Thursday, 26 February 2009

What Is A Synopsis For?

A synopsis is selling-tool, which shows editors and agents that you can write well and that you know how to structure a book.

A synopsis, therefore, has to entertain and inform. What it shouldn’t do is intrigue. If you don’t give away your book’s ending in your synopsis then how will anyone you have submitted to know if you can construct a water-tight plot?

8 comments:

TOM J VOWLER said...

I've heard so much disparate advice on synopses - how blurb-like they should be, what style, how long - that I began to wonder if there was such a thing as a definitively good one. Mine tended to wander towards blurb, with the hope of intriguing as well as informing, but it sounds, Jane, as if something more comprehensive is needed.

I was fortunate in that my agent read some work without a formal approach by me, but I'm looking forward to subsequent comments here on the topic for when I compose the synopsis for my current novel.

NICOLA MORGAN said...

In such a perfect nutshell, Jane. I should be doing a post on synopses soon but you've obviously hit the nail on the head. I do think the synopsis is easily the hardest bit of a submission. It can be so hard to make it sound plausible.

Jane Smith said...

Here's the thing. Most editors I know will read sample pages before they read the synopsis which accompanies them--they only read the synopsis if the "real" writing is good enough to make them want more. A synopsis then shows them if the writer has managed to construct a good-enough plot.

A query-letter or blurb does something entirely different: it's meant to pique (is that the right word?) someone's interest enough for them to consider reading the whole thing--whether they're an agent or editor considering a manuscript, or a potential buyer wondering whether to buy the book or not. So in those cases, it's OK to add a little intrigue.

And it's far easier to explain that than it is to actually write a synopsis.

debutnovelist said...

I think most agents/editors are clear on whether they want a 'blurb' which they can recylce to put on the jacket - i.e something to pull in a reader, or a synopsis - a complete summary of the plot. Sometimes it's one or the other, other times both. I agree that writing the synopsis can be the hardest part, but for me it's crucial in discovering if my plot really works. Jane - can maybe you can remind us of that other post you did on synposes which I found v. useful?
AliB

Jane Smith said...

Ali, was it this one?

debutnovelist said...

Yep! the link in it is interesting too.

Sally Zigmond said...

I can't write synopses. Thank the Lord I found a publisher who doesn't like them either.

BuffySquirrel said...

Pique is the correct word. Although it's been so long since I've seen it that I barely recognised it ;).