How to Write a Synopsis

Writing - pretty straightforward, hmm?

Writing – pretty straightforward, hmm?

Synopsis – now there is a word guaranteed to strike fear into any writer’s heart, but it’s a sadly necessary task if you want to sell your book to anyone.

I’m not just talking agents (and more on this tricky subject at a later date, once I’ve figured out the foolproof way to get yourself an agent*), but selling your book online, selling your story to potential readers and even summing it up in 140 characters a la Twitter needs the knowledge of what is important and what can be left out.

The synopsis is where you sell what you have written because presumably someone somewhere thinks – gosh, that sounds worth reading. Or filming, if a script is what you’ve lovingly crafted over the last few months in a daydream about Hollywood fame and fortune.

Of course, this being the online world I could hop around various amazing websites and online resources for writers and plagarise their wisdom on the words for synopsis (what is the plural of the wretched word, btw: synopsises? Synopsi?), but I decided to bravely WRITE THIS BY MYSELF.

So, if you too are struggling with synopsis angst and agonising about how on earth you cram your 80,000+ word novel into a mere 500 words, read on…

1. It is easier to start with a very short synopsis – say, 100 words. A very short synopsis forces you to write only the very, very bare bones of your story. Then you fill it up to make up the 400-word shortfall.

2. If a kind friend has already read your book for you, ask them to sum it up in a few sentences or bullet points. Because you know your characters and your plot inside out, it’s too easy for you to get side-tracked.

3. Start with an exciting sentence – This is the story of housewife Marcia Evans, for example, might sound better as – Marcia Evans’ life has gone tits up ever since her mad, marauding husband abandoned her on the moon**.

4. You can bring in all the main characters for a synopsis, but you don’t need to include everyone – nor every plot line.

5. You need to put in what happens at the end. It is tempting to write a synopsis as if it’s a book blurb – but a book blurb can’t give away the end of a book (or no-one would buy the book). A synopsis for an agent needs to show a well-thought out story with a credible ending.

6. Try not to ramble in a bid to cram too much info in – ‘Marcia, who is startlingly beautiful but has never thought of herself as so and sometimes struggles with eating disorders, married the marauding madman in a fit of spontaneity, for which she was renowned whilst living in a commune in the far north of Scotland…’ loses impact. ‘Marcia’s short-lived marriage to the madman took place during a period of regrettable spontaneity’ doesn’t.

7. Do proof read. If this is the first (and perhaps only) thing to be read, then proper spelling and grammar is a must for good first impressions.

8. And finally – an offer. If you are struggling with your synopsis and you want a second opinion from a complete stranger, then I am happy to offer my t’uppence worth. You can send your synopsis through to the contact details on this site up until 31 July. I can’t guarantee a fast turnaround, nor an expert opinion but sometimes the rank outsider view helps.

 

 

*It’s really, really easy. So long as you are famous and/or already a best-selling author. Bitter? Not much…

**I am always, always going to love alliteration and place it everywhere I can. And also, can you feel a plot coming on…?

 

Picture thanks to wikipedia.

How To Deal With Rejection… Part 1

Chocolate is the best answer to how to cope with rejection.

Chocolate is the best answer to how to cope with rejection.

The astute amongst you may have noticed my absence from the blogosphere of late. I set myself up with a regular feature which was not that challenging to do – a regular 100-word flash fiction story published every Friday – and yet still I managed to skive off my (self-imposed) blogging duties…

Tsk. I suffered from something many people may identify with. When writing is the way you are earning your crust, anything that involves writing which doesn’t mean a payment at the end of it becomes a terrible chore.

The Christmas Card Fiasco

Witness, for example, dear friends the length of time it took me to write my Christmas cards this year. Despite the fact that I repeatedly vow that this will be the year those cards are completed on 1 December – or an announcement is made via Facebook that this year I am contributing a designated amount to charity and all Christmas greetings will be of the electronic, no-cost, no send variety – it took me until the last minute (today) to write actual cards and send them. Hey ho…

Part 2 of the writing aversion explanation – I naively thought myself immune from rejection. Years of job applications and many months of applying for freelancing jobs with middling success I foolishly thought to have created a rhino-like skin for myself. Rejection, I declared loudly and proudly, bring it on and I can scrunch up that little ball of ego dent, fling it behind me and emerge unscathed. I am writer, hear me ROAR…

Rejection? It’s To Be Expected

Yes indeedy, those were my thoughts. Three agent rejections of The Book later… Now, as all writers will know rejection is to be expected; indeed one might be a tad suspicious if the first novel writing attempt was welcomed with open arms. Dear lady, we at Dodgy Agents Ltd love your book – now just sign here, here and here and please do no expect to see any royalties ever or any kind of payback whatsoever. That kind of thing.

But, but, but. It still stings… I have taken to chanting myself a mantra of “One down, 26 to go. Two down, 25 to go, three down, 24 to go”*, etc etc. And then if that doesn’t work out, well the self-publishing route has worked out well for some. But it would indeed be foolish to think of the self-publishing route as the road to riches or even fame. Two or three marvellous exceptions (oh god, I’m going to have to name drop Ms 50 Shades of Grey here aren’t I? On a more positive note, there is Hugh Howey and the entirely fabulous Wool) do not prove the success of self-publishing, but it is still an option.

Sometimes, you need to go back and look at the original goals of your ambitions. I, like many people, said I wanted to write a book. I did not necessarily specify I wanted to publish a book – and for people to then buy said book, and indeed buy it in their thousands. No, no, the original goal was merely to write a book. Mission accomplished, hmm?

But Happily Publishing Still Does Happen…

On the plus side (and it is always good to cope with rejection by looking at other areas of your life), there has been a very welcome development in another project I got involved in. I started up a discussion on LinkedIn writers and editors group, encouraging people to contribute a regular flash fiction story of 100 words every Friday – the Friday flash fiction challenge.

The good people of the LinkedIn writers and editors group responded with gusto and this discussion thread has been running now since 27 September. Every Friday, there are new contributions. With almost 300 posts though, it was getting somewhat unwieldy so one contributor, Russell Conover, suggested a WordPress site for everyone to contribute to. That site is now up and running – feel free to take a look.

Content marketing is said to make publishers of everyone. The world wide web may well have its issues (loss of privacy, social media addiction, health and well-being problems associated with sitting in front of computers for too long, the ease in which our governments and large corporates can spy on us etc) but sometimes the loveliness of the internet just gives me a glow. Here is a group that started on LinkedIn, that grew and grew and that now publishes its stories on a regular basis. We are mini novelists one and all.

 

*Based on a rejection threshold of 27.