Writing a Synopsis

Mon, Jul 9 2018 01:00pm IST 1
57 Posts
Please note that a synopsis is not a blurb, so when submitting fiction, outline the whole plot, including the ending.

Looking to send out a Synopsis to a potential agent along with the first few pages of my MS. On the website it has the above quote about the synopsis. I am trying to get down the main important events in my story, but it is so damned hard to compress the events of a 115,000 word MS into 1-2 pages. What is important, what isn't, how do I still make it seem interesting?
Is there a way to go about doing this or some way one can keep it interesting, or is the idea of a synopsis always just that it will be a dour overview to give the agent an idea as to what to expect in the MS?

Any feedback much appreciated.
Mon, Jul 9 2018 01:25pm IST 2
1084 Posts

What's important - what you must make clear: Your main character's motivation and over-arching story goal. The conflict - ie what's stopping her/him get there, and how these 'enemies' are overcome (or not). The main plot points or turning points on the journey. Setting (time and place).

What's not important: sub-plots. Descriptive details.

No - definitely not dour. A clear overview, yes, but try to include something of the flavour/voice that you use in the actual book.

It sometimes works to summarise your story in one sentence, then expand it, then expand a bit more - until you have a synopsis - rather than trying to compress all.

Good luck. (I recommend Nicola Morgan's book Write a Great Synopsis)

Wed, Jul 11 2018 06:40pm IST 3
1670 Posts
hi Liam,

Oh, the dreaded synopsis! Hil is right in what she says. You can leave out subplots and minor characters, and you don't need to include every single twist and turn.

I also agree it can be helpful to start small and work up. For example what is the basic beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff of your book? (e.g. John Mclain's wife is taken hostage in a terrorist raid; McClain battles the terrorists with physical strength, courage and quick thinking; McClain rescues his wife. Or... Monomaniacal Captain Ahab vows to kill the whale that mutilated him; Captain Ahab obsessively chases the leviathan across endless seas; Captain Ahab finds and harpoons his foe, but dies in the attempt). Then expand from there.

Include the opening set up, inciting incident, main turning points / reversals / complications, and the climax and resolution. It can be easier to start with the external events of your book, then 'colour in' with character feelings and reactions.

Yes, it is a functional document, designed to let the agent check that you have got the mechanics of your story working properly. If you can include a little bit of colour / voice in it great, but it really is just there to confirm that you have a working story line.

Good luck!

ps... sometimes if the synopsis isn't working, it's because the book isn't (yet) working. Don't be afraid to go back and make changes to the novel itself. The synopsis can be used as something of a 'diagnostic' tool in this way.
Wed, Jul 11 2018 06:49pm IST 4
1670 Posts
pps: the "interest" in a synopsis doesn't come from lots of description or characterisation or world building. It comes from clearly showing the narrative drive of your story. The narrative drive comes from having a clear inciting incident, a purposeful goal for your protagonist, meaningful conflicts / obstacles / complications, and an ending payoff which satisfies everything you've taken the reader through.

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