A synopsis on synopsis

When it comes to submitting your work for publishing approval, you have to have a synopsis.

Very few publishers want your entire manuscript sent to them.  First, it’s very bulky.  Second, they just don’t have time to read the entire piece of work.  There are tons of manuscripts that are sent their way and their job is to wade through them all to find the ones that are right for their company.

Enter the synopsis.

The synopsis tells them about the book without have to read it all.  I have to admit, it felt odd to me to write a synopsis.  After all, I spent a lot of time on the book and want it read.  Writing a synopsis was akin to writing a giant “Spoiler Alert” for the entire book.  It gave the entire plot and hit all the highlights as well as the evolving character developments.

The writing style was different too.  There’s no dialog in a synopsis.  It was more of a description of events.  A “He did this”, “She did that” style of writing.  Writing the synopsis reminded me of how I write these editorials to you.   I never see your face, so I can’t see your reactions, but I try to make it a conversation.  Something both familiar and intimate at the same time.

Some consider a synopsis the writer’s version of a cover letter.  It serves the same purpose, grabbing the publishers/employers attention.  Once you get it, then you can go into the meat and potatoes of your manuscript.

Other people say that the synopsis is another opportunity to show off your writing style.  I say not so much.

The writing style of a synopsis is so different from a manuscript that, to me at least, it seems two entirely different items.

The synopsis is present tense with no character conversations, nor deep descriptions.  It’s very shallow and only skims the surface of the work.

The manuscript on the other hand, is usually past tense, full of character conversations as well as thoughts, describes intense/deep descriptions of events, nature, and surroundings.

It’s like comparing a snack to a four course meal.

Just don’t underestimate the synopsis because of this.  In fact, it is because of its very nature that the synopsis will trick you.

It may skim the surface of the manuscript, but a synopsis is not as short as you think.  Mine was four pages long.  Evidently that’s in the correct range given by the statement in “The Writer’s Guide”.  They state that a synopsis can range anywhere from one to five pages long.  Seasoned veterans boast of being able to prune their synopsis down to two pages.  I’m not a seasoned veteran when it comes to synopsis and don’t want to leave out anything that might cause the publisher to become confused or think that there are huge gaps in the plot of my work.

Given that this is my first foray into the publishing world, I don’t have any seasoned advice to give, but I will say this.  Don’t let the synopsis intimidate you.  Write it like you would tell your best friend about your work.  Keep it present tense and sneak a peek at “The Writer’s Guide”.

You did a lot of work writing that manuscript of yours.  Sneaking a bit of help to get that publisher’s attention isn’t a bad thing.

At worst, it couldn’t hurt.

8 thoughts on “A synopsis on synopsis

  1. Young teens fall into a forbidden love. Girl fakes suicide. Boy sees supposed death, kills self. Girl awakens, sees boyfriend’s body, kills self. Everyone sad.. W. Shakespeare..synopsis for Romeo and Juliet

  2. LOL W. Shakespeare. It’s a wonder anyone gets published. Writing a synopsis is akin to trying to transpose an obituary for your book onto a job application form–in present tense.

    When it’s done, if your book has all the appeal of a frog dissection laid open, you’ll know you’ve done it right.

    Congratulations Gene, on completing this ugly task!

  3. Gene, I’ve been meaning to have “liked” this and/or commented since you posted it! I’ve had the idea to write a book kicking around in my head for the past two years. Posts like this are great information, just like your writing a book is an inspiration. Thank you, sir!

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