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Writing a Novel Synopsis

Who needs a synopsis?

Anyone beginning a novel, contemplating one, or who has just completed one.

When is the best time to write the synopsis--before or after the book is written?

Either time can work. You can write your synopsis first, before you even begin to write the book. This will help you with your plotting and the synopsis can be a guide for you while you write. It is much easier, by the way, to write a synopsis before you write the book. You don't get bogged down in all the details, mainly because you aren't aware of all the details yet. Of course, what often happens is that once the book is finished, you need to go back and change your synopsis. The book will probably take on a life of its own and there is no reason you have to follow your initial synopsis to the "T. But you might find the rewrite much easier when you have an initial synopsis to work with.

There is another reason to write a synopsis before you write the book. Once you already have an agent and you are discussing future projects, you can present your ideas in this one-page synopsis format for your agent to look at and give her opinion on.

What is a synopsis?

1) It's a narrative summary of your book--with feeling.

2) It's written in present tense.

3) It's written in third person.

4) It's written in the same style of writing your book is written in. If your book is "chatty," then your synopsis is, too. If your book is serious, literary, filled with dialect, or any other style, so must your synopsis be.

5) The synopsis introduces your main characters and their main conflicts, all woven together in the narrative. (It does not list your characters.)

6) Weaving, by the way, is important. One paragraph should flow logically to the next. If you are switching ideas, you need to make sure you build in a transition to connect your paragraphs.

7) You do not have to include every character or every scene, plot point, or subplot in your synopsis. But your synopsis should give a clear idea as to what your book is about, what characters we will care about (or dislike), what is at stake for your heroes, what they stand to lose, and how it all turns out.

8) Yes, you must put the conclusion to your novel in your synopsis. No cliffhangers or teasers. Agents and editors want to know that you know how to successfully conclude your story. (Often agents don't read the synopsis until after they've read the entire ms--but not always.)

Synopsis Format

In the upper left hand corner you should have the following info:Synopsis of "Title here"Genre:.................Word count:By__________ Single space your synopsis.

(Synopses longer than one page should be double-spaced.) Its paragraphs are usually indented, with no spaces between paragraphs. You do not use a cover page or any fancy headings or fonts.

Synopsis Checklist:

Does the opening paragraph have a hook to keep the reader reading?

Are your main characters' conflicts clearly defined?

Are your characters sympathetic?

Can the reader relate to them and worry about them?

Have you avoided all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes?

Have you hit on the major scenes, the major plot points of your book?Did you resolve all important conflicts?Did you use present tense?




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