I am nearing the querying phase of the writing journey, so I spend my free time creatively crafting query letters but just staring blankly at my synopsis. How do I make it better? It’s too wordy, misses a lot of the sub-plot points and, basically, makes my head hurt.
After a little searching online, it’s easy to see that I’m not the only one who dreads writing this 500-600 word document. The synopsis gives literary agents and publishers the entire narrative arc of your story, including the ending. A potential agent can identify any plot holes, unbelievable turns of events or unsatisfactory endings before they invest time reading your manuscript. Or, they could read the synopsis, and be chomping at the bit to read your book. Let’s hope for the latter.
So, how do you write a winning synopsis? I’m still figuring that out, but there is one thing every synopsis has in common. Brevity. A synopsis should be short and sweet–but not too punchy or salesy. Beware not to let the copy get too dry, or you risk losing their interest.
According to the literary agent Jane Friedman, an expert in business strategy for authors and publishers, and writer of The Business of Being a Writer, agents are not expecting a work of art. But, you can impress them with lean, clean, powerful language. Think action verbs. Here are some other tips from her 2015 blog post “How to Write a Novel Synopsis” which are helping me streamline my document:
- Focus on the protagonist and show what’s at stake
- Give a clear idea of the core conflict and how the protagonist succeeds or fails
- Show how the conflict has resolved and how the protagonist has changed as a result
I recommend giving her blog post a read, because there are so many more great tips about which minor characters to include, how much backstory to share, and which plot twists and turns should make it into your synopsis. Ms. Friedman also offers a synopsis critique service for writers. However, the best free advice she gives is her secret to a great synopsis.
“A secret?” you ask. “Tell me more.”
The secret is to convey the character’s emotions. Include the plot AND the character details to create a colorful picture of your story. Ah, ha. I can do that!
My synopsis is by no means perfect, and probably not even finished yet, but I feel like these tips are putting me one step closer to my goal of traditionally publishing my debut YA novel SONG OF A FIREBIRD. I wish other aspiring authors reading this post luck on their journey. May your query and synopsis be magically succinct and emotionally charged.
Here are some more resources I found helpful:
YouTube Video — How to Write a Synopsis by Alexa Donne:
Good step-by -step guide and tips on formatting a synopsis from literary agent Maria Vicente:
Happy writing (and querying),