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.

Back Blogging!

back blogging

Oh hello! It’s been a while and I’ve sorely missed the company of you my fellow bloggers and those other dear people who once upon a time signed up here to keep up to date with moi…

I am back in the world of blogging for myself as well as others, which means lots of self-indulgent nonsense… And regular self-indulgent nonsense seeing as I make a living these days by writing regular blog posts and articles for other people and preaching the benefits of writing such items on a regular basis. You know the old saying of the cobbler whose children are always the worst shod, or that so many people teach what they want to learn…? Both sayings apply to me; time to start taking one’s own advice.

Anyway, for those who have managed to bear with me so far (muchos gracias), here is a quick re-cap of the last four months:

1. I have revised and edited my book numerous times – as per the advice of professional writing experts, and those kind people who have read the book for me. Despite snivelling and crying as I did it (awwww, I loved the bit where the teenagers got drunk and then changed themselves into cats to see what that would be like), I have cut out a lot of the dross.

2. I have met up with a publisher on a regular basis and taken on board all of his excellent advice.

3. I have written a synopsis several times (and there is excellent advice about how to write a synopsis here).

4. And I have approached agents. Here I would like to offer up lots of little-known help and advice – agent such and such, for example, really loves submissions which use the comic sans font, whilst agent other such and such goes wild for proposals which reach her in-box on a Tuesday at 11.16am precisely. If only! My only advice for writers approaching agents is – the first rejection stings, the subsequent ones, not so much.

5. I have had enormous fun contributing on a regular basis to Friday Flash Fiction (a website for 100-word stories), and also the Friday flash fiction blog site.  These websites welcomes regular contributions and I promise you writing 100-word stories is brilliant fun and brilliant discipline.

Anyway, a final development has been the creation of a proper professional website – jetcomms, a partnership with another professional blogger, and from this we are hoping to generate more writing and PR work. Here’s hoping…