It’s hard to write a book synopsis, as many of you know. It’s much harder if you wrote the book yourself. Here are my top 5 tips, plus a free Synopsis style sheet, with questions that should make it a little easier. And if you’re still struggling, please let me know and I would love to chat with you about how I could help.
1. You must reveal your ending
We’re so used to reading teasers that hint at what a story is about – back-copy blurbs, trailers for movies and TV shows, now even headlines for lead magnets someone wants you to download in return for your email address (by the way, no email address is needed to download the Synopsis style sheet here!) It’s important to remember, however, that an agent doesn’t need a teaser – they need to know everything about your story, from beginning to end, to make sure the plot works, including that all-important crisis moment that happens around the 75% mark of every story. If you send them a teaser, a trailer or blurb that hints at what happens but doesn’t reveal the ending, you’re query will be thrown into the Nope pile faster than you can say ‘wait a minute, I can tell you more.’
2. Plot is everything
If you didn’t write an outline when you were planning your book, go back through and complete a reverse outline, filling in the important plot points. If you did write an outline, go back through it and check that you actually put the plot points where you thought you would, and update it if necessary. If you need a template for an outline, check out my post How To Outline Your Novel.
3. And yet, you need more than just plot
If you just detail your outline, the agent or editor you’re approaching will get bored. You need to show them your characters, their goals and motivations, and whether they succeed or not. You’ll see that my Synopsis Style Sheet includes questions about your characters and their relationships, which should help bring these issues to the fore if you’re not used to thinking about characters. If you’ve written a plot-heavy story, never fear. You don’t need to give the minutiae of each character’s lives and motivations, but at the last we need to see how the main character and the protagonist (who presumably have opposing goals) interact.
4. You’ll get better with practice
Most people can write a half-decent back-copy blurb because we are so used to seeing them everywhere, the style has been hammered into our brains, even if we’re not conscious of how to lay them out. We rarely see a synopsis, however. Check out this site for some great Synopses examples. And if you really want to get your head around how to write these, pick up your favorite books (or preferable ones that are similar to your manuscript) and write some synopses for them.
5. Sometimes you need external help
Sometimes it is just hard to write your own synopsis. You can ask a good friend, a beta reader, or hire a professional editor to do one for you. I highly recommend you give it a stab yourself first, because working on your synopsis can sometimes reveal issues with your manuscript that you didn’t realize were there (and need fixing before you send it to an editor or agent), but if you’ve tried that and are still struggling, it’s okay to ask someone with a better perspective to analyze it for you.
Have you written a synopsis before? I’d love to know what you struggled with, or what a professional pointed out to you that you couldn’t see when you were drafting it yourself. And if you want to leave synopsis examples for your own books or manuscripts, feel free!
And in case you missed it earlier on the page, here’s the free download of the Synopsis style sheet.