Friday, February 4, 2011

Writing a Synopsis or Summary – The Long Version

Writing a longer version of a synopsis is much easier than the shorter version. When an agent asks for a synopsis they usually want something between 8 – 12 pages, but of course, always make sure.

With this longer synopsis you can introduce more characters, expand on your plot points, and go into greater detail. Also, you have to include the ending. In a longer synopsis you don’t have a choice; it’s just how it’s done. Here are some tips.

1)      Always write your synopsis in third person, present tense. Even if your manuscript is first person past tense.
2)      Go through your manuscript chapter by chapter and outline all the major events. This will present you with a sketch of a synopsis. This will also help you see themes and connections that you weren’t aware of before. (Believe it or not, it happens.)
3)      Weed out minor characters that don’t need to be in your synopsis. Focus on your main character and a few essential supporting characters. My longer synopsis mentions (by name) seven characters. The first time each character appears, highlight them and make sure you’ve introduced them into the storyline properly. That way, the reader (agent or publisher) can quickly glance back through and reference any character.
4)      Focus on the major plot points. This is an opportunity to showcase all the exciting and important events in your novel. Make sure events flow in your synopsis; you don’t want to get stuck on unnecessary information.
5)      Pay attention to style. You want your synopsis to read well and be interesting. It’s a representation of you and the way you write.
6)      Don’t waste words. In a synopsis each sentence needs to count. This isn’t the time for flowery writing or drawn out scenes.
7)      End with the ending. This may seem like a no brainer, but a lot of people feel like they should end with a cliff hanger…maybe in a query but never in a synopsis. The agent or publisher needs to know what happens at the end.

These are my suggestions. Any others? I’m working on a two-page synopsis for books 2 and 3 of my series, so I’ll do a post about that next week.

16 comments:

  1. I find it useful to think about writing this while somewhere in the middle of the first draft. It can help to serve as a kind of outline and it's never set in stone. But it's a nice tool to have to keep you on track. I tend to lose focus so it's a great way to bring me back. Great post!

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  2. I haven't tried writing this long of a synopsis of anything I've written yet. These are good tips that I'll have to keep in mind.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

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  3. Splendid tips - I can immediately feel you have done it and have some experience. Thanks a lot!

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  4. Ooh, very good advice. I have yet to be at a point where I needed to write a synopsis, but when I am, I will keep these tips in mind. That is the miracle of the internet, I can get advice from awesome people so I am way more prepared then I would be. Thanks!!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  5. Thanks for the tips. I haven't tried writing a synopsis yet, and this is really helpful.

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  6. Thanks for the great comments everyone.

    I think writing a synopsis is one of those things that you dread until you get in to it. Another thing I forgot to mention, just like with any writing project, you'll have to rewrite/edit a few times before it's ready. If you have crit partners who have already read your manuscript, have them look at the synopsis too. They may help you figure out which bits you need and what can be cut.

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  7. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog so I could find yours! This post is very helpful and so relevant to me right now. Thank you!

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  8. Great tips! I hate writing synopses. Since I got an agent, I haven't had to write many. I have, however, had to do chapter by chapter outlines and, let me tell you, I'll take those any day over synopses!

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  9. Thanks for the great tips! These are next on my list of things to do, so great timing.

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  10. Wow. This is great advice! Thank you for being so helpful!

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  11. I recently attended a Writer's Digest webinar hosted by Chuck Sambuchino (he's the "Guide to Literary Agents" blog guy). He said that a synopsis should be either one page single spaced, or two pages double spaced.

    It was actually a pretty helpful course, and he gives a bunch of examples on his website: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com (scroll down and click on the "synoposis" category)

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  12. Thanks for this post. It's very helpful.

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  13. Awesomely informative! Great info Demitria!! Thank you!

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  14. Thank you so much for the great tips! :)

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  15. Great tips. I usually find synopsis writing painful. I know I need to simplify things, but I always want to mention everything.

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  16. Very helpful post.

    I'm seeing the merits of having a little more than a vague overall outline when I start a project. Writing even a sentence to cover each chapter will make writing the synopsis that much easier. I'm one of those weird writer who actually enjoys writing a synopsis, that is, once I get past the initial panic at the thought of having to condense an 80k word novel into a few pages.

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