In my case, I thought I was in great shape because I had several versions that came organically out of using the Complications Worksheet to do my plotting and revising. The first synopsis rang in at just under eight single spaced pages, which is fine for what is called the "long synopsis." But agents also need a "short synopsis." Not only does this sell the book to the prospective agent, but it's also the version an acquisition editor uses to decide whether or not to take the book to marketing, and the version the marketing and promotional staff uses to write your book cover blurb. In other words, the short version has to be the best thing you've ever written.
Even paring mine down to what I thought was the bare bones, my short version was still two pages too long. Clearly, it was time to do a little research. There had to be a trick to getting the short version right.
And there was. A couple of articles I found suggested turning the idea of "condensing" the manuscript on its ear and "expanding" the query letter instead. After all, the excitement and "hookiness" you are going to need should already be in your query. That's where you've distilled the essence of your story, so it's a logical place to start.
Apart from that, regardless of whether you are preparing a long synopsis or a short version, there are a few additional things you have to do:
- Indent your paragraphs and double space anything over a page
- Avoid extra carriage returns between paragraphs
- Stick to two or three pages for a short synopsis, eight to ten for a long synopsis
- Use third person, present tense
- Lead with a hook
- Introduce your setting and main characters
- Clearly define your main plot points, conflicts, turning points, and what's at stake
- Write well and give a sense of the style in your novel
- Weave everything together with smooth narrative
- Make the reader care
- Proofread, proofread, proofread
- Include the following in the upper left hand corner:
Synopsis of "Your Title Here"
Genre: Your Genre
Word count: Your Word Count
By: Your Name
- Include your address, phone number, and email in the upper right hand corner
Want to know more? As usual, some of the best advice came from Nathan Bransford's blog, but there is a lot of great information out there. See the links below:
Nathan Bransford on How to Write a Synopis
Literary Lab Synopsis Pointers
Fiction Writers' Synopsis Tips
Guide to Literary Agents on Writing a Novel Synopsis
Publish A Bestseller Synopsis Tips