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.