Friday, 6 April 2012

Crabbit's Tips 6: Writing a synopsis

Today's Crabbit's Tips is about how to write a great synopsis. As you know, I've written a book called, ahem, Write a Great Synopsis, but I'm giving you some free advice, too, as ever. The Crabbit's Tips series is available as free downloadable and printable documents and this one is here. God, I'm good to you.

PS Remember: today is the deadline for the What has Twitter Ever Done For You competition.

Crabbit’s Tips for Writing a GREAT Synopsis

1. Before you start, understand why you are writing one. Is it for yourself or for an agent or publisher? Is the purpose to get a contract or for information? Is it to go on your own website? Depending on the answer to those questions, your synopsis will be different. My advice is for the important sort: the one that gets you a contract.

2. See your desired agent/publisher’s guidelines, on website. That will tell you, for example, how long it should be. If no guidelines, aim to be within 2 sides of A4.

3. Use single line-spacing and a legible, clear font.

4. Use the present tense where possible.

5. Do not feel the need to write a chronological outline (unless that is what is specifically requested.) A synopsis is not a chapter outline, unless that happens to be the most elegant way to do it.

6. Omit everything apart from the crucial bits. Omit minor characters and all details.

7. One good method is to start from a 25-word-pitch and build up. That’s much more satisfying than starting with something too long and cutting it down.

8. Your synopsis should mirror the tone of the book.

9. Your synopsis must focus on the protagonist and antagonist, highlighting their driving force/fear/wish/personality.

10. You must indicate and emphasise the stakes: what does the MC stand to lose on failure?

11. You should indicate what happens in the end.

12. Avoid unanswered questions: “Will Jack save the world?”

13. Don’t praise your own writing: “This is a fantastically beautiful story of redemption.”

14. Don’t try to fit your non-linear novel into a linear structure. Just tell the story in whatever way best and most clearly suits your book.

15. Invest a small amount of money in buying Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide. I wrote it for you! There are examples and critiques, as well as quotes from agents and publishers.

16. Don’t panic – it’s just a synopsis and it’s the least important part of your submission.

Happy chocolate-filled weekend!

The CRABBIT’S TIPS series consists of:
(Already available - see labels list on the right of this blog)
1. Writing Fiction
2. Getting Published
3. Submitting to Agents and Publishers
4. Publishing Yourself
5. Ingredients of Poor Writing
6. Synopses
7. Non-fiction Proposals
8. Author events 
(Coming later)
9. Teenage Writing 
10. Children’s Writing
And then more!


Jennifer Joyce said...

Great advice. I will definitely take on board number 16. I find writing a synopsis daunting and have it in my head that's it's the worst possible task when writing a book and my attempts are going to be terrible. Which they might be but panicking before I've even opened a word document to write the thing doesn't help matters at all.

JeffO said...

Stickied - err, bookmarked. I think the biggest problem I've had with my synopsis is I've managed to suck the life out of my story. It's strange, writing a two paragraph summary for the query letter seemed easier.

ranjini said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nicola Morgan said...

Ranjini - please take your spam comments away. If you continue to send spam, you'll find your ISP takes action against you.

Anna Ingwersen said...

I finished reading this and wrote the synopsis for my second novel. I didn't have a panic attack or need wine to get through it. And I actually liked the synopsis I'd written. Thanks for Write a Great Synopsis. I really got it. Well-written and very helpful.