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Writer Wednesday: The Art of the Synopsis

Good morning and hello authors. It's Wednesday my dudettes, and we have made it to the middle of the week. Today we are taking a pause from the doomscrolling and talking craft. That's right, it is the oft over looked and irksome Synopsis. Often lumped in with the query as part of the querying package, the Synopsis is not a task so easily dismissed and deserves its own stop on the frustration station. Today we are going to break down the important elements of the Synopsis and why it is an important art to practice, whether you are going into traditional publishing, small press, and self publishing.

What Is the Synopsis?

Right to the point: A synopsis is a brief summary that provides the reader with an overview of the main points of the subject text. Synopses are typically meant to be about one to two pages in length allowing some wiggle room there. Although sometimes called a summary, a synopsis is meant to contain the full narrative arc of a story, where a summary might avoid third act spoilers. Unlike the Query, where authors must focus the spotlight on the conflict with very little added details, the synopsis gives the author space to showcase their voice and what makes their story unique. However, there are also several pitfalls to avoid when writing the synopsis.

* Avoid writing a hook. Your hook should be in your query. You don't have enough word space to waste on writing it it again. *Keep it simple. Follow the main thread only. This is probably the hardest piece of advice to follow and the one that trips up the most of us. In trying to write that one page summation, we attempt to cram in as many details and plot points as possible, when in reality, most synopsis should only follow the main character and or thread of the story without veering into the plots of side characters. While some of the side plots can feel integral to the main plot, there is often not enough room to describe them succinctly and maintain clarity.

*Focus through the lens of your character. Often the best way to funnel the narrative arc into such a short format is to focus the events and emotions through the mind of your main character. This lends your synopsis some of your unique voice while advancing through the plot points.

*Get your character's motivations across. The most important task for your synopsis to accomplish for the reader is the driving force behind your main character. Why are they doing the thing? Remember about keeping it simple? If a side character has a direct impact on the motivation of a main character, that bears mention. Everything else is sprinkles.

Why Write A Synopsis?

Now, if you are querying, the answer is pretty straight forward. Synopsis are usually part of most querying requirements. However, aside from the initial requirement and if you are self publishing, there is still merit to practicing the art of the query. For one, self publishing has a great deal more access to opportunities than it used to. If your novel garners interests for rights in other markets, such as audio rights, film/tv adaptation and more, you will want to have a Synopsis on file to hand off to any interested parties. Nailing the art of the Synopsis also helps with writing short summaries, back page matter and more. The more practice you have shorting your book into quick snappy summaries, the easier it will be for you to pitch anywhere and everywhere. Practice writing a page synopsis. Practice writing a one to two paragraph summary. Distill your book to a single tweet worthy sentence. The more you practice, the less of a head ache it will be.

Resources & Further Reading

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