Writing a novel seems hard until you have to write a synopsis. Distilling a 70 or 80 or even 100,000 word novel down to a 200 word blurb is like summiting Mt Everest after you’ve run a marathon. Don’t worry, I’m here to help.
My lovely writing tutor Esther, recommended a
brilliant phenomenal book: Write a Great Synopsis – An Expert Guide by Nicola Morgan. If you don’t have time to read, this book is for you. The nifty little critter is only 54 pages. That’s sinkable in a cup of coffee.
If you don’t have time to read 54 pages to to learn how to write a synopsis then give up now.
Besides, you should know, these are not 54 normal pages. They are 54 pages littered with the purest gold dynamite I have ever experienced.
Why are you still reading this post? Go immediately to amazon and purchase this book. I promise you it won’t disappoint.
I can’t help but share what I learn, and these nuggets blew my mind:
I’m not going to share all the wisdom from the book for obvious reasons… but I thought I would share some of the highlights that blew my mind:
Let me start by asking 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 blurb/synopsis?
Before you write a synopsis, you need to know what one is: 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 doesn’t cover subplots or minor characters. It doesn’t cover anything that isn’t vital to the story.
Synopses are short and sweet your book’s sales pitch.
It can be anything from 150-350 words of highly crafted sales gold. It doesn’t cover minor plots or characters. It summarises the heart of the story in an enticing and eyecatching way.
How do you write a synopsis?
Because this is a 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:
- 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, read it yourself.
But if I haven’t enticed you enough then 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’d forgotten what my book was about and was consequently got caught up wanting to know all the details of all the chapters BEFORE I could write the blurb. This book made me realise I didn’t need to know any of it, what’s important is knowing the heart of your story. The themes, the arcs and the development.
2. Writing the blurb 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 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 to edit: specifically the timeline. Because, instead of worrying about the subplots I focused on the important bits and characters which I can now work into the right timeline.
I HIGHLY recommend you trot along to Amazon or Kobo or any other provide 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.
If you want awesome writing tips, you can grab a copy of my book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains. Click this link and tap the logo of your reading device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE 17-page villain cheatsheet by joining my mailing list just click here.