I’m not going to lie to you; I love to write every chance I get. However, when it comes to writing a book blurb or synopsis, I turn and run. I am absolutely terrified of writing them. Also, I suck at writing them. When I was younger, I used to play in a band, and the one question I hated being asked was, what kind of music do you play. I couldn’t answer that question to save my life. I would try to say we sounded like such and such mixed with this band or that band. I just couldn’t summarize the music into a neat and tidy sentence.
I’m the same way with my writing work. It seems that writing a synopsis is one of the biggest dreads in the writing community. How did this get started? Why has it held on so tightly? My first book ‘Jacob’s Pass’ is currently being edited and I have to admit that I cheated.
Along with her editing services I ordered a book blurb and synopsis. It cost a pretty penny, but in the long run, I think it was money well spent. Hopefully, you don’t have these problems, but if you do, I found some articles on synopsis writing that will help you out. There is also a vlog on writing a kicka** synopsis for your book. I hope you enjoy and use what you learn to sell more books😉
Novel Synopsis: How to Write a Synopsis for your Novel
Deep within the Stronghold of Seclusion, in the Ice Woods of Perpetual Revision, far beyond the Thrice Barred Gates of Insanity, sits a Superhero.
Who is this masked superhero? Nobody knows. All we know is they have given everything. Everything.
A single tear of joy slides from beneath The Writer’s mask as they type the last words on the last page of the Manuscript of Destiny.
The Writer pauses. The very atmosphere shivers with anticipation. The masterpiece is complete. Soon the world shall know of its power.
The Writer consults his Book of Arcane Writing Knowledge. Written in gold on the page is a horrific command. The Writer’s blood freezes at the sight:
Submissions should include a one page summary of the novel.
The Writer’s scream of despair echoes through the frozen corridors of the Stronghold of Seclusion, unheard.
The Dreaded Novel Synopsis
Why do we writers hate producing a novel synopsis? Probably because, as authors, we’re very close to the story. We know every sentence of the novel and how it fits with the others to tell the story. Now we’re being asked to throw 99% of that away.
Plus, a lot of stories sound a bit rubbish when you summarise them. All the subtlety disappears, most of the characterisation is eliminated. Even the twists and turns of the plot sound a bit lame when stated baldly.
No wonder we hate the synopsis.
Are all these problems inevitable? To an extent. You can’t take a hundred thousand words and turn them into five hundred without something going missing. Does that mean your novel synopsis has to be a limp, pathetic document that doesn’t do your awesome story justice?
We need something powerful, a heroic novel synopsis. One that’s:
- Faster to read than a speeding bullet.
- Clearer than a polished diamond.
- Able to leap entire chapters in a single bound.
We need a:
Short Synopsis of Power!
The Synopsis of Power: Format
Length: 500 – 600 words (one page of A4, single spaced or two pages double spaced).
Tense: Third-person, present tense regardless of how the novel is written.
The Synopsis of Power: Content
Tip : First read Archetypes that Make Your Story Resonate and find your story’s archetypes – particularly the
PROTAGONIST, ANTAGONIST, QUEST, PRIZE/GOAL and GUARDIANS
- Start with the SETTING – when and where the story is set.
- Next introduce the PROTAGONIST.
- Explain the first PROBLEM that the protagonist faces.
- Introduce the ANTAGONIST who is causing the problem.
- Show how and why the protagonist sets out on their QUEST.
- Describe the chronological sequence of GUARDIANS (friends, enemies, clues, events etc.) that the PROTAGONIST deals with.
- Explain how CONFLICT (internal or external) complicates the protagonist’s QUEST.
- Finally, show how the protagonist completes their quest and to what extent they reach their PRIZE/GOAL.
Tips on Writing the Short Synopsis of Power
- Remember the antagonist is not necessarily another person.
- Cut adverbs and adjectives from your synopsis – write as minimally as you can
- Mention any characters you don’t have to. Just include the Protagonist, Antagonist and the main Guardians.
- Include the subplots in the synopsis.
- Include any unnecessary detail, description, or explanation.
- Write a ‘blurb’ of the sort you’d find on the back cover of a book, the Synopsis of Power tells all of the story, it does not tease the reader.
How to Boil the Novel Down for the Synopsis
Use the Killogator™ Formula
One trick to try when cutting chapters down to size is the same one we used in Writing a Killer Logline. In the same way we can cut the story to a single sentence we can cut each chapter to a sentence.
So, try using the Killogator™ formula on each chapter:
In a (SETTING) a (PROTAGONIST) has a (PROBLEM) (caused by an ANTAGONIST) and (faces CONFLICT) as they try to (achieve a GOAL).
Having each chapter summarised in a single sentence will be a great start to building your synopsis.
Talk to Someone
Another trick is to get a friend and sit down with a voice recorder. Then tell them the plot of your novel. Listen to the questions they ask. Transcribe the conversation and pick out the best bits. You might find that your story flows more naturally in a conversation.
