Writing a synopsis

This is not a “how to” post. In fact it’s a “how on earth do I …” post!

Following last week’s fairly disastrous working week in which very little work got done, this week I am working on the synopsis for the book I’m about to start submitting to publishers. Let’s be honest, I know before I even start that the odds are stacked against me. You know, lockdown has produced 6 million undiscovered masterpieces, every single celebrity has “written” a book and I’m not very good at marketing myself. In fact, my “author brand” these days seems to be a female Victor Meldrew with a pen!

So, if I’m to stand any chance of finding a publisher for the latest ms., I need a good synopsis. I have several guides from various respected sources on how to write a synopsis, but the problems is they’re all different.

Allow me to demonstrate, with the help of Enid Blyton.

One guide states clearly that you should only ever name the three most important characters in your manuscript. Everyone else should be described. If you don’t do it this way, no self-respecting publisher will read further:

JULIAN, DICK and GEORGE have an adventure with Julian’s little sister and a dog.

Another suggests naming all the characters and gives their ages in brackets. The age is an absolute necessity, without it, publishers will toss your ms. in the bin without a second glance:

JULIAN (14), DICK (12), GEORGE (10) and ANNE (8) have an adventure with TIMMY (2) the dog.

Another source suggests that age should only be included if it’s relevant and adds something to the character. This is what publishers like best and will guarantee that your synopsis will be read to the end:

JULIAN (14) has an adventure with his friends DICK, GEORGE and ANNE, as well as TIMMY the dog.

Then there’s the question of whether or not to give the characters’ full names. Advice varies, but at least one source suggests that every character should be given a surname. Even if the author isn’t sure what it is (as apparently Enid Blyton wasn’t!)

JULIAN KIRRIN [or BARNARD] (14), DICK KIRRIN [or BARNARD] (12), GEORGE KIRRIN (10) and ANNE KIRRIN [or BARNARD] (8) together with TIMMY ‘THE DOG’ KIRRIN (2) have an adventure.

I already don’t know what to do, and that’s just the first sentence!

There are however several truths that are universally acknowledged.

  1. Do not print your synopsis in green ink.
  2. Do not use a fancy font. In particular, do not use Comic Sans.
  3. Always include the ending.

I think I’ve got it, I’m ready to go! How will any publisher be able to resist?

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