Writing the Novel Synopsis, or I’m Supposed to Tell You How it Ends!?

UPDATE:

I got my little car back!  And he’s all well!  He looks as if nothing even happened!

He’s gone from this:

5-28-13 Oliver accident

Ouch.

To this:

  Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Today I did this to him:

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers.  Also, I control him.  Muwahaha!

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers. Also, I control him. Muwahaha!

Photographs by Elizabeth West

In other news, I have completed another pass through Tunerville, completed a chapter-by-chapter outline, and now I’ve started working on the synopses.   Why am I using the plural?  And what is a synopsis, anyway?

Simply put, it’s a summary of your novel.  Agents and publishers ask for them in manuscript submissions and sometimes in query guidelines.  They tend to ask for something short, in my experience, between one and three pages.  And yes, you have to tell them how it ends.

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

 Image:  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Relax, grasshopper; you can do it.  Start by thinking about your story.  What is it about?  Who are the main characters? What happens in the story?  You don’t need huge amounts of detail; just the gist of it will do.

The synopsis should be written in third person, present tense, no matter how your book is written.  Below, I’ve posted the first two paragraphs from the Rose’s Hostage one I sent to Brian.

Bored office worker LIBBY ANN MARSHALL never dreamed a man like JOSHUA ROSE would come into her life.  He is confident, sexy, and adventurous.  He is also the Black Bandit, a former gang member and armed bank robber in the (fictional) city of Ralston, IL who, one hot July day, kidnaps her during a heist. 

The crime inflames harried city police detective STEPHEN PIERCE and the FBI.  Pierce must divide his energy with another major case, prostitute killer JOHN COOK JR., known only as The Motel Shooter.  Cook is furious with Joshua for stealing all his press and launches his own search for the Bandit.  

Capitalize the names of the characters the first time you write them.  (I left out ages in parentheses because I couldn’t fit the whole thing on one page.)

For Rose’s Hostage, I have one, two, four, and seven-page synopses.  I’ve sent the one and two-page ones out.  One-pagers are probably the one you’ll use the most, so work really hard on those.

In addition to this, you should also have an elevator pitch—a short, two or three-sentence summary, sans ending—worked up and memorized, in case anyone asks you what your book is about.

 

Speaking of Rose’s Hostage, I haven’t received my critique from Brian Keene yet.  He should be finished soon.  Either he was too busy to get to it until today, was waiting for someone to get back to him on it, or it stunk so bad he has to practically rewrite it.  I can just imagine…”Cut this…this sucks…good God, what did you do here…auuughgg!”

  Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.


Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.

Image:  Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know I have more work to do on Tunerville, so why am I writing synopses now?  Well, the damn things are helpful to me.  Doing a huge outline—going through every chapter and summarizing it—gives me little bits I can use in my synopses.  It also helps me see where I need to add stuff, and I’ve already used the outline to split a very long chapter.

The synopses will change as the rewrites progress.  I’ll do the short one, so I don’t have much to edit if I move things around.  When I’m ready to submit, I won’t have to cobble one together at the last minute.

If you are finished with your book and you need some advice on writing synopses, check out the following links to start.

Chuck Sambuchino (Guide to Literary Agents editor, writer, and columnist) gives five tips for writing a synopsis.

http://writerunboxed.com/2012/02/27/untitled-2-27/

Robert J. Sawyer, award-winning science fiction writer, shares his outlines and synopses with us on his website (please, Robert, hire someone to update it!).

http://www.sfwriter.com/ouindex.htm

Anne Mini’s blog, Author! Author! is a dense read, but worth it.  I learned so much here it’s not even funny.  Check out her Synopsispalooza series of posts.

http://www.annemini.com/

 

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Writing the Novel Synopsis, or I’m Supposed to Tell You How it Ends!?

  1. Pingback: Flea Market Fabulous | Graphomaniac – Elizabeth West

  2. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my website so i came to “return the favor”.
    I am attempting to find things to enhance my site!
    I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  3. Elizabeth, I came here from AAM and I’m hooked! You obviously have a talent for writing, and I’ll be here to celebrate when you get your first book deal :-). Good luck.

    Also, I’m pretty sure “Aubrey” is just a spammer trying to get backlinks.

    • Aww, thanks! I hope we have something to celebrate one of these days!

      Yeah, that’s what I figured. It caught me off guard. I’ve been getting a few of those lately; they’ve been slipping through the filter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s