Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 9, 2009

Synopsis Tips

Tips for Writing a Good Synopsis

The goal of a synopsis is to provide the editor with a bare bones idea of your full manuscript. Generally, a short, two to three page synopses is included along with your query letter. If the editor or agent is interested, they may ask you for a longer synopsis and your first three chapters. Therefore, for the shorter synopsis, you’ll need to limit yourself to the set up, major developments and resolution. Don’t include secondary plots or characters, unless they are necessary to understanding the resolution of the book. In the longer synopsis, you will have more time to cover internal conflict, external conflict, the moment when the two conflicts come to a head and the resolution. Remember, you must give the resolution. Some people mistakenly think it is better if they keep the reader wanting to know more – wrong!

Richard Peck is famous for saying, “You are only as good as your first line.” He was talking about the first line of your book, but his statement also applies to the first line of your synopsis for our book. You need to grab the editors or agents attention within the first three paragraphs, so start out bold. If your story is funny then let that show in your synopsis, if it is dark then be dark. Let the voice of your book pour over into your synopsis. Write in present tense, it’s more effective and provides a sense of urgency. If the editor or agent doesn’t know what your book is about by the fourth paragraph, you are in trouble.

Don’t hype your statements by saying things like, “in this hilarious encounter,” or “more thrilling than Jack Bower in 24.” You are setting yourself up. Let the editor decide. Another editorial pet peeve, is resorting to asking questions. “Will Jack stop the attack on the White House?” It doesn’t add anything to your synopsis and pulls the editor out of the story, so save that stuff for the jacket flap.

Make sure your synopsis is formatted correctly. It should be double-spaced, with one-inch margins, using either Times New Roman or Arial font with a header on every page – upper left corner, book title and last name. Also, remember to include the page number in the upper right hand side of every page and please proofread thoroughly. Get a friend to proofread it, too. You don’t want to give the person reading it any reason to stop.

Conclusion: Use a strong opening line and grab the editors or agents attention in the first three paragraphs. Stay focused, let your voice show on the page and keep it quick and tight. Good luck!

Let me know if you have something to add. Thanks, Kathy


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