My Tips for Writing a Synopsis

The dreaded synopsis. A few days ago I had to write a synopsis for a proposal. This wasn’t the one page synopsis that you count each word and have to fit it in two pages. This is the long form where you provide a chapter by chapter breakdown of the entire book. But, it’s not a chapter outline.

Synopsis with coffee

Writing my synopsis with my cuppa!

And I went through plenty of sites to write my own synopsis for a book that I’d written only three chapters to.

So this is how I went about it.

1.Lose the dread

I saw it as a job that had to be done because it had to be. There was no reason to fear it. The synopsis had to be submitted by the deadline date, I had no choice. The pressure forced me to park my gluteus in my chair.  Besides, once I started writing it I found I was creating the rest of the story or outline and I enjoyed the whole process . I think a long synopsis is a great map before you draft a novel.

2. Sort the tense and voice

I read extensively for advise. One of the best posts came from Jane Friedman. In her Back to basics post,  she says, “Synopses should usually be written in active voice, third person, present tense (even if your novel is written in first person)” So I kept this front and center while I wrote, because by page four or five it was very easy to slip into the voice and tense of my book.

3. Don’t sweat the first draft

I knew at the back of my mind that my first draft was not going to be perfect, no matter how many times I checked the work. You don’t see the whole picture, until everything is knit together. So I just kept writing.  Once I rid myself of the perfection bug, my focus was on banging out the synopsis.

4. Read the Chapters

I read my chapters fully. At the end of the chapter, I thought of the turning points. What’s enfolding? What’s changing? Who’s changing? Where’s the main focus? What emotions were involved. I then wrote one paragraph on this chapter. Just one.

5. Don’t worry about the length

For proposals, the length is always five pages and up.  I believe five pages for every 100 pages. Don’t quote me on that.

6. Stick to two characters

I was writing this for a romance, so I just stuck with two characters, the main protagonists. If you have too many, then tying in the plot lines for each and keeping track of them in a synopsis, will make it too bulky and tedious.

7. There’s no need for dialogue and backstory

Yup. No he said, she said here. I weaved in some backstory, very little just to ground the editor. My story was set in a very cold Canadian town. But otherwise I didn’t add that in.

8. More telling, less showing

I had to tell what was going on. I wasn’t writing the story, but trying to entice with a brief. This was not the time to get verbose on prose.  So tell, don’t show.

9. Add flavor

After I finished the first draft, I read it and added some flavor.  A few descriptive words, romantic, seductive, daring etc. This was again to describe the characters and give them little details to make them more realistic.

10. Sum it up

After reading it again. I set it aside and re-read. Edit it down. Because even for five pages or ten, there’s stuff that’s not important. Read the beats in your synopsis. Does something stick out. For example I was pitching paranormal romance, suddenly a subplot showed up which is not part of the main plot line. I had to take it out. Rinsed and repeated till I could do no more and hit send.

Fingers crossed I can make the cut.

As you see I didn’t make it very complicated. You’ll read about beat sheets, plot lines, climaxes and all other stuff on the net.

The most important things is to tell you story in such a way that your editor says, ‘I want this.’

There’s no perfect way and the more you read online, the more complicated it gets. Writing a synopsis is not complicated. Once you’ve won the battle in your mind, you’ve won writing the synopsis altogether.

In other news, you must have read that my speculative fiction, “Naiads of Pegae ” has sold to Fantasia Divinity magazine. Also “The Milanese stars,” which I had been asked to revise and resubmit was sold to picked up by Touchpoint Press.


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