How To Write A Synopsis

write picture - CC flikr - Sarah ReidWe had a first for this first meeting of the month. One of our members submitted a synopsis for critiquing.

There are a couple of different purposes for a synopsis, but this member intended to use his as part of a submission package to an agent.

With this in mind, one of our traditionally published members, Talitha Kalago, stepped forward with some great advice for how to write a synopsis for selling your story via the traditional publication method.

She recommended:

Start by telling the agent/publisher who your protagonist is, and why we should care about them.

Next, get them into the setting, preferably in the context of the central conflict if you can manage it.

Go straight to the first conflict and/or change moment.

Focus on the relationships between each character and how the conflict/change affects them and their relationships.

Step to the next conflict, make it clear how the stakes are rising.

Each paragraph should be a new conflict, keeping in mind how the characters relationships develop and change based on these actions, and how your stakes build as well.

Don’t forget to put a lot of focus on your antagonist – after all, they’re the wellspring of your conflict.

Also keep in mind that a synopsis needs to be urgent. You need to make the agent unable to stop reading.

Oh, and the whole thing has to be tightly written, some places are generous and give you two whole pages. Others you get one. Lines double-spaced.

OK, I know, instructions can seem easy, but be hard to follow in practice. So, what can help you is examples. A great way to get an example is to look on your bookshelf. What are some of your favourite books? Email the author. Lead by telling them how much you loved the book (flattery gets you everywhere), then tell them you’re a writer, and you’re struggling with your synopsis. Ask them if they’d be willing to share the synopsis for the book you just praised.

Sure, you’re going to get a few unreturned emails, maybe the odd form letter response, and the occasional nicely-written refusal giving you some encouragement to keep writing. Just like when you’re submitting stories. But eventually you’ll get a synopsis sent back and you’ll learn from it.

Alternatively you might be able to find some traditionally published authors who’ve shared their synopsis online to help fellow writers. If you find any, be kind and share the link in the comments below.

For anyone concerned, we at Vision Writers don’t only support or focus on traditional publication. We have several self published (or aiming for that route) writers and quite a few hybrids (including myself). This post focused on traditional publishing because that was the route this particular synopsis was focused on. We hope if you have indie or other aspirations you still want to come to the meetings and spend some time with us. We certainly look forward to meeting you.

About Kirstie Olley

Kirstie Olley was the President of Vision Writers Group during 2015-2018, has had ten short stories published since joining the group in 2012, has been a finalist in the Aurealis Awards and received multiple honourable mentions in the Writers Of The Future contest. She also blogs and has free fiction at her website
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