Writing A Great Synopsis: The Key to Publishing Your Book

Written by Randy Brashears | April 10, 2014

How many of you are like me?  You’re a first-time author, you’ve finished your manuscript and polished it to the best of your ability, and you’re convinced that it has the potential to do very well.

But then you are faced with the requirement to write a synopsis of your work.  All of a sudden you not only feel as though you’re in uncharted territory, you realize that you do not understand how to write a synopsis of your manuscript. Yet all publishers and agents require a synopsis.

I’ve come to understand I cannot be satisfied with the “okay.”  If I am, my chance of getting published could become either minimal or not at all.  On the other hand writing my synopsis to the best of my ability could be the key to the publishing of the work I’ve labored on for months.

I’ve learned that the synopsis is the retelling of the manuscript from start to finish.  In a sense it’s the same thing as talking to someone about the movie; “Judgment at Nuremburg.”  You’ve seen the movie, they haven’t, but you want them to see it.

As you tell essentials of the movie, not only does that person learn the plot, they also get to know all the relevant characters.  By the tone of your voice, your facial expression, and the “twinkle” in your eyes, they not only experience the same emotions you did, they then want to see it for themselves.

From what I understand, the goal of the synopsis is for the publisher to have a “wow” moment, to cause him or her to want to know more about what you have written.

I’ve learned that a strong introduction is important, this is also referred to as a “hook.”  To me it is the hook that grabs their attention and propels them into the rest of the synopsis.

As an example, what follows is the proposed “hook” for my manuscript, “Mistake Corrected.”  “The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton; what if the genesis for the plan to remove the states authority over abortion was not 1970 or 1971; but rather as early as 1960 or 1961?  What if part of the plan was to position the right Justice on the Court; to rule their way?  And who was the “their”, the organization behind the plan?  How much of what follows mirrors reality?”

To learn how to write a synopsis there are a number of resources.  I used “The Marshall Plan for Getting Your Novel Published” by Evan Marshall and “The Writer’s Digest Writing Clinic” edited by Kelly Nickell.

Through Evan Marshall’s book I learned the importance of using the right words to tell the whole story, words that are strong and convey not only the action but also the emotion of the characters.

Through Kelly Nickell’s book I learned that when I’m mentioning a character for the first time, their name is to be in all caps (JAMES THOMPSON) and confusion can occur when I am “vague” in the use of “pronoun references.”

What I’ve written comes out of my experience in learning to write a synopsis.  Is it a challenge?  Yes, it is.  But, it is a necessary part of paying our dues as writers.

Something else to realize is this, in learning how to craft your synopsis, you are able to help other writers succeed and make their dream a reality.  Isn’t that what it’s all about, helping one another?