Just the thought of writing a book synopsis—rundown, summary, précis, abstract—can seem daunting. Consider it a challenge. Sure, it will take time and commitment, like most things in life. But it gets the gray matter churning and toiling, and that’s a good thing.
Is a synopsis necessary? Yes, if the plan is to:
- submit the book to an agent or traditional publisher
- do a promo tour (some bloggers and reviewers will request one)
- do interviews (a synopsis provides a sound overview of how to [succinctly] describe/deliver the book).
It’s said there should be two versions: a long one comprising three to four pages and a short one that’s one to two pages. If you’re submitting to an agent or publisher, check and adhere to submission guidelines.
Before sitting down to write one, ensure the book is publication-ready (or close to). Review the book and determine key components—such as opening chapters (that establish conflict, motivation, and quest/mission), main characters, pivotal actions, and that wondrous ending.
The first paragraph—like the opening of the book—should be a “grabber”. Yes, it’s a summation that conveys basic information about the main characters and how the story unfolds, but has to be interesting if not intriguing. Think of that “wow” factor: what makes this story worth reading?
Make sure the synopsis is short and sweet, crisp and clear (avoid excessive or redundant wording). As an example, here’s the opening to the synopsis for The Connecticut Corpse Caper:
“The Connecticut Corpse Caper” chronicles the antics of seven inheritance recipients, as witnessed by weather announcer Jill Jocasta Fonne. The madcap mystery (approximately 89,000 words in length) begins when she arrives one November afternoon at an eerie (reputedly haunted) Connecticut mansion, primed for a week-long stay. Two-hundred thousand dollars will be awarded to each person. Should someone leave, for whatever reason, his or her share will be divided among those remaining.
Ensure the synopsis:
- begins strongly—state what the novel entails ASAP (describe the conflict and protagonist)
- makes sense—note relevant events in logical progression
- encapsulates characters (be concise, not excessive, and don’t describe every last one)
- captures important twists and turns
- ties up loose ends.
It seems a lot to jam and cram into one to four pages. But it’s entirely doable. If you’re new to writing them, go on-line for examples and get a feel for the flow. It will come. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
. . . On that note, I’d better get practicing as I have to perfect one for “Forever Poi”.
2 thoughts on “The Aww-Do-I-Have-to!? Synopsis (Writing a Book Rundown)”
oh, the synopsis nightmare!
although, some agents will ask for a brief synopsis – one to two paragraph. i think i have several versions for multiple purposes. i don’t look forward to writing them but they are necessary.
Still, as a reader, i often skip the synopsis of books i want to read – they usually make me lose interest.
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I kind of look forward to writing them as much as I do visiting the dentist. But, yes, they are necessary.