That all-Important Synopsis

. As my book nears the end of it’s fifth (sixth? eight? I’ve lost count) rewrite, I’ve been working on the synopsis.

This is a vital part of selling a book – agents and publishers don’t want a full book – they normally ask for three chapters and the synopsis – or even one chapter and synopsis. I haven’t been very successful with them before, so I did a little research on what makes a good synopsis. And as researching a subject intensively, picking out the salient points and presenting them concisely is one of my skills (it says so on my C.V….), that’s what I thought I’d do.

Write it in the same style as the book. If your book is chatty and friendly, the synopsis should be too.

Include any major twists. You may want to hold this back until the publisher/agent reads your book – but without knowing this twist, they may never want to read it.

Characters – I read two points of view on this – one said include a list of characters, one said not to. I opted to quickly introduce the characters, with a first name, and a one or two word description.

Some people write the synopsis before they write the book. I’m one of those people who never know what’s going to happen until the book is written, so I chose to write it after.

However – if you do write the synopsis after writing the book I would suggest doing it simultaneous with doing the final rewrite. The synopsis made me think about ongoing themes in the book, and how these developed, and also helped me spot any glaring omissions. There was one event in my book that was in an odd place in the story, but didn’t seem to fit anywhere else. Writing the synopsis made me realise why that event happened, and why it had to happen at that particular part of the story. The synopsis really helped with the final polish of the book.

Synopsis lengths vary between one and three pages. Some agents/publishers define the length they want. I suggest writing two synopsis, one very short, one longer (but no longer than three pages – that’s double spaced single sided pages!)

Write it in the same format as the book. That is, in double spaced Courier font, well laid out on the page, with a header including the name of the book and your name, and a footer with page numbers. Then they can see at a glance that your book will be laid out the same way (and not scribbled in green pencil on the back of sugar packets). And spell check it! Just because it’s short, doesn’t mean you haven’t made spelling mistakes.

I’ve included some of the best lines of my book, including the opening and closing lines. I’ve no idea if that’s standard, but I felt it showed my writing style.

Before writing your synopsis, research how to write one. There are dozens of books and websites on the subject. Try to choose a few examples from people who have actually published books, or do publish books. However, don’t feel you have to stick slavishly to one plan or model. Pick and choose the ideas and examples that fit your style. Don’t forget, your style is unique to you, and your synopsis MUST reflect that.

So – write in your own style, but keep it concise. Include the plot twists, spoilers and best lines – don’t hold anything back. This isn’t a teaser, this is first and perhaps only chance to show what you can do. Make sure it’s readable and neat. That’s what I’ve learnt from writing my synopsis.

And of course, it has to be accompanied by one hell of a covering letter. I haven’t even started that yet. I’ll let you know when I’ve researched that.

And if it’s all successful – I’ll let you know that too!

P.S. And this is really important – learn how to spell synopsis! A shocking amount of people cannot spell that word (and it takes me two or three tries)


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