re: I Know It’s Synopsis Time…But Do I HAVE To?

posted 5/21/10

Dear Editor…

Okay, the book is done and now I want to sell it. Do agents/editors really want a synopsis? If so, what do they use it for? Should a synopsis be plot only or should it “come alive” with at least a sense of the mood/drama of the book while giving a plot summary? Lastly, how long should it be? Thanks!

Sincerely,

Bill

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Dear Bill…

Agents like to submit a full package to publishers, which includes the synopsis, so always give it to them. Editors may or may not want a synopsis—but you won’t know your targeted editors’ habits, so again, give it to them. Some editors won’t read it because they prefer the story prove itself. Others want to know your plans after you’ve intrigued them with your query letter and sample chapters. As with anything you write professionally, your synopsis should have a hint of personality, and, yes, that personality should suggest the tone of the book. Write it using omniscient POV, and—brace yourself—tell, don’t show. Wow, I don’t advise that often! But the point of the synopsis is to summarize the main themes and plot points and to state how the main character will change in the course of the story. Save the details and the full cast of characters for the manuscript. Striving for one page, single-spaced, should force you to stick to the main happenings. If you dread summarizing your 200-page story into one page, then trade manuscripts with someone in your critique group and write each other’s initial synopsis drafts. Then trade back and modify your buddy’s version to suit your own voice.  However you get the synopsis done, DO get it done. You’ve moved mountains to finish the manuscript and make it submission-ready; don’t let one final page take the wind out of your creative sails.

Happy writing!

The Editor

P.S. For more on this topic, read Submissions
posted by: The Editor
under: Submissions
Comments to "re: I Know It’s Synopsis Time…But Do I HAVE To?" | Add a Comment
    1. Mayra Calvani wrote (on 05/22/10 at 2:05 am) :

      Thanks for the advice, Deborah! The tip for swapping mss for synopses is a good one! Never thought of that.

    2. lorie wrote (on 05/22/10 at 4:24 am) :

      Tell don’t show: great piece of advice. Thanks so much!

    3. Fr Serafim Gascoigne wrote (on 05/22/10 at 11:01 am) :

      Okay it’s a chore, but it’s very useful for marketing your book. You can place it on your webpage or send it to likely clients. When I pick up a book at a bookstore, I turn to the back page and read the blurb. I’m not saying that your synopsis should be on the back cover, but your synopsis will help you to highlight what is attractive to your readers.

    4. Robyn Campbell wrote (on 05/23/10 at 8:05 am) :

      Great advice, as usual. I have already written mine, and it was hard. UGH. I wrote my synopsis for my next novel before I even started the book. It will change, of course, but the basics are there and I used it as sort of an outline. Thanks for all of your wonderful advice. (^_^)

    5. Bill wrote (on 05/23/10 at 10:10 am) :

      Okay. I’ve managed to cut it down to 3 pages. so 2 pages to go. Or else, maybe I could just reduce the font to something like 4, then it’d be one page. Think anyone would notice? Think anyone would be able to read such tiny print? :>) Probably not. I hear you. Back to work!

    6. Cat Woods wrote (on 05/24/10 at 8:01 am) :

      One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten regarding writing is synopsis is this: write one to two lines for each chapter. When you get done with this, tie them together so they flow. By doing it this way, you take out the intimidation of summarizing your entire manuscript and you hit the highlights with relative ease.

      Just a thought : )

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