Tips on writing a synopsis?

(16 Posts)
phdlife Sat 16-Jun-12 22:50:04

Found a book in the library that said it a synopsis should state the who/what/ where/when upfront: this chicklit novel is aimed at working women in their thirties. It tells the story of Eleanor Mackenzie, an Australian academic working in the UK, who starts to realise there is more to life than her precious career when her feet take her into an art class without consulting her head first. etc.

Same source said do NOT treat it as the teaser on the back of the book, there is nothing to be gained by holding anything back, tell all.

Then I found a website that said the opposite. She gave an example of the cringeworthy synopsis she used to write and it was identical to the one above (well, different character and story, obv wink). The synopsis that sells, she reckons, leaves the reader wanting more, just like the blurb on the back of the book.

Confused, moi?

tbh I felt much happier with the first one, and I've seen that advice more than the latter. Also, reading the second one, because hers was fantasy for young adults - tbh I couldn't follow it and couldn't care less - but then I'm not an editor of YAF.

But does anyone else have an insight into what a synopsis should be like?

Novelist Sun 17-Jun-12 15:47:58

It should state everything (no teasers). You need to show agents/publishers that you can write, which you will show in your sample chapters. Along with this, your synopsis will show them exactly what your story will be about and where it is going, with no teasers.

phdlife Thu 21-Jun-12 22:26:22

thanks, novelist, that's what I thought, just odd to find this one How To advising the complete opposite.

medievalgirl Sun 01-Jul-12 20:27:37

Probably coming to this thread too late, but most texts I've read suggest that you spell out the whole plot in the synopsis, not leaving any teasers. The wonderful Miss Snark (Google her blog if you've never seen it) says something along the lines of the purpose of the synopsis being for the agent/publisher to check that aliens don't land in chapter 22 (unless it's sci fi, obviously), which makes sense. Even if you submit a stunning set of three opening chapters, they need to know that your book then goes in a plausible direction.

I'm about to start submitting, and I'm finding it hard to write a synopsis because I don't know whether to keep it short and stick to the main story (and risk my book sounding simpler than it is) or whether to try and encompass the sub-plots too. Tricky.

Good luck with yours.

phdlife Sun 15-Jul-12 01:48:29

hello medievalgirl, i've been awa*. have fried m* lap*op ke*board so no* wri*ing much a*m. Ins*ead i've been spending some quali** ime wi*h ar*is*s' and wri*ers' *earbook. bu I haven'* gone awa* al*oge*her, and would love *o hear how *ou've been ge**ing on.

ImperialBlether Sat 21-Jul-12 15:40:41

Sorry, phdlife, I've been laughing my head off at that post - what's happened to your T key?

I've just had to write a synopsis for a novel I've written - I was entering it into a competition and the instructions were that you were not to say what happens at the end. Mine has an unreliable narrator so of course I couldn't say that - it was really difficult!

DisorderlyNights Sat 21-Jul-12 15:54:15

Hahaha phdlife grin

Probably not so funny when you're trying to write though. confused

I'm trying to write a synopsis alongside. "final" edit of my novel. I am hating, loathing and despising synopsising. You have my sympathies.

ImperialBlether Sat 21-Jul-12 16:12:40

How long's your synopsis though, DN? The agent I'm dealing with said she only wanted to read half a page or so. Some of the books suggest they should be pages and pages.

DisorderlyNights Sat 21-Jul-12 16:38:31

My agent-friend told me USA agents usually want longer synopsis, but no sample chapters. She wants less-than-two-page-synopsis, plus 3 chapters (or first fifty pages, whichever shorter).

So I'm trying to keep mine to one page, but it might edge onto two (def two if I double line space but don't think that's necessary).

Finding all this submitting to agents stuff much harder than writing the actual book! How about you?

ImperialBlether Sat 21-Jul-12 19:45:02

I think if they don't want sample chapters they have every intention of getting someone to rewrite it if they don't like the way you write.

I'm right at the end of a book - first draft - but have missed out about four chapters in the middle. There's an escalation in the book and I've written that, then a plateau, which I'm stuck on, then another escalation which takes me to the end. I've almost finished that, though as I say, first draft only.

It's the plateau that's bugging me. What I want to say is "So then they were happy for a few weeks" - how the hell do you do that? It's not a romance, it's a psychological thriller, so I can't afford to stop the pace. Arrgh.

I have an agent who tried to place my last book and couldn't, though I got really nice comments from the publishers. For this book I gave her about 12-13 pages which was each chapter and what happened in it. She found that an easy way of seeing what the book was like.

What kind of book have you written/are you writing?

DisorderlyNights Sat 21-Jul-12 20:34:08

It's middle grade children's fiction. A contemporary adventure with a sci-fi twist. I have a few good contacts who have offered to look at it, but I know they'll only offer once, so I need to get it as good as I can before I take them up on it.

I can sympathise with the missing chapters. I wrote a plan for this but then wrote the scenes that came easily, then went through and filled in blanks. I've realised I need to add in a new penultimate chapter to close a few loopholes.

So you need to find a way of showing that they were happy and settled (or whatever)? But still revealing character or furthering the plot.

ImperialBlether Sat 21-Jul-12 20:51:06

Yes, but keeping up the pace, too.

I will find a way. I will find a way.

If I say it often enough, it'll happen! Having faith is half of the battle.

Yes, get it as good as you can - nice challenge but you'll feel proud of it when you show it to them.

DisorderlyNights Sat 21-Jul-12 21:36:44

Yes, you will!

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 29-Jul-12 10:15:57

DisorderlyNights, have you considered entering it in the MsLexia competition for children's fiction? I think the deadline is early September.

DisorderlyNights Wed 08-Aug-12 08:14:19

Sorry been away, just saw reply.

Yes, planning on submitting to mslexia. I've just finished it, whoop whoop!

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