Thursday 30 January 2020

#writingishard3 - Synopsis

 Writing is hard. And everyone’s journey is different. There is a TEDtalk doing the rounds at the moment, which tells a fabulous journey that happens to be a very quick writer’s journey. I just want to say don’t get disheartened by this. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer if your journey is longer. Writing takes tenacity. Have faith in your writing. You will get there.

The journey can be long...

 I have had a request from the ever-lovely Annaliese Avery. We all think writing a book is hard, but it is really easy in comparison to writing a synopsis. That is like pulling teeth. There is no definitive way to write a synopsis, but I am going to offer some suggestions to help you. I would suggest you look at Nicola Morgan’s book Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide. She goes into a lot of detail and it is accessible.

What I will say you must do is: Always check on the agent’s website to check exactly what their submission guidelines are, then adhere to them. They are not optional. If they say a one-page synopsis that’s what you do. On the other hand, if they say two pages or more that’s what you provide.

Image result for write a great synopsis - an expert guideIn general, it is suggested that the synopsis should be no more than one or two pages. What a synopsis is not, is an outline or chapter breakdown. Instead, it tells the reader what the book is about and gives the sense that the author has managed to write a book with a complete narrative and an arc. The synopsis gives details of the main characters and the main plotlines while not dealing with minor characters and subplots. It should convey conflict and setting, themes even the denouement while giving a sense of the voice.

Unlike, the chapters which should be double spaced the synopsis can be single-spaced. Once again it should have the title of your novel, who it is aimed at – middle grade/teen/YA and that it is written by you. It should be in a clear font – something like Ariel or Times New Roman – Point size 12. Don’t go smaller or they won’t be able to read it. Neither have ridiculously small margins in order to cram as much information into the two pages. Agents have seen it all before, and are not going to be impressed, or tricked by it. They are looking for a well written, concise and punchy synopsis that grabs their attention and informs them.

Do not be afraid to repeat information that has been said in your covering letter. In fact, you are almost guaranteed to do so, as you are likely to repeat your pitch. Avoid rhetorical questions. It is better to answer all the questions you pose in your synopsis. It should be written in the present tense even if your story is written in the past tense. In the same way, it should be written in the third person
Get to the core of your story
even if the story is in the first person while still getting across a sense of the voice and feel of the story. If your story has multi viewpoints, ensure that you get this across in the synopsis too. Most importantly though, ensure that there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes throughout - proofread it carefully.

This is based on Nicola Morgan’s method of writing a synopsis:

1.     Write your one-sentence pitch

2.     Expand it until you have a paragraph that you might use as your pitch paragraph in your submission letter (don’t be afraid to repeat information in synopsis and letter)

3.     Expand this by including what happens at the end, show how the main character’s journey is completed. This should give you two paragraphs.

4.     Then include climaxes and plot stages or major obstacles. Add those into your paragraphs. You may want to change the order for clarity. Hopefully, you now have at least a page.

5.     Connect them all together with beautiful prose. Focus on the important information and avoid the unnecessary.

6.     Hone it to within an inch of its life until it is ready for submission. Get others to look at it.
Don’t be afraid of it. Yes, writing a synopsis is hard but if you know what is at the core of your story it is much easier. Focus on that Think about what is really at the heart of your narrative. Use that to help you write your pitch and your synopsis.

Books are rarely rejected just because of a synopsis unless it is really badly written. Decisions are more likely to be based on a combination of the idea as pitched in the letter and the standard of the writing in the chapters. Some may suggest that the synopsis really is the least important part of the submission; however, and importantly, this does not mean you should not pay attention to it. Agents may need it to back up your submission. They will read it in order to feel confident that you really do have an idea that hangs together and that you can show that you understand your narrative fully. You are highlighting through your synopsis that this is a strong concept. They may also use it later when marketing your book. 

Good luck everyone – you can do this!

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