Writing a Synopsis for Your Novel
After enjoying fireworks and champagne in celebration of writing and revising your novel, the party is cut short when you realize you have to write a synopsis. Whether you’re submitting to an agent or editor, there’s no way around needing a synopsis. Along with the first three chapters, a synopsis is probably the most required item when shopping and sending your work. Being the creative type that you are, chances are good that you rank writing a synopsis up there with paying income tax and having a root canal. But have no fear. With the recent completion of my latest WIP, I went straight to the task of writing the blasted tool, skipping the fireworks and champagne all together. Here’s what I learned:
1. You need a finished product. No need to dive into writing a summary until your draft is polished and has had several read-thrus. When you’re feeling solid and comfortable with where your manuscript is at, then you’re ready for the synopsis.
2. Your finished manuscript makes it EASY. Yes, I went there with capital letters. With your WIP upgraded to a DMS (Done Manuscript), sit down with a notepad and skim through each chapter, jotting down the major highlights. Put down everything that jumps out to you as important.
3. Longer is better. No size jokes, please. Once you have your list of highlights, put them together like a recipe and allow 1-2 sentences per highlight. At first, you may find that you have a 10 page outline. Cool. Keep it, because some agents / editors ask for a long synopsis, so you’ll be ready.
4. “Trim”. Here’s the hard part. Other agents may ask for a brief synopsis (3-4 pages), and some will want a 1-page synopsis. Shave that long version down until you have both.
It took me several days to accomplish this, and I only say that so you can expect to take longer if needed. There’s no rush, because the important thing is capturing the essence of your story. Once you’ve tackled and completed this process yourself, you’ll agree with me that writing a synopsis is no longer the equivalent of battling the Kraken (sans Medusa’s head). Good luck!