If you write novels, you may have to write one of these beasts for your manuscript one day, so it might be handy to know what one is. I was insanely glad I had one for my YA novel, SHAPERS, because it helped me sign with my awesome agent, Kelly Sonnack; I met her at an SCBWI retreat where she read my first chapter and synopsis.
What a Synopsis is NOT
1. A synopsis is not the same as a query. A query is used to entice agents or editors to read your manuscript. A query is a teaser, a summary that is similar to the text you read on a book jacket flap. The main conflicts are described, but not the final outcome. A query also includes word count, contact information, writing or professional credits, your age category (Young Adult/YA, Middle Grade/MG, Adult, etc.) and your genre (paranormal, memoir, dystopian, fantasy, etc.).
2. A synopsis is not the same as a blurb. And a blurb is not merely a book summary, either, contrary to popular belief. A true "blurb" is something written up by someone--usually a published author or other esteemed/well-known person--to help sell your book. It's a recommendation, those little quotes you see on the covers of debut (or other) novels saying cool things like: "I couldn't put this book down! Well-drawn characters, fascinating plot twists, and heart-pounding thrills on every single page. I read way past my bedtime."
3. A synopsis doesn't tell every little detail of the book: it's not an outline. A synopsis is different from an outline where every scene or event is listed. Don't list that nameless random character who shows up only once on page 198.
What a Synopsis IS
1. A synopsis is a description of your book, a summary that describes all major plots, major subplots, and character arcs. It includes plot twists and reveals.
2. It includes the ENDING of your book. No surprises or teasers here: say it all! This will show how your character changes throughout, as well as the developing plot arcs.
3. It's a description of the major events that happen in each scene or chapter.
4. It's written in the same voice as your book, whether chatty, stark, comical, lyrical, serious, etc.
5. A synopsis describes the conflict and what is at stake for your characters.
General Synopsis Rules
1. A typical synopsis is usually between 1-3 pages in length.
2. Some agents or editors desire longer and more detailed synopses; check guidelines. I've written up longer synopses to use, then pared them down to a page "just in case" I need a shorter version. Then you're not scrambling to write one in a panic.
3. A synopsis is usually SINGLE SPACED rather than double. However, if it's longer than a couple of pages, it's acceptable to use double spacing for readability.
4. Write it in PRESENT TENSE, no matter what tense the novel itself is written in.
5. Write it in THIRD PERSON, no matter what point of view the novel itself is written in. Be omniscient and tell motivations and goals of everyone.
6. In the upper LEFT corner, include your title, name, genre, and word count. Include your contact information in the upper RIGHT corner.
7. INDENT the first line of each paragraph, but don't add extra spacing between paragraphs. (Note: I've read other articles that suggest an extra space; use your best judgment.)
8. In the first paragraph, introduce the main character, the world, and the conflict.
9. Set your main characters' names in bold type or all in CAPS the first time that character is introduced. They're easier to spot that way.
10. Write it with zest. Don't write dull, dry descriptions that bore even you. You may find it helpful to get all the main points written down first, then work on enlivening it.
11. Make your paragraphs and listed events flow naturally and logically throughout.
12. Don't use fancy fonts or headings; aim for readability and a professional look.
Have you written one of these "dreaded" synopses before? How'd you do?
Do you find it easy to write your synopsis in an engaging voice that matches your novel--or does it tend to sound awfully dull and plodding?
Which do you find more difficult to write: a query or a synopsis?