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Synopsis help?

Hi all,

I have tried and tried to write a synopsis of my novel (90,000 words) in one page, and I just cannot do it. Does anyone have any links to good examples of a synopsis from published novels? I can find examples from films, but those plots are shorter and easier to summarise than a novel.

Does anyone have any hints that made it easier for them?


Asked by: Colin Salmon

  1. Adrian Sroka on April 22, 2017

    Colin, to add to Lorraine's excellent reply.

    A synopsis conveys the narrative arc, an explanation of the problem or plot, the characters, and how the novel ends. It ensures character actions and motivations are realistic and make sense.

    Please remember that a synopsis is not a chapter breakdown. You do not have to include information about the plot and storyline from each chapter.

  2. Jonathan Hopkins on April 21, 2017

    I hate the job.

    The only way I've found which works reasonably well is to write a synopsis which includes all the major plot points. Then cut the unimportant stuff out and edit. There will be unimportant (to the synopsis) stuff, believe me. Once you've done that then cut out the unimportant stuff and edit, because there will still be unimportant stuff. And once you've done that, repeat and repeat and...repeat. Until the word count reduces near to what you're after.

    The process gets slower and more difficult the less material you have to work with. I read that doing this type of precis is a useful exercise for practicing the skill of self-editing, and I suppose that may be true. But it's damned hard work.

    After that it's probably time to start working on the blurbs - 50 or 100 words-ish that shout 'read me!" If your sanity's still intact by then, that is.

    Best of luck.

  3. Lorraine Swoboda on April 21, 2017

    The thing to remember that a synopsis is a summary. It's there to tell the agent where or when (or both) your book is set, who's in it, what their journey is, and how it ends. You can't relate everything on one piece of A4 paper, and nor should you try; you have to be selective.

    Your book is about 2 or 3 main characters, perhaps; they will interact with several more - but how many of them are vital to the plot? This isn't a cast list, or a chapter-by-chapter account; it's an overview, and it's not a place to try to convince the reader of the complexity of the novel, nor the grace of your writing. They want to know that you have the whole thing under control from start to finish, to which end you need to be clear and concise.

    By the sound of it, you are trying to get the whole book down on paper. That won't read well, and it won't fit the brief, so it will be thrown away. The agent has very limited time, and won't waste it on ploughing through everything you think you want to tell him, rather than what he wants to know.

    An agent said recently that the chances are no-one will read your synopsis anyway; if the letter that you send with it is no good, that's as far as he will get.

    Give what is asked for, and only that - it will gain you absolutely nothing, as a beginner, to ignore the agent's rules as specified on their website.

    Good luck!

  4. ELSIE BYRON on April 21, 2017

    I found some of my questions about things like a cover letter and synopsis are covered in the advice section on this site. It's worth a look if you get stuck.

  5. Miriam Morrison on April 21, 2017

    Nicola Morgan has written several excellent books on writing, including How to write a submission letter and How to write a synopsis. They're not too expensive on Kindle. And remember, no agent has ever turned down a book because of the synopsis. Thank goodness, cos I hate writing them!


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