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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ten Tips for Turning Your Dreaded Synopsis into a Winning One

By Pamela S. Meyers

Anyone who writes fiction and has crafted a proposal for an agent or publisher has faced the “dreaded synopsis.”

In the years I served as head coordinator for the ACFW Genesis writing contest, I learned that many aspiring novelists have no idea what a synopsis is, and think that a “back of the book blurb” and a synopsis are one and the same, which they are not.

For newbies and veterans who struggle with writing a synopsis I present my ten tips to writing a successful synopsis.

1.        Begin with a log line that can stand alone. You may already have that catchy line prepared if you've developed your answer to the question, “What is your story about?” For example, here is the line I use for my mystery-romance, Thyme for Love.  “April Love is about to begin her dream job as a chef, but a murdered boss and a former fiancé were never on her preferred menu.”

2.        List only main plot points, not subplots.  You want to show the pacing and conflicts in the main storyline.  If you are asked for the full, the editor/agent will see the subplots at that point.

3.        Only use proper names of the hero and heroine (main characters), for all other characters use classifiers like, boss, neighbor, etc.  Too many proper names of characters can be confusing to the reader.

4.        Don’t give too many details. Only stick to the main ones that move the story along, and don’t mention any subplots. You know the old saying, “Keep it simple, stupid.” Avoid the rabbit trails.

5.        Refrain from using timeline classifiers. In the story you do want to show advancement of time such as: the next day, two days later, etc., but in a synopsis they aren’t necessary.

6.        Avoid backstory.  The rule of thumb in writing a story is no backstory for the first 30 pages. With the synopsis you don’t want backstory at all. Keep to the main storyline.

7.        Include character emotion, but no dialogue or deep POV.  Telling is okay here. Save the showing for the actual manuscript.

8.        Leave no unanswered questions.  If something is pertinent to the plot and the pacing, include it and make sure it’s resolved in the telling.

9.        Write tight. Most publishers and agents will tell you how long a synopsis they want to see, and some want short ones. Make every word count.

10.    Tell how the story ends. You want to tell how it the story ends. Don’t hold back. The editor/agent needs to see how you craft a story from start to finish.

You can find more information by Googling "Synopsis Writing." 

If you’ve developed a system for writing a good synopsis, please share!

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, which has recently been rereleased on Amazon and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Her newest novel, Second Chance Love, is scheduled to release January 2017. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.

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