One of the first questions my agent asked me after signing was “can you send me your synopsis?” She wanted both a full synopsis and a short one.
Thankfully, I had both. So should you.
Why you need a synopsis:
Once your agent starts pitching to editors, she needs something to pitch. In much the same way you query agents, agents are pitching to editors. Sometimes it’s done in person, but it’s often done via email. I don’t have a lot of insight into that world, but suffice it to say, your agent needs both your short synopsis and long synopsis during the pitch process.
So how do you write it?
Well, for me, my short synopsis is very similar to the three paragraphs that appeared in my query letter. Hit the high points, mention the stakes for the MC, leave them wanting more.
You’ve probably already got that, if you’re querying.
The long synopsis is a bit more challenging. More experienced writers than I have posted on this topic (see Nathan Bransford’s post from August 2007 and one from Writing World.)
It doesn’t have to be torture.
The thing with the synopsis, is that you’ve got to tell the whole story. In basically two or three pages. Everything. Including the end. No leaving anything untold.
I know I’ll probably get comments like “but aren’t you supposed to leave them wanting more, so they’ll want to read the MS?”
Nope. Not in the long synopsis. In the blurb or back cover copy, yes. But not the synopsis.
Tips for quick and dirty synopsis writing:
1. If you’re a plotter, take your outline and turn that into your synopsis. Write a short paragraph about what happens in each chapter.
2. If you’re a pantser and you don’t have an outline, go through your novel and write a paragraph about each chapter. Keep it to a paragraph. TELL what happens in each chapter. Here’s where you want to “tell” rather than “show” (contrary to everything we’ve been told about writing our novels).
3. Once you have a paragraph about each chapter, you can revise the synopsis into a seamless narrative.
Believe me, it’s not easy. You’re not going to whip this out in a day or two. Consider it part of the writing process.
For the next novel, before you write the first word of the story, write the synopsis.
1. Write the short blurb or back cover copy.
2. Then write a paragraph about what happens in each chapter.
3. Then write each chapter.
4. Voila. You have a Novel.
As I said, I’m not an expert, however, I do have two novels for which I have written synopses—so I’ve done it. I welcome any comments or other suggestions about the process.