The difference between a synopsis and a blurb is that the synopsis is a brief summary of the major points of a story, while the blurb is a short description of a book and used for promotional purposes.
So, how do you write a synopsis? It's no secret that authors can write hundreds of pages of enthralling story, but can't summarize the story to save their life!
Here are 5 tips to help you on your way...
BTW, I have listed some affiliate links to helpful books I recommend. If you purchase one of the books, you help me AND the author pay the bills. So, thank you in advance!
1. Keep it to a long brief.
The purpose of a synopsis is to give an agent/editor/reviewer a full overlook on how your story starts, carries through, and ends. Yes, that means you give away the ending and plot twists. They want to know exactly where your story is going, and how you’re going to pull it off. With that in mind, it should obviously be longer than the blurb, but no longer than 5 pages. Even if you have a 3 book series you are pitching, your synopsis should be kept between 3-5 pages.
2. Keep your characters interesting.
If you're using words like “warrior,” “dragon rider,” or “moody high schooler,” then we need to have a talk... These nouns are fine so long as they are paired with interesting identifiers, such as “knife-obsessed,” “dragon egg thief,” or “reluctant rock collector.” Describing my character as "Keegan is a cynical warrior, orphaned at a young age and adopted by a dragon" doesn't make nearly the impression as "Keegan is the daydreaming Dragon's Son who is terrified of dragons and has eye-rolling disbelief in sincerity or integrity from his fellow man". (Did I just struggle for a solid hour to write that? Yes I did. Do I like it at all? No. No I don't.) Don’t let your character be defined only by their mood, title, enemy, and quest. What makes your character—human or otherwise—unique? How can you work their quirks into a single sentence that explains them?
3. Keep it snappy!
Agents don’t need to know that “Keegan woke up from a dream, ate breakfast, woke the boys, got fishing tackle together, and went to the river only to run into a monster” Rather, they’ll need to know that your character “went to the river with the kids for the day, where they were ambushed by a monster”. Yes, you are supposed to explain your entire plot, but don't bore us with endless details. Just the important stuff! Use active voice, keep it interesting, and reveal only the major beats (and read THIS BOOK if you don't know what a beat is). Those reading the synopsis should never be bored; rather, they should be excited.
4. Keep it easy to understand.
This is SO important if your story is SciFi or Fantasy. SFF plots can be twisty-turny, character lists can be long, and magic can be overwhelming to explain. Do your best to make it clear, as if you are telling a child the quick version of your story without loosing their interest. Keep it clear. Keep it concise. Remember that your readers aren't dumb, but they don't know your story like you do. They want to be excited about your story, not confused. They want a good reason to read the entire book.
5. Keep it flowing.
A synopsis should be an easy, fun read. Does each paragraph make you automatically flow to the next? Does it provide a memorable fact about your characters or plot? Ask yourself these questions to avoid telling versus showing. Keep your synopsis concise, but entertaining. You are a story teller! Tell us the quick story. Apply the same writing style you use in your manuscript. If it helps, write the synopsis like a letter to a friend. I once wrote a synopsis to one of my characters in the story, explaining it in such a way that they would be excited to get to the end, instead of stabbing me to death! However you do it, I recommend you read it out loud to yourself... like, a lot. Make sure it flows smoothly, makes the characters sound fun, explains the plot points clearly, and is exciting.
Many writers focus only on the plot of their story. They have a fantastic idea, but the story wanders and stagnates. Why? Was it because they were a pantser? Or did a plotter go stale? Neither. Usually, the author simply did not ask their story the right questions.
Story is about someone solving a problem. It’s best to know exactly what that problem is before you hit the publish button, or even begin to write. If you can concisely sum up what your story is about, it will be far easier to write, and have a much better chance of getting attention.
How do you sum up a complex story?
Try summing up your story by explaining what your theme, conflict, and plot are, and how they work together to solve the story problem.
Once you are able to explain what your theme, conflict, and plot are, you will find it much easier to sum up your story in a short paragraph (and even put it together in a gripping synopsis!). Once you can sum up your story, you can keep it focused, keep it strong, and it will make editing SO much easier for you.
Book Recommendations (with Amazon Affiliate Links)
If you’d like to check out a well written book synopsis that outlines the 3 keys of their story, I recommend you read the synopsis of these well written books.
(BTW, these are Amazon Affiliate links. If you buy these books, you help their author, and you help me as well):
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The beasts of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls. - Isaiah 43:20
Self-published author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion, she returns to this world just to play with her dog, blog about her fun, and coach people through writing self-doubt.
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