Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Part Two of the Submission Dynamic Duo - The Synopsis

Last week, I outlined query letters. This week, I will provide advice on part two of the Dynamic Duo that makes up a submission package:

the Synopsis

The synopsis is a summary of the entire novel. It is always written in third person present tense. Usually, the maximum length is two pages, double spaced (though mine is 1.5 spaced) with your contact information at the top.

As I suggested last week, do an online search and you will find many examples of novel synopses. This one is straightforward.

The synopsis should contain five pieces of information:

- an introduction to of each of the main characters
- the novels that your novel is similar to
- a sense of the voice of the novel
- what happens at the beginning, middle, and end including major plot points
- a strong concluding statement to leave them wanting more

Note: All of the examples in this post are from the synopsis of my as-yet-unsold novel, "Flight."

Introduction of Main Characters

The first time each main character is mentioned, the full name appears in BOLD CAPS. After that, you can refer to the character by first name only, and it does not need to appear in bold. With each intro, say something brief but important about the character.

KYLE STANLEY is a teenager recovering from a car crash. When Kyle discovers...

Similar Novels

Just like in the cover letter, you should provide examples of comparison novels in your synopsis to give the prospective editor or agent a sense that you've done your homework and you know where your novel fits in terms of marketing, readership, and tone.

Flight follows a tradition of Young Adult novels such as Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel.

The Voice

In my synopsis, I provide a one-sentence quote from "Flight" that generates excitement and gives a sense of the novel.

The smell of decay hangs in the space, misted by the other young gnardors to display their shame. The only child of Elder Roquen has failed his kindness challenge.

The sentence should grab the reader, and is usually the same sentence, if not very similar, to the "hook" sentence at the beginning of the query letter.

Beginning, Major Plot Points, End

The synopsis is the classic example of the worst spoiler of all time. You're providing a sense of your entire novel in a short amount of space. The agent or editor wants to know it all, and quickly, to decide whether or not they will invest time in reading the novel for serious consideration.

Make sure you include:
- How the novel opens
- Each important plot point
- What happens at the end

I will not give away all of the details from my book, especially since I haven't sold it yet, but here's a section from the middle of the synopsis:

Immobile from his injuries, Kyle lies frustrated in bed, yearning for a chance to visit Anna when Kixur hurtles in his mind. Kyle learns about the gnardor, his world, and the realms where memories and thoughts exist beyond physical form.

Leave Them Wanting More

At the end of the synopsis, write a concluding sentence that resonates with the prospective editor/agent to encourage them to contact you. I'm unsure as to whether mine works (maybe that's why I haven't sold this novel yet?) but I will include it here as an example of one way to go.

Many Young Adult novels are aimed at young women via female protagonists. Flight will appeal to young men searching for a heroic story that speaks to their sense of invincibility and their desire to exert authority over not only their lives but every soul in the universe.

So put that synopsis together and send it out. Because no one will ever read your book if it only lives on your hard drive and not out there in the real world.

Do it now
Perform a search on examples of the synopsis. Use their suggestions to write a draft of your resonating-last sentence.