Friday, August 27, 2010


In my last post we discussed what a synopsis is and what it should and should not include. Now lets discuss the format of a synopsis.

A synopsis should usually be formatted like a regular manuscript. There is however some latitude here. If the agent/publisher has requested a one or three page manuscript, using double spacing will not allow you to cover a lot. I prefer to single space my synopsis, after all we are not expecting the reader to make editorial comments so a lot of white space is not needed. I have seen authors use a separate cover page for the title, author's name and contact information and the word count. Again I put this info at the top left of a single-spaced synopsis.

How long should the synopsis be? Again, refer to the agent/publisher's submission guidelines. A single page synopsis restricts you to between two hundred and five hundred words (depending on line spacing), if there are no page limitations stated in either the response to your query or in the guidelines, a general rule is to allow one page for every ten thousand words of your novel. Under no circumstances should a synopsis exceed ten pages. Remember the golden rule of writing "Say as much as possible in as few words as possible" Shorter is better. This is the place to dazzle the reader with your brilliance, not baffle them with BS.

A synopsis should always be written in present tense: "Mike and Anne investigate a series of sniper shootings in Boston." Keep paragraphs short, avoid long blocks of narrative and text.
The first time a character name appears use either ALL CAPS or boldface.  While we're on the subject of characters, do not list every character who appears in your novel, restrict your self to the main characters. No one wants to read a Dr. Zhivago type synopsis, by this I mean you have to keep a list of character names to understand who's who.

I know that by now you are probably saying "So what's the big deal?" The big deal is this, after the query letter, the synopsis may be the first thing the agent/publisher reads. Therefore keep it a marketing tool, the only difference is that instead of a large market all you have to sell to is a single person.

I would have a synopsis written and ready to go before you mail out that fact many agents/publishers ask for it in the initial query package.

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