Just in case you’re new to the Café, following a month of writing in November and a month of editing (ouch!) in December, the month of January has dedicated to the next step in the journey: the terrifying but wonderfully exciting topic of SUBMISSIONS!
Coming up on the agenda, we’ll cover Cover Letters (stay tuned!). But today let’s knock out ye olde synopsis.
Although not every agent will require a synopsis as part of your submission package (check their guidelines carefully!!), it’s still worth your time and effort to get ‘er done for a couple of reasons:
- You should be able to describe your book start to finish in the length of one side of A4. This will be a helpful exercise for those future meetings with agents, publishers, editors or just friends who ask you to summarise your book for them.
- Melting down your plot into a synopsis will hopefully help you detect any lingering holes that need patching up. It’s a way of getting a bird’s eye view of your story to see if the thing is airtight and ready to ship out.
I realise the thought of looking at your story from a bird’s eye may strike a chord of terror. After all the work you’ve done, the last thing you want to find is a hole in the plot! But never fear – go for it! Writing a synopsis is a simplifying, distilling exercise. It’s a great way of getting clarity in your own mind about your own story. And hey, if you’re not clear on it, nobody else is going to be!
Convinced? Good. Here are a few tips to make your Synopsis shine:
- limit it to 1 side of A4, single spaced, with paragraph indentations (spaces between paragraphs)
- Don’t use voice or dialogue – regardless of your book’s POV, you the author are the narrator of your synopsis.
- Be choosy! One A4 is not a lot of words. Focus on your story’s narrative arc & emotional drama… the juicy stuff!
- Include the ending. A synopsis is not a trailer or a hook. No need to give spoiler alerts to your agent. He/she wants to know the whole story: begging, middle & end.
How to structure your synopsis – Think 3-Act Structure of your Story:
Paragraph 1) Who is this story about?
Paragraph 2) What sparks the story into action?
Paragraphs 3-5) Mounting drama/ mini climax
Paragraph 6) Apparent failure
Paragraph 7) Turn-around, climax & resolution
Paragraph 8) Tie up loose ends (or *denouement* if you want to get fancy;-)
Remember: Cut-&-dry, do NOT be wordy, use action verbs!
*Stick to those keys, and I promise it’s gonna be fine! Good luck writing that stellar, seller synopsis. And hey, let us know how it goes!
**This information comes from a Writers&Artists workshop – How to Hook an Agent – with some of London’s top literary agents. Hats off to them!