Friday, January 14, 2011

Synopsiphobia - Fear of Writing A Synopsis

Writing a synopsis is one of the most grueling and intimidating aspects of the submission process. 

Query letters are easy compared to the dreaded 3-4 page synopsis that goes with your proposal. But this mini-novel is a very important part of the pitch for your manuscript.  

So making it the best you can possibly create is essential.

One major aspect to consider is format...

~ Not all agents or publishers accept the same type of synopsis.~

Some require a one-page, while others would like an "Extended Synopsis" of three or four pages.

They are generally written in PRESENT tense, THIRD PERSON.

~ This is regardless of your novel's POV.~

They are single spaced.

The top left-hand corner has your book title/name in the header. Some people also add the genre and word count.

There are three main sections: The Hook, The Background, The Stakes.

The Hook
Start with an exciting statement. What is the character's major dilemma or conflict? How might they react? You worry over the first sentence of your the same over  your synopsis.

The Background
Introduce your character with just enough info to make things clear. Who is the book about. What kind of person are they? Make sure they are sympathetic to your reader. Make them care what happens.

The Stakes
These are your plot points only list the MAJOR ones. List the public AND private stakes. Show how they escalate. Create tension.

Remember: This is NOT where you have cliff-hangers or questions. This is the whole story.

Finally don't forget the punctuation and grammar. This is a professional pitch for your product...polish it up.

There are many websites out there that offer more in-depth, step-by-step guides on the synopsis. One of the best is...Charlotte Dillon

Her website has a link to many winning synopses. Take a moment to check them out. What works for you...what doesn't?

The important thing is to keep in mind that this represents you as an author, so take the time to make it as clear, concise, and professional as possible.

Until next time...Go Write.


Katie Mills said...

Thanks! Couldn't have come at a better time!:)

Raquel Byrnes said...

You're welcome! Good luck with your request from the agent...woo hoo!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Synopsis -- the first syllable says it all -- to ask us to write one is a sin! You've done an excellent post on how to write one well. Most agents I've noticed want the dreaded one page synopsis! Ouch.

KarenG said...

Wonderful outline of how to write a synopsis! You're right, I think they are harder to do than a query.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes they want an outline instead, and that's different as well!

Lydia K said...

I have this diagnosis. Unfortunately, I treat it by running in the other direction and procrastinating with passion.

Stephanie said...

I hate hate hate writing a synopsis!! But, it's just one of those things we have to suck up and do!!

And thanks for posting my blogfest on your side bar!!!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Great, Great post! I'm still scared of the synopsis! Brrrr.... But It's challenging and fun at the same time!

Have a great weekend!

~Elizabeth :)

Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Excellent advice, Raquel. I'd be way too tempted to leave some cliffhanger in the synopsis; it feels weird telling the whole story in such a short block of text to someone, hehe.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Roland - You are too funny! "Sin" and you are right about agents...but when they submit to editors, they want an extended synopsis in the proposal package.

Karen G - Here, here!

Alex - Ooh, outlines. Thanks for the info...I didn't know that.

Lydia - If you find the cure for procrastination, let me know. =)

Stephanie - Well said. Just do it!

Elizabeth - Right back atcha...have a great weekend.

Jamie - I know! The cliffhanger and the rhetorical question are two of my favorites...bleh!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I hate writing the synopsis writing too. Thanks for the tips.

Hart Johnson said...

Holy cow! This is 1000 X better than any version of this I've seen. I have a file of forever reference posts and you have just MADE IT! (though i think something else of yours is there already)--but this is something I only had a vague idea on, so this helps a TON.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Good tips, thanks! I always dread writing these so I'll take all the advice I can get.

erica and christy said...

Thanks! I'm not at the point of being ready to write one of these, but I've had friends who were and asked me about them. One day I'll be ready and will remember this post! Christy

Jeanette Levellie said...

Excellent article, Raquel! Thank you for taking the dread out of this task.

I found you on Hartline's blog. Signing up to follow you now...


DEZMOND said...

ah, I'm definitely not suffering from that illness :) I love writing synopsis. I'm a professional book translator, and since I never like the synopsis we get with the books we buy for publishing in our country, I always write a new, more enticing synopsis for the back covers and marketing purposes and to better sell our books.

Michael Offutt said...

Thank you for the advice on this Raquel. I have struggled with the proper formatting of a synopsis for some time.