What a Novel Synopsis Is and What It DoesA novel synopsis is, in very basic terms, a one-to-four-page document that explains every major plot point and character development moment. That’s it and that’s all. For such a short and simple document, it sure seems to stir up a lot of angst.
Okay, so maybe my perspective is biased. I’m sure not everyone hates the novel synopsis. I’m sure there are writers out there who write amazing synopses, and agents/editors who gobble them up. Don’t get me wrong, they serve an important purpose.
A synopsis demonstrates how you think about story, how you plot, and how you wrap everything up. These are very important skills. Wonderful pitches fall apart all the time in the execution.
Agents and publishers are curious to know:
- that you have a lively cast of characters
- that you are working with enough plot and subplot, or whether it’s too little or too much
- that you’re building appropriate stakes and tension as the story progresses
- how you plan on landing this thing once it’s going, whether everything will be resolved or you’re leaving some threads open for potential future stories
- if you have any big red flags or fatal flaws in your story, which usually happen in the second half (see “Fair Warning”, below)
How to Write a Strong Novel SynopsisThe best way to write a strong novel synopsis is to sit down and do it. Sorry! That’s it! There’s no secret magic dust that I can give you in this case.
Open a blank document and jot down all of the major plot events of your story. You can start in bullet points, if that helps, but eventually you’ll want to write them out in narrative format. Don’t worry about making it cute, pitchy, or voice-y. Your writing should be clear and tight. Just the facts, ma’am. Be sure to fold in the three or four biggest character turning points, too. These are the changes your character goes through as they get where they’re going. My strong belief is that a synopsis will involve character somehow, to give a sense of how plot and protagonist play together.
Read more here.
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