First of all, congratulations to @LiiaAnn, who has finished writing and editing her book draft of 60,000 words, a huge effort and awesome success. Now the fun bit: how to take all that work and mince it down into 60 words that make an agent or reader or publisher go: YES PLEASE! I WANT MORE.
Writing a synopsis used to be a pain in the rear for me, but I tried and tried and tried, and failed and failed and failed (see below for my “before” and “after” effort at writing a synopsis), and then gradually failed less often. I’m still not very good at it, but I think there are four big secrets:
1) Write your synopsis like you write your novel.
If you write in a sassy voice, use that same sassy voice in your synopsis. If your book is funny, use humour in your synopsis. And if you’ve crammed 10 tonnes of back story into the first sentence, cut it out and start again (just like writing a novel ;-))
2) Write your synopsis, then close the file for a week or three.
Just like your novel draft, a synopsis needs time to breathe. After three weeks of working on something else, you’ll see new mistakes and new room for improvement.
3) Make your words work.
Synopses are short, so pick active verbs and play with your sentences over and over until they are short, snappy, to the point, saying more with every letter.
4) Introduce your main character, what they want, and why they can’t get it.
Character development is the main jist of all stories, and if your reader knows who they’re dealing with and what drives them, there’s a bigger chance they’ll identify with your character and adopt their cause. Which means getting on board with your story and your book.
Want an example?
When I was first faced with writing a synopsis I couldn’t find a decent example anywhere. So, at great personal expense (cue red face), I’m reproducing a couple of synopses I wrote for a book I wrote a few years ago, called Beyond The Safe Zone (a zombie adventure; unpublished and will probably stay that way ;-)).
BEFORE: My first attempt at a synopsis (200 words)
Beyond the Safe Zone is an adventure thriller for readers aged 13 and up, tracking the exploits of protagonist Chase, headstrong foster brother Ari, and pals Vaio and Ben in their escape from the Safe Zone, a closed community where Walls protect living people from the horrors beyond.
Once over the Walls, the friends face a post-Outbreak world, infested with the undead and dangers they’ve only ever imagined. With Ben out-of-action and Ari injured, the four must work hard to stay alive, depending on each other, lying for each other, and challenging all they’ve known of the world within the Walls. When they discover the truth about the Safe Zone and the Mercy who run it, each must choose where their loyalties lie.
Set hundreds of years into the future of a post-Outbreak world, Beyond the Safe Zone is a human thriller, a page-turning ride written for young readers. Beyond the Safe Zone is 50,000 words and my third (unpublished) childrens novel. I am a full-time non-fiction writer and have been writing popular science for young adults since 2002, including time as editor of two national magazines. I have also worked as a roving high school presenter for two years.
(Excuse me while I die of shame; reading that (blogging that!?!?!) makes me cringe!)
AFTER: This still isn’t uber-fabulous, but it’s closer to what I want… (190 words)
Twelve-year-old Chase has never had so many reasons to lose her lunch. She’d never questioned the rituals of the Safe Zone, but then her older brother Ari climbed the walls. Even thinking of climbing was ridiculous, illegal, impossible. But try telling that to Ari. And there was no way she’d let him climb alone.
Now Chase has seen the world beyond the Safe Zone, and it’s enough to turn her stomach. But life within the walls is killing Ari. He wants to leave, to live on the other side. But it’s never been done and there’s no reason to think Ari can do it. So try telling that to Ari.
When Ari’s plan goes wrong, Chase, Ari and schoolpal Ben find themselves hunted on both sides of the walls.
Packed with adventure, friendship, terror and betrayal, BEYOND THE SAFE ZONE is a thrilling read for younger readers. Think the apocalypse behind THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, the adventure of ESCAPE FROM SHADOW ISLAND and the cutting voice of THE MEDUSA PROJECT. Take a peek beyond the Safe Zone. Life will never be the same.
So what do you reckon? Does that help?
Does anyone have other before/after efforts they’d like to share?
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