Quick! Write Me a Synopsis

I actually got a similar message from my literary agent. If I am going to compete for a few open slots in the publisher’s group of planned books, I had better be able to churn out a great synopsis in a very short time. Someone has asked, “Synopses are so hard to write! How can any writer “churn” them out?
Writing Tip for Today: First, the kind of synopsis I’m talking about isn’t a long, in-depth summary as the traditional model suggests. No, in the ever-faster paced writing world, authors write “thumbnails,” or short summaries like the blurbs you see on jacket flaps. But isn’t a synopsis supposed to reveal the ending? Well, yes and no. For a first-time novelist, it is a good idea to tell the ending in order to show the agent/editor you can not only launch a great idea but also finish it. After you have at least one novel in print, however, it’s possible to sell your next book based on one of these min-synopses plus a sample chapter or two. Here are the basic elements any synopsis (short or long) must contain:

  • Character. Name the character and then choose three descriptive words that sum up the character and her/his focus in the novel.
  • Place/Time. If it’s modern day the previous descriptors may make stating the obvious unnecessary, but place is always important.
  • State the challenge or goal. Preface with a strong verb such as must, struggles, battles, or fights. This implies high stakes.
  • Add in antagonists or obstacles.
  • Tell what the main character will do to overcome obstacles and meet the goal or learn the goal isn’t what the hero thought he wanted.
  • Use present tense and active verbs.

Fill in the above info and you’ll have a great start on a short and to the point synopsis. Add a touch of flavor (your voice or style or what makes your story different) and make it sing.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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