One of the most difficult things we had to do before submitting the book to an agent was writing the synopsis. Most agents want this in no more than 2 pages, so in my case this meant compressing a 350 page/93000 word novel down to 2 pages. There is an abundance of advice on the Internet for how best to go about writing a synopsis, but everyone seems to have their own take on it. Do you do it on a chapter by chapter basis (ie: In chapter 1 Sam…..) or do you do it in a more casual style taking in most of the major plot points, including any twists in the story. One thing everyone seems to agree on though is that it’s probably the most important thing that you can write and you should spend a considerable amount of time perfecting it. If an agent doesn’t like the synopsis they aren’t going to read the three or four chapters that you submit (or it’s unlikely they will at any rate).
So with all this information in hand I set about writing the synopsis and managed to get it down to three pages. Well, that’s not bad for a first stab, a 116-1 ratio. Revise the synopsis, take bits out, add bits. Just over 2 pages now. Getting better, well shorter if not better.
As I’d proof-read the book (for the umpteenth time) I’d taken copious notes on what happened in each chapter and I could easily look at these and decide which bits were really important to include and which could be lost, after all a conversation between Sam (the heroine in the book) and her friend is important in the context of the whole story, but not in the synopsis – it just didn’t add anything even though it moved the story forward.
I finally ended up with a synopsis that was just under two pages and that was fine. Unfortunately it read more like a business report and was about as gripping (apologies if you find business reports gripping, but you get the point). My wife (hereafter referred to in this blog as SO – significant other) read it and agreed. She made the suggestion that I approach it from the point of view of the main character – in other words write the synopsis in first person. Now I know that this isn’t the done thing, you don’t submit a book that’s written in the third person and then submit a synopsis in the first person, the style of the synopsis is supposed to be in the same style, but as an experiment I wrote it in the first person and it sounded much better (to the point that I seriously considered scrapping the first book and re-writing it in the first person, but on reflection that just wouldn’t have worked for the story).
Having a workable synopsis, albeit in the wrong person, allowed me to see what was good about it written in that manner and tweak it back to the third person again. This worked for about 50% of it, but with some help from SO we managed to get something that was a pretty good reflection of the story and didn’t sound like it was dry and impersonal. Coming back to it a couple of days later we then made some further tweaks and eventually decided it was as good as we could make it.
In total it took about 2 weeks to write the synopsis and get it to the point of submission. Was it worth the time? Well, I guess time will tell, it’s now in the hands of an agent along with the first 3 chapters so we’ll have to see if anything comes of that. I’m realistic enough to know that just because I (and the few other people who have read it) think it’s quite good doesn’t mean it actually is, but just like when you do the lottery on a Saturday night there’s always a part of you that hopes…..