Do What Works
Test, test, test! Combine the best bits from trying the processes above and keep working until you have the one page synopsis your novel deserves. In the end you should be able to read the synopsis to a friend and their response should be “Wow, sounds great!” Keep working until you get that response.
Examples of Novel Synopsis
My book reviews include single page synopsis.
- The Riddle of the Sands
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
- The Thirty-Nine Steps
- Casino Royale
- Rogue Male
- Ice Station Zebra
- The Day of the Jackal
By the way: writing a novel synopsis’ of other writers’ books is a great way to practice summarising, because it’s a lot easier than doing your own!
This method of writing a novel synopsis worked for me. When I entered the Terry Prachett Prize I had to submit a one page summary of my novel, A Kill in the Morning. The novel was shortlisted for the prize, which lead to it being bought and published by Transworld.
Read the opening of the published novel for free by clicking here or on the cover:
So, next time you’re trying to write a one page novel synopsis, don’t despair, just remember:
Good luck! And once you’ve got it nailed, remember your novel synopsis is just one of the three parts of an Irresistible Elevator Pitch that you’ll need to sell your novel!
How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips
by Chuck Sambuchino
I’ve never met a single person who liked writing a synopsis. Seriously—not one. But still, synopses are a necessary part of the submission process (until some brave publishing pro outlaws them), so I wanted to share 5 basic tips today regarding how to compose one in case you’re query agents or getting ready to pitch at a writers’ conference.
A synopsis is a summary of your book. Literary agents and editors may ask to see one if you’re writing an adult novel, a memoir, or a kids novel (young adult, middle grade). The purpose of a synopsis request is for the agent or editor to evaluate what happens in the three acts of your story to decide if the characters, plot and conflict warrant a complete read of your manuscript. And if you haven’t guessed yet, they’re pretty tough to write. If you are indeed putting one together and sending your work out, check out these tips below:
- Reveal everything major that happens in your book, including the ending.
Heck, revealing the story’s ending is a synopsis’s defining unique characteristic. You shouldn’t find a story’s ending in a query or in-person pitch, but it does leak out in a synopsis. On this note, know that a synopsis is designed to explain everything major that happens, not to tease — so avoid language such as “Krista walks around a corner into a big surprise.” Don’t say “surprise,” but rather just tell us what happens.
- Make your synopsis two pages, double-spaced.
There is always some disagreement on length. This stems from the fact that synopses used to trend longer (six, eight, or even 12 pages!). But over the last five years, agents have requested shorter and shorter synopses — with most agents finally settling on 1-2 pages, total. If you write yours as one page, single-spaced, it’s the same length as two pages, double-spaced — and either are acceptable. There will be the occasional agent who requests something strange, such as a “5-page synopsis on beige paper that smells of cinnamon!” But trust me, if you turn in a solid 1-2 page work, you’ll be just fine across the board.
- Take more care and time if you’re writing genre fiction.
Synopses are especially difficult to compose if you’re writing character-driven (i.e., literary) fiction, because they may not be a whole lot of plot in the book. Agents and editors understand this, and put little (or no) weight into a synopsis for literary or character-driven stories. However, if you’re writing genre fiction — specifically categories like romance, fantasy, thriller, mystery, horror or science fiction — agents will quickly want to look over your characters and plot points to make sure your book has a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as some unique aspects they haven’t seen before in a story. So if you’re getting ready to submit a genre story, don’t blow through your synopsis; it’s important.
- Feel free to be dry, but don’t step out of the narrative.
When you write your prose (and even the pitch in your query letter), there is importance in using style and voice in the writing. A synopsis, thankfully, not only can be dry, but probably should be dry. The synopsis has to explain everything that happens in a very small amount of space. So if you find yourself using short, dry sentences like “John shoots Bill and then sits down to contemplate suicide,” don’t worry. This is normal. Lean, clean language is great. And lastly, do not step out of the narrative. Agents do not want to read things such as “And at the climax of the story,” “In a rousing scene,” or “In a flashback.”
- Capitalize character names when characters are introduced.
Whenever a new character is introduced, make sure to CAPITALIZE them in the first mention and then use normal text throughout. This helps a literary agent immediately recognize each important name. On this subject, avoid naming too many characters (confusing) and try to set a limit of five, with no more than six total. I know this may sound tough, but it’s doable. It forces you to excise smaller characters and subplots from your summary — actually strengthening your novel synopsis along the way.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:
April 13, 2019: North Carolina Writing Workshop (Charlotte, NC)
April 27, 2019: Seattle Writing Workshop (Seattle, WA)
May 4, 2019: Michigan Writing Workshop (near Detroit, MI)
May 4, 2019: Writing Conference of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
May 11, 2019: San Diego Writing Workshop (San Diego, CA)
May 18, 2019: Cincinnati Writing Workshop (Cincinnati, OH)
June 8, 2019: Florida Writing Workshop (Tampa, FL)