There is one thing that I can think of that drives most authors crazy. They can write 100k complicated, intricate stories with nine bazillion characters all screaming for their own stories. They can handle having accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and a separate blog. They’ll search for swag and bounce around with bunnies (plot bunnies that is).

BUT ask them to write a synopsis and you’ve now killed any hope you have of getting suitable words out of them for the day. There will be something that they need to research or…ooh, haven’t done any kind of housework in decades.

In and of itself, a synopsis isn’t really complicated. It’s not. Dictionary.com defines it as:

noun, plural synopses

[si-nop-seez]

  1. a brief or condensed statement giving a general view of some subject.
  2. a compendium of heads or short paragraphs giving a view of the whole.
  3. a brief summary of the plot of a novel, motion picture, play, etc.

Doesn’t look to scary using any of those definitions. At least I don’t think so. And when you add in the synonyms (condensation, epitome, abstract, abridgment, précis), it should be pretty clear how to write one.

Something that confounds a lot of authors is: how long should a synopsis be? The general rule of thumb that I tell authors when talking about synopses is to use one paragraph for each major plot point of your story. You don’t need to condense the 100k into 100 words and it doesn’t need to be pages and pages telling every turn in the manuscript. If you have three major points, your synopsis should be about five paragraphs total: 1 introduction paragraph; 1 for each major plot point; and 1 to wrap things up and let the editor know if you’ve got a sequel. Ending a synopsis with a cliff hanger is just annoying to editors – we don’t need to know every little thing in your synopsis BUT we do need to have some clue about what we’re going to read.

This is especially important if you’re submitting something to a new-to-you publisher. Why? Publishers receive lots of submissions and editors will start to have “specialties” or have a subject/theme that they just don’t do well with. When a story is received, in most cases, the editor that oversees submissions will read your cover letter and synopsis to figure which editor should review your manuscript (unless the story is to be part of an anthology then all the stories will go to the same editor in most cases).

Oh and I forgot one synonym for most authors…hell LOL