My lovely writing tutor Esther, recommended a
brilliant phenomenal book: Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide by Nicola Morgan. Now I don’t have much time to read, and shamefully I have only read a handful of books this (last) year. But this nifty little critter is 54 pages.
1. If you don’t have time to read 54 pages to help you write your synopsis then give up now.
2. These are not 54 normal pages. They are 54 pages littered with the purest gold dynamite I have ever experienced.
3. Go immediately to amazon and purchase this book, here! I promise you it won’t disappoint.
You know me, can’t help but share what I learn, and these nuggets blew my mind:
I’m going to find this hard not to share all the wisdom, but it’s only right that you go buy the book and learn from it yourself, after all, she poured blood sweat and tears into her book.
So I thought I would share some of the highlights that really blew my mind:
But first let me ask you a question.
What is your book about?
No, I don’t mean the plot, I mean the heart of it? What lies underneath all the words? (other than your blood, sweat and tears.) Is it about love? Loss? Choices? What drives your story? Because that’s what you need to show in your synopsis.
What is an outline?
An outline is detailed and probably quite long. It’s a breakdown of everything in your novel, including major and minor characters, subplot, chapters and twists. It helps you determine that your timeline, plot and story work.
It’s a super useful tool… for yourself. It is not useful for a prospective agent or publisher.
Outlines are long and detailed.
What is a synopsis?
A synopsis focuses on the main characters, their motivations, the conflict they face, in the setting they experience it and the themes that come out of it. A synopsis also conveys the writers voice and how you have connected it all together, including the ending.
A synopsis does not cover subplots and minor characters. It doesn’t cover anything that isn’t vital to the story.
Synopses are short and sweet
How do you do it?
Because this is an actual paid for book, and its so short, I won’t include much detail – and instead suggest you pay for it, read it and take your own notes. But effectively, you:
- Write a 1 sentence 25 word pitch*
- Expand till you have a hook paragraph
- Expand again – add the ending including how the protagonists journey is completed.
- Ensure that climaxes and plot stages and major obstacles are noted
Other tips – Write in the third person, EVEN if your story is written in the first. Write in the present tense and always, always include the ending. Don’t be cryptic – if it’s important to the plot, it goes in, if it isn’t, get rid.
That’s it, I won’t divulge any more of Morgan’s gold dust, you will have to read it yourself.
There’s a plethora of other information like:
- How to organise a non linear book into a synopsis or,
- How to write a synopsis of a book from multiple view points
- Some excellent analogies that visually depict a synopsis and gave me some epiphanies
- The level of detail you should, or should not include
- Three examples of synopsis, critiqued and then rewritten to their full potential (I love a worked example)
- Crappy Memory Tool
- How to do it for Non-Fiction novels
- *An explanation for how to create an AWESOME 1 sentence 25 word pitch
I’ve read the book, and subsequently followed the instructions and written a synopsis. I cannot tell you how invaluable this process was. Here’s why:
1. I need to edit. Only, I’d forgotten my book and was getting really caught up wanting to know what happened in every chapter before I could edit. But I didn’t need to know it all because, what’s important is knowing the heart of your story. The themes, the arcs and the development.
2. Writing it without looking at the manuscript, helped me uncover plot holes and also showed me what was important to story rather than focusing on the subplots and details I focused on the bigger picture something I prefer anyway.
3. Finally, it’s helped me see what my story ACTUALLY is rather than what I thought it was. But and here’s the clincher for me, it’s shown me how and what edit and specifically the timeline. Because, instead of worrying about the subplots I focused on the important bits and the important characters and work their story into the right timeline.
I HIGHLY recommend you trot along and read the entire book, cover to cover, repeatedly. Oh, and take notes!
I’ll leave you with one of my fave quotes from the book:
“When you edit your work, use a red pen; when you edit your synopsis, use a scythe.” Nicola Morgan – Write A Great Synopsis
Please note, I have not been paid, or asked to read or review this book by anyone (other than my tutor who said it would help me) I am recommending this book purely because I read it and loved it and think in my humble opinion it will help others.
For those of you that haven’t visited my bookshelf of recommended reads for writers, check out other books for writers here.
What writing books have you found to be full of golden nuggets?
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