Lisa F. asked for my advice, so I figured Iâ€™d post it. This is my personal experience and there are many ways to do a synopsis, but Iâ€™ve been pretty successful at requests with this format for several mss.Â
Feel free to comment on whatâ€™s worked for you.Â Â
From my experience, I do a 400 page ms (approx 100K words) into a 5 page, double-spaced, 1â€ margin synopsis, in Times New Roman 14 (thatâ€™s approximately the size of Courier 12, a standard font). Donâ€™t get creative on your fonts or your spacing. 25 - 27 lines per page.Â
The synopsis is designed to give a concise account of your story. People are on the fence if you should put some of your voice in the synopsis. Iâ€™m of the mind that I should - and have gotten many requests from my synopses, so thatâ€™s the format I stick with. That is, if my story is in first person, I do the synopsis in first person. If itâ€™s in third, I do it in third. Yes, I know the purists say do it in 3rd, Iâ€™m just sharing my experience that Iâ€™ve gotten great reception for my first person synopses.Â
You do, however, always want the synopsis to be in present tense.Â
This is loosely the format I use. Try to imagine youâ€™re telling your best friend about your story. Donâ€™t worry if at first it isnâ€™t 5 pages, but longer. You can always cut it down.Â
Some things to know to make your synopsis look professional. In the header, put the name of your ms with - Synopsis after it on the left, page number on the right. (This is a different page number from whatever ms pages you are submitting.) Under the title, put your name and phone number.Â
Tell the story chronologically. Sometimes it helps to put bullet points of your plot points when you're first writing it. Delete them when you do the final version. This should read like a mini-novel, NOT a blurb.
See my article for writing a fiction query.
When you introduce the main characters the first time, BOLD and CAPITALIZE their name(s). When theyâ€™re mentioned again, just write them as normal type. By highlighting them the first time theyâ€™re mentioned, youâ€™re letting the reader know this is a new, significant character. By significant, I mean, someone who affects the plot. If youâ€™ve got a chaperone for the heroine of your historical, unless the chaperone is secretly carrying the heroâ€™s love child, sheâ€™s probably not going to be mentioned.Â
Be sure to show the character(s)â€™ GMC - Goal, Motivation, Conflict. This is what drives your story and should drive the telling of your story. Again, do this chronologically. Show the black moment and SHOW THE RESOLUTION. You MUST tell the reader how it ends. Editors/agents donâ€™t want to read an entire ms only to find the ending doesnâ€™t work, or isnâ€™t the way they saw it going. There is one HUGE author, who shall be nameless, who DID NOT deliver on what the entire first four-fifths of the book promised. I ended up throwing the book in a pool in Cabo with 15 women looking on. They knew Iâ€™d been so into the book and to have it end the way it didâ€¦Â Can you say â€œToo Stupid To Liveâ€ moment???Â (TSTL - donâ€™t have your characters do TSTL moments!)Â
Anyway, back on track here: Give them the ending. All plot points should be tied up, things explained, and above all, GMC should be covered.Â
In terms of pagination, I find that my synopses reflect the story: Page 1 - 1 Â½ of the set up, Page 1 Â½ - 3 Â½ of the conflict/body of the work, Pages 3 Â½ - 5 of black moment and resolution. But I donâ€™t stress about it. If I havenâ€™t finished the book when I write the synopsis (for various reasons this happens sometimes), then I might be heavier on the intro and/or resolution since I usually know those things. The middle might be nebulous so I focus more on what I know is going to happen and be sure to hit the high points. But, if Iâ€™ve finished the ms when I write the synopsis, it usually follows that format.Â
Hope this helps. Feel free to email me. I might have a synopsis to share.