Friday, 10 February 2012

Guest Blog: Write a Great Synopsis

Nailing the synopsis is critically important on authonomy, when that little snippet of prose makes all the difference between your book flying into the editorial desk or falling off the radar. 

Luckily, writing consultant and award-winning author Nicola Morgan is at hand to share her wisdom on perfecting this tricky literary nugget. Her 5-star rated Write A Great Synopsis - An Expert Guide is out on Amazon now.

 
A few words about synopses, by Nicola Morgan
 
“Synopsis” – so many different things to so many different people. Which is part of the problem: no one agrees on the meaning. Bit like life. 

So, people, let’s crack this. It’s not so difficult. The word means, literally, “together seeing”, so we are looking for something that allows the reader to see the whole thing (book) at once. Thus, it’s a short way of seeing the whole book.

But how short? Well, here’s the first question you ask yourself: what is this synopsis FOR?
If it’s for an agent or publisher, it should be as short as the submission guidelines specify. If there aren’t any, up to two pages, single-spaced, sensible font and size.

If it’s for yourself, so that you can see how your book pans out, as long or short as you want. Seriously, decorate it with sparkly tendrils, if you wish.

If it’s for your lovely, gorgeous readers on Amazon and you’re in charge of the publishing process, SHORT, really really short. Like, 250 words max. (No sparkly tendrils.) BUT, although we might call that a synopsis, it’s not. Because if we’re to show ALL the book, we have to show the ending, and that’s the last (literally) thing you want to show your readers. So, a “synopsis” that you might put on Amazon or wherever for your readers is a shorter-than-normal-synopsis thing without the ending. And for that you will write it in whatever way makes your book sound fantabulously compelling, in as few words as possible.

BUT, BUT, BUT: the synopsis that agents or publishers annoyingly want before they will give you a deal is different from that synopsis. It’s a) the scary thing and b) not at all scary because a) it’s the least important part of the package (though that doesn’t make it UNimportant) and b) it simply requires you to give the bare bones of your book and doesn’t need to be a thing of Wondrous Beauty. I promise. Functional Reasonableness is all you require, with only a moderate degree of style. As long as it hangs together, which is what you are actually being tested on. If you can write a book, you can write a synopsis, honestly. Relax. 

Writing a synopsis of YOUR book is stressful, though, because you are so close to your book. You think everything is more important than it is. Try to forget all the details and sequence and just think: Who is it about? What drives them? What will they lose if they fail? What sort of obstacles get in the way and how do these obstacles test them? How do they overcome them?
That’s is basically it! I have some suggested methods and some examples in Write a Great Synopsis, and I answer lots of specific questions that writers have asked me. It’s a calm and calming book, I hope, sensible and straightforward, and it will sort out any fears or confusions you have and make you realize that this synopsis thing is just a tool, with the aim that the reader will get certain information. It also has opinions of agents and editors, to reassure you.

Would you like the chance to win a critique of your synopsis by me? The details are here and all the blog posts that you can comment on are to the right of the page. Comment away! I want to help.

Full details of the book, including purchase links, are here. It’s not a long book, priced at £2.25(ish) and remember: you do not need a Kindle or e-reader – you can use a computer or whatever, too.

And there’s a quick video trailer made by my daughter here
  

15 comments:

Nicola Morgan said...

Just a quick PS from me to clarify: to enter the competition to win a free synopsis, comment on any/all of the blog posts in the tour INCLUDING THIS ONE! One comment per post but if you comment on 3 posts, that means your name goes in the hat 3 times. (Etc.) The details are in the link above but I just wanted to clarify so that you remember to comment here too. (If you wish...)

catdownunder said...

"This book is like being given a good brisk licking as a kitten" (Spike - from Wasted)

Cameron Writes said...

Functional Reasonableness - that expression is going to be printed out on an A4 sheet in bold, very large letters which I will pin above the laptop.

Thank you.

joanne pibworth said...

I suck at synopsis writing. My most recent one almost killed me, the thing was HUGE. Seriously, it was one dead dog away from a country and western song.
It's ended up at two pages, but it's been a battle and I'm sure it's still terrible. And what's worse, there actually IS a dead dog in it! Help def required.

Kirsty said...

Looking forward to making sparkly tendrils for my personal synopsis and maybe fairy wings too ;0)
Thanks Nicola, it's been fun following the tour.

Neal... said...

Just yesterday I was recommending you Nicola, and the Synopsis book in particular, to someone here on Authonomy. And now here you are!

I'd now like to recommend the numbers 6,11,23,27,34 and 45 for tomorrow night's lottery draw.

Thank you.

Nicola Morgan said...

Neal - thank you! I promise I haven't been hacking your phone, honest :) Just off to buy my lottery ticket.

Cat, Kirsty, Cameron, Joanne - good luck!

Jo said...

Thank you for this post. Writing a short summary is never fun, especially when you have to simplify so many aspects of a story.

kerry said...

I write this with considerable effort, for my fingers are mere stumps from chewing my nails at the prospect of having to write a synposis. Writing my own obit is more enticing, and probably more likely, because this is going to be the death of me!

Claire said...

This couldn't come at a better time for me - I've just been told by a couple of agents that my synopsis is (basically) rubbish, when it does what I thought a synopsis is meant to do - lays the story out flat. Thanks for this post - and the book!

Anonymous said...

Everyone should read Nicola's Write To Be Published. Generous and a must-read. Thanks Nicola.

Sarah McArthur.
Never Feels Like Summer

Marta M. Sprout said...

Please enter me in your contest. A little common sense in this crazy new world of publishing would be a breath of fresh air. Can't wait to read your book.

Anonymous said...

Nicola,
Appreciate the reassurances about synopsis writing. The thought of writing one always makes me just put the last manuscript away and start writing the next novel.
Please enter me in the drawing.
fledglingowl

Nicola Morgan said...

Now that the tour is over and my blisters are all bandaged up, I thought I'd pop back and say thank you publicly to Authonomy for hosting a stop on the WAGS tour, and to all of you for commenting. Thank you!

I am in the process of collating all names to enter into the competition and as soon as I have the three winners, I will let you know if any Authonomy members are amongst them. (It may take a while - there were a lot of names!)

Whether or not you are lucky in the competition, I wish you a very successful and fortunate writing life. May your muses sing true.

Best wishes and thank you again
Nicola

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