Re: Quick tips on writing synopses

#1
Hey everyone,

I'm writing this post here because I like to browse the New Releases list every so often, and one of the first things I look for while scouring for new reading material is the good ol' synopsis. Some are great, but some could definitely use some work, and I end up skipping several stories because of it. Because it's arguably the most important aspect of your story to attract new readers (aside from the cover), it's crucial that you make it as polished as possible.

Covers are another topic altogether, so for now, I'd like to give out some pointers on writing a synopsis that will hopefully help attract more people to your literature. By no means is this an end-all-be-all guide, nor am I a master or professional, but I do have some tips for those struggling to write a snappy summary.

(I am aware there's another thread about this topic already, but it's from 2015, and a second opinion never hurts!)

Summarize only the most important elements.

Let's say we have a story about an adventurer named John. John is on a quest to save a damsel in distress from an evil lord, and he has to traverse many towns and treacherous lands to reach the evil lord's lair. These are good details to include in a synopsis, since they're the basic outline of your story.

We don't need to know about John's clothes, the names every location he visits, what the evil lord's favourite colour is, how badly John stubbed his toe that one time, or the damsel's cat's name. Unless these elements are crucial to your plotline, you're far better off leaving them out.

Keep it concise.

A synopsis is meant to catch a potential reader's attention, fast. When somebody's skimming for new reads, if your synopsis is several paragraphs long, it's very likely new readers aren't going to bother reading it. I would highly recommend having no more than 150 words in your synopsis. The lower the better, but make sure you aren't leaving out important details to reduce your word count.

Examples:

John McAdventurer just received some terrible news – the kingdom's princess has been captured by the evil lord of the mountains! He quickly grabs his gear and sets off to save the damsel in distress, but the wilderness is harsh and unforgiving; can he save her majesty without falling into distress himself?

Or,

The Kingdom's royalty has been captured by the evil lord of the mountains.

Hope is all but lost.

However, one brave man decides to challenge fate and save the damsel in distress.

He takes his first steps into the wilderness, a place known to devour all fledgling heroes-to-be...

Both tacky, yes, but these are basic, functional outlines for the story. You quickly learn the key details of the plot, and you hint at the story's conflict and challenges along the way. These examples are on the short side, too; you could freely add a couple extra details or sentences if you think they'd be appropriate. Additionally, the way you write your synopsis can help convey the mood of the story. The first example sounds a lot more cheerful and optimistic, while the second one sounds rather sinister and epic, right?

Once you feel like you have the basics down, experiment! Try writing your synopsis in a few different ways, either varying up the wording and/or style, and see what sticks best.

Proofread, edit, and quadruple check.

Make sure your synopsis is squeaky clean. No typos, misplaced punctuation, forgotten spaces, or any errors of the sort. When I see a mistake in a story's synopsis, that gives me a bad sign of things to come, and chances are I won't end up giving the story a shot. With all the tools and resources available out there, there shouldn't be any excuses for having errors in your synopsis!

Run it through a spellchecker (Grammarly is an excellent tool for this). Read it out loud. Proofread it as many times as necessary. Have somebody else proofread it for you. Heck, if you don't have anyone available to help you out with it, feel free to PM me and I'll help give you pointers. I don't bite! =)

Leave meta details for after the synopsis.

When potential readers skim lists for new reads and see a synopsis that begins with, "Hi guys, this is my first novel and I hope you enjoy it. I appreciate constructive comments, criticism, and ratings. These are also my first characters etc. etc.," that's all well and good, but that's not a synopsis. People may get frustrated trying to find your story's summary beyond your introduction.

If you're going to add meta information, a release schedule, or an intro as described above, do it after your synopsis, perhaps separated with a horizontal line. Or, consider moving some of it to your first chapter's author's notes to keep the clutter out of your summary space. Whichever you choose, make sure your synopsis comes first.

That's all I have to say on the matter for now! I hope this has given you some insight on how to write a nice summary. If this thread has helped you in any way, or you have additional advice, feel free to share!