It’s a generally acknowledged fact that the synopsis is the hardest part of any submission to write. Sure, you can write 60,000 words, but when it comes to summarising it in a catchy, emotive and well-written synopsis, authors freeze.
Last weekend I attended a very useful agent feedback evening with the London Writer’s Cafe run by PR guru, Lisa Goll. Here, agent Ben Clark and editorial genius Ben Seales spoke to us about what goes into a synopsis and what they consider to be one that will catch your prospective agent or editors attention.
An avid crowd had gathered in the pub’s meeting room, pens poised, ready for feedback. Below, I’ll share with you what the main points of the discussion were:
Four essential elements of any synopsis, according to Ben Seales, are:
- Plot outline – Outline the key turning points in your plot. Agents want to see where the story is going and how it ends.
- Tone – Try to mimic the tone in your novel.
- Emotional arc – Your characters personal arcs need to be fully expressed here.
- Back story – Detonate your back story in two or three key moments in your synopsis.
Synopses should be between 300 and 1000 words. Ben Clark stressed that he prefers shorter synopses, and that as an agent he reads the covering letter first, then the chapters submitted and then if he likes what he sees, he’ll read the synopsis to see where the story is going.
Here are some other key pointers:
- Keep your synopsis short (this is a recurring theme for both experts)
- Make sure you include the ending of your story in your synopsis.
- Show that you are able to write in your synopsis. Agents and editors can work on ironing out plot points with you, but they need to know up front that you can write.
- Include your main characters and motivations, even a one-line bio on the character if it gives the agent a better sense of who he or she is.
- Cut out all excess words such as “and then”.
- Your synopsis should flow, and have a narrative voice that mimics your own, as in your novel. This is difficult to do but helps give the agent a sense of how you write.
- Synopses are really useful when pitching a series or film or foreign rights. The editors use them to pass on to other industry third parties.
If you’re struggling with your synopsis, here are some links that might help:
• Agent Ben Clark, LAW Literary Agency
• Editor Ben Seales, Ebook Editorial
If you have any tips to share on writing a synopsis, please share in the comments below. We’d love to hear your feedback.
Thanks and happy writing!