Author tips: A synopsis writing masterclass

A few weeks ago we asked the writers on our Facebook page what they’d like some advice on. We have already had our master copywriter Ben North give out some tips on writing short copy, and now here’s our wonderful publisher Kim Young with some advice for writing your synopsis…

Kim YoungIt’s a roadmap: Keep it big picture and not tiny details, an editor will read your writing and read your story to see where the journey takes them – the synopsis is like a road map in case they need a shortcut!

Be catchy: Are there cultural references that will help us understand what the themes of your book are or the tone of your voice? And don’t be scared to be different. It’s the Great Gatsby meets Mad Men –or it’s Bridget Jones if she shopped in ASOS…

Think about it as a book you’ve read. When you pass a book to a friend you say, you must read this because the ending will make you cry. Or I know you’ll love this because you fancy men who play the guitar. Try it out verbally first. How are you describing your book to your family, friends, writing buddies?

Keep it short and sweet: Two pages – MAX! Focus on character and turning points – whether that be emotional turning points or plot ones.

Try different things: If you’re talking a lot about character then write brief character sketches and then outline the plot. Put in pictures or split it into parts.

Think about your title, synopsis and story all working as one:

In fact, let me tell you a little story. It was 7pm, Charlotte and I were in the office, I needed to go home as I had a pile of paperwork to do and time was ticking on. I popped by Charlotte’s desk and was saying how amazing my skiing holiday has been and how I’d do anything to be on holiday. Charlotte joked that she’d just seen Confessions of a Chalet Girl come into the Impulse Inbox so she’d send it to my Kindle. I laughed… but a few hours later… more boring paperwork later I thought, go on then!

So – not quite a synopsis but the point is – I got the concept – I knew what the book was going to be about – it was going to be fun, sexy with lots of après ski *no comment on whether this matched my ski holiday!* The point is, I got the concept, my interest was piqued, I knew that if the story was as good as the concept we’d be flying – and we were! This is brilliant concept and a great story. We had our first 24 hour sale all because of the title and concept (and you can read Lorraine’s take on it here).

The most important thing though is to remember it is all in the writing. I always go to the first page of the story. Always. So capture my interest with your title/synopsis but always spend more time on your storytelling.

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5 thoughts on “Author tips: A synopsis writing masterclass

  1. What is your take on adding relevant author credentials to the synopsis? I had one editor tell me that my synopsis (on a politically-themed story) would have carried more weight if I had mentioned I’ve worked in NYS politics for 20 years. His advice confused me – wouldn’t such a mention be better in a query or cover letter than in the beginning or end of a synopsis?

  2. Great advice. Thanks for sharing. One question if I may. Is a proposal the same as a synopsis? Caroline x

  3. On author credentials – I think as long as include them clearly i wouldn’t mind where. In my view, I agree with you, that the cover letter and query would be the place to say them. If they are particularly relevant then I’d include an author bio. I think in fiction, the synopsis is a summary of the story. But again, the most important takeaway is that you include any pertinent info!

  4. A proposal would be a synopsis and the first chapters, generally the first three. Sometimes a proposal can mean a slightly longer outline than a short 2 page synopsis. So for example if you are asked for the first three chapters – and the synopsis, sometimes it’s worth focusing on what happens after chapter three in more detail.

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