in a very small amount of space in a synopsis. So, if you write using short, dry sentences like ‘Mary shot Bill and then contemplated suicide’, do not get upset as this is very normal. Actually, usage of lean, clean language is the best option. And finally, make sure not to step out of the narrative. Sentences like ‘In a flashback’ or ‘in a rousing scene’ or “At the climax’ are not what the agents are looking out to read.
- Capitalize character names when introducing characters.
When introducing a new character in the story, make sure that their name is capitalized when they are first mentioned and then use normal text throughout the story. This is to help literary agents to immediately recognize each important character. At the same time, avoid naming too many characters and confusing the reader and try to set a limit of not more than five or six in total. Though this may sound too difficult, it is possible. This setting of limits forces you to leave out smaller characters and subplots from your synopsis which results in making your synopsis stronger.