But wait…they don’t just want the manuscript. They also want a synopsis. Oh oh.
This is a typical addition that every publisher or lit agent will require along with your manuscript when they request more material after your query. This synopsis will give them a snap shot view of the work, before they take the time to read the slower, and more in depth progression.
What is a synopsis? How do you write one that will do your story justice? And why, oh why, did I not even know they would want this?
Well, in terms of not knowing agents or publishers would want a synopsis…don’t worry. I didn’t either until my first full manuscript request. This left me in a mini panic, pouring over my manuscript trying to pick out the details that were most gripping and substantial, and then editing and reediting to make it sound perfect.
But for the other questions, here is a little help.
What is a synopsis?
Basically, a synopsis is a short, usually one page, clear and concise summary of your complete book. This will require your overall story line, the arches and characters, and give the reader the basic, complete view of your book.
How do you write a synopsis?
Here are the main points of suggested elements to ensure you include:
- Narrative arc – this is the basic overview of the book, with an explanation of the plot, characters, and how it ends. This ensures that the characters and their actions are real and make sense to the reader, but also gives the agent a good summary of your writing skills.
- Unique point of view – like most things, agents are looking for a new twist. Something that hasn’t been done before, or a new take on an old classic. What makes your book stand out from the rest?
- Story advancement – this is the emotional progression of your characters. Show their journey through your book, from the start to end, and how it affects them. Readers want to be invested in the characters you create, and this count not be more true than for an agent. They may love your writing, but if they don’t connect with the characters, you wont get an offer.
- Write clearly – this is harder than it sounds. But basically, less is more.
Things to avoid in a synopsis:
- Telling too much – you don’t have to mention every character and every event. Yes, you should give a clear overview, but that doesn’t mean you have to bombard the agent with ever secondary and tertiary character. Be concise. Don’t give every twist and turn. You want them shocked as they read the full manuscript.
- Unnecessary detail – keep within the word count of a synopsis, which is generally around 1000 words. Check the agents submission requirements, which will give you more details but 1 page or 1000 words is the general goal
- Editorializing your book – don’t make assumptions or descriptors about your book. Things like ‘in a flashback’ or ‘in a gripping moment’. You don’t know that they will find it gripping, even if that was your intent. Just tell the story, don’t push them to see it a certain way.
Formatting is important!
- begin with a strong paragraph! Grab them, make them immediately intrigued. Identify your protagonist and their conflict early, in this starting paragraph
- The next should be additional conflicts, how this effects the character, and any additional characters that impact the overall arc
- The final paragraph should include the resolutions. How did the protagonist get to this point, and how did it all end? This all brings together the complete summary of your book.
When faced with a request for more material from a publisher or agent, after you finish with your excitement and squealing, you will be back to business ensuring you provide them with the best view of your book as you can. A clear, concise and impactful synopsis will be the first thing they read after your query, and could set the tone for how they view your manuscript as a whole. Following these tips can give you a starting point to creating a synopsis that grips the reader, and makes them desperate to know more…
And that is when they will jump in to your manuscript with baited breath!
Writers Digest. (2012). How to write a synopsis like a pro. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/editors-picks/learn-how-to-write-a-synopsis-like-a-pro