Anyone who's ever attempted to write a synopsis will agree it's a hateful task. One writing friend declared she'd 'rather write a whole novel than a synopsis'. Sarah stressed that firstly you should ALWAYS stick to the agents/publishers guidelines before submitting. Typically they want to see a single page synopsis of <500 words.
Sarah outlined, using her own novel's synopsis as an example, that the synopsis must:
- tell your story from beginning to end - including the ENDING (and whodunnit)
- explain your main characters and how they interact
- illustrate that you understand story arcs
- show you have taken all of your characters on individual journeys
and achieve this by:
- using present tense
- single spacing
- focus on main plot only
- stick to the story and don't attempt to recreate your writing voice
- keep sentences simple
- use a snappy strap-line if you have one
Sarah talked about the importance of coming up with a strap-line in one or two sentences and asked us all to have a go. This is a fun exercise and shows just how creative you can be. She suggested the strap-line is a great hook to get your reader wanting more, whether they are: reader/buyer, agent. publisher or book reviewer. And a question is often a successful way to write a strap-line.
Example of a strap-line that does the job: Everyone hates the perfect family. So you'll love the Battles. (A Tiny Bit Marvellous, Dawn French).
She then explained the importance of having a prepared 'Elevator Pitch'. Imagine you're in a lift with the Publishing Director of a major house and only have several floors to make them fall in love with your novel ... what would you pitch? A good elevator pitch can go in a covering letter. It should include:
- your USP (unique selling point)
- your main character
- a reference to the main conflict of your story
Again Sarah ran through several examples including her own novel, recently completed.
She also talked us through writing blurbs and press releases, but more of those in a future post.
And what has Sarah achieved with her own novel to date... She shared that after submitting the usual cover note, synopsis and sample 3 chapters she has already been asked to submit her full manuscript. Not luck, but careful selection of agents and ensuring her first contact with them was perfectly executed. Her success and excellent advice was truly motivating.
Now I'm off to re-write my synopsis...