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I’ve read several different methods on writing a synopsis.
Some suggest reading through the project, taking notes chapter-by-chapter, and going from there. This can work but I’ve always landed up with several pages.
Then I’m struggling all over again.
Others suggest only using plot points. This certainly shortens the summary, the number of characters included and cuts away sub plots.
I do a campfire story—my kind of outline—and tell the story as if I’ve got a captured audience. It comes out as third person present tense and I get the extra bonus of finding where the tension lags and plot holes hide.
A Synopsis is a brief summary of the completed project and can range from one page to ten.
It should include the time and place, the goal, the obstacle, the main character’s motivations, plot twists and the ending. Don’t forget to show the main character’s arc.
That’s quite a bit, no need cluttering it up with the supporting cast (and their problems) or the subplots unless it takes direct action upon the outcome. Even then, keep it basic.
Read the agents/publisher guidelines for guidance. Some want the style of your project reflected (like my outline); therefore, it becomes a mini-version of the story with the same feel, word choices and emotional impact.
Others prefer a summarized report of what happens. Why and how the story is resolved. Clean, direct and sometimes dry. This one is more about the events than about writing style.
It’s a good idea to write one of each. There will be enough to worry about without adding unnecessary stress when submitting. Be kind to yourself.
Remember that a synopsis is not a book blurb (and you might as well write one of them as well). But the blurb is another beast, it is designed to prompt your reader once the cover has caught their eye.
Addition: If you use The Query Shark method, then the blurb is your query letter. Here’s the link for more on that.
To stay on track while summarizing, many write a logline. A single sentence description of the work. This is good too and could be punched up for later—twitter pitches, etc.
Formats demands vary so always check the submission guidelines. If none are available, it is safe to use what is suggested below.
One page or less general format: Single spaced with line space between paragraphs. Otherwise same as below.
Two pages or more general format: Third Person. Present tense. Double spaced. Align left. All margins 1.25 inches. Indent 0.5 inches. No spaces between paragraphs. Times New Roman, black, 12-point font. Use all caps for the first appearance of major characters. Header should include: left side only, author’s last name, title (or key words) synopsis, and page number if there is more than one.
Brenda Drake also says to include a hook as the first paragraph. Answer the question: What makes your story unique? She suggests finding and including that special something that sets a story apart from the rest. If you don’t use this in your synopsis, consider including it within the query letter.
Just a thought.
Do you have any tips that may help? I’m all ears.