I wasn’t sure I wanted to start this blog with one of the trickiest parts of being a writer. Just kidding! Synopsis are easy, right? Right? RIGHT? (I just need you to tell me it is. Make me believe it fellow writers. Anyone? Pretty… please.)
Synopsis is to the novel what the Ring is to Gollum. It’s precious. Mostly. Kind of. What? My dictionary defines synopsis as a brief text that conveys the narrative arc. Thank you, dictionary! So, it’s a summary? Yes… sort of. A cool way to make anyone read your book, like a back cover? Nope, nope, nope… not really. Keep digging, Nora!
This was my overall process when I tried to write the famous synopsis requested by agents and publishers.
Needless to say, I was confused by the things I found on the subject. A lot of articles, and sometimes conflicting ones. Writing a synopsis isn’t easy. So I compiled a list of advices I found useful while revising my text-soon-to-be-synopsis. Things I want to keep in mind. Things I’ll read again when I need to write Synopsis Dearest. Things I want to polish.
Tell me a story
- Hook your reader with a logline, then a kick-ass first paragraph where you introduce your world, your main character(s), their conflict.
- Convey the narrative arc and your story’s structure: give me plot, pacing, major twists and turns and tension and climax and conflicts again. Avoid subplots that might be unnecessary to understand the story’s resolution.
- Show your awesome (or at least some of it): how is your story fresh and new and epic?
- And yes… reveal the ending. (I know you’re so bad at keeping spoilers for yourself when they aren’t about your stories but… Now is the perfect time to share spoilers.)
Make me care
- Who are your characters? As the story unfolds, how are they affected? Show me their actions and motivations. Tell me about their emotional state. How are their dynamic and relationships changing? Developing?
- Don’t be mechanical, be emotional and fill me with feels (I think the best stories should be as plot-driven as character-driven. You can have a good plot, but if the character is one dimensional and… well not that interesting I won’t stick with his/her story. I won’t care about what she/he will face. Plot makes me curious, characters make me care and eventually keep reading.)
Follow the rules
- Use the third person and the present tense.
- Like in a screenplay, a character’s first appearance is CAPPED.
- Every word counts: don’t be poetic or too wordy, but don’t be too dull either. Words should be colorful and full of energy.
- Edit, trim and cut. Write a draft and another one and rewrite parts and cut some more. 800-900 words is good, but over 1000 not so much.
- Read and reread and reread… until you’re satisfied.
Be inspired, be challenged
- Read your synopsis out loud to yourself and to others.
- Find professionals who’ve done it, published writers and agents who know about its secrets and talked about them and shared their wisdom.
- Battle with your family and friends, ask them questions and wait for theirs. (This is not an advice I found, but this is something I find useful to challenge my stories.)
They are in no way my own advices or the only ones or the best. There are the ones working for me. Learning the perfect recipe is still an ongoing process and I hope I can learn more from experiences and mistakes and new articles and discussions with future writer friends.
It is hard to summarize a 100 000 words project into a two-pages text that needs to show you know what you’re doing with your story. While working on my novels’ synopsis, I felt overwhelmed by the words I wrote. Too many letters, subplots, characters, etc. Summarizing has always been hard for me. Synopsizing is a new difficulty. And I’m sure there are more articles I didn’t find about it. Things I still don’t know.
But I’m learning.
What about you? How do you synopsize?
Sources I find helpful