So you’ve written your book, and gotten it edited. Maybe you even did the editing yourself! Now all you need is a synopsis to submit everything to an agent.
Wait, cue the panic!
Writing a synopsis isn’t as easy as it may seem at first glance. It can come across like all you need is a brief story overview, but that’s not really it, is it? There’s more to it—things you need to be aware of and parts you should never forget. And if you don’t get it right, there’s a high chance agents won’t even take the time to read the manuscript!
The good news is this is the only resource you need to write it well!
Beginning with the most obvious aspect of a synopsis, you’ll need a narrative arc that explains the problem/plot, the characters, and how the book or novel ends. This basically tells the readers that the characters and their motivations are realistic. That the story, as a whole, makes sense.
It should be emphasized here that agents want a reliable preview of your writing skills. A synopsis allows them to see your style through the lines. This is why writing a synopsis is difficult, especially since a well-written one can even make it past marketing, and end up being used as your official and final synopsis upon publication.
Again, agents like authors with good writing skills. One of the best methods to showcase yours is to use an active voice and the third person.
If you’re unsure whether you’re writing in the active or passive voice, identity the subject of the sentence and decide whether the subject is doing the action, or being acted upon. You should be aiming for the former.
For instance, “Harry ate six shrimp at dinner,” is an active sentence. “At dinner, six shrimp were eaten by Harry,” is passive. For more examples, including this one, see this resource!
Another thing agents like? Originality. Is your plot predictable? Has your story been told before? Make sure your synopsis showcases elements that set your story apart from the rest. If there was ever a time to stand out, rather than blend in, it’s when you write a synopsis and submit it to agents. They get countless of submissions, and they don’t have time to read every single one of them. The more reasons they have to believe yours is worth the time, the higher the chances of your novel making the cut.
A synopsis should include character motivations that advance the story. Usually these are portrayed by feelings and emotions. Use these feelings to advance your plot.
For instance, remember how Harry ate six shrimp at dinner? Maybe he’s attended a dinner party and eaten shrimp while waiting for his long lost love to come downstairs. Maybe she’s married to his brother, and he has no idea. Harry’s feelings would be ones of betrayal, confusion, disbelief, and… then revenge. A mixture of hatred and passionate, enduring love for this woman. What would he do?
Clarity is everything. The classic tale of the author that writes a complete masterpiece, but then flunks out on his synopsis is too common. And yes, clarity is usually the culprit. The crippling fear of rejection letters, the anxiety of potentially being overlooked by agents and publishers, etc. It all gets to you, making your synopsis a bit muddled.
Avoid wordiness. Less is always more when it comes to a synopsis. Be clear in your language, and make sure everything flows.
There isn’t a universal standard for what composes a synopsis. However, these tactics are generally agreed upon by agents and readers alike. If you’d like to stand out, and increase your chances of getting published, you have to embrace originality and clarity. Don’t be afraid to submit something one-page in length! Agents only have so much time to dedicate on each submission, so don’t aim for an extensive synopsis.