How to Write a Synopsis

So you thought writing your novel was hard, until you had to write a synopsis. How do you cram your entire manuscript into one page? Are you breaking out into a sweat yet? Everyone dreads writing the synopsis, so let’s look at some best practices to write the best one we can.

  • Include the ending. This is not where we hold onto mystery or secrecy. This isn’t the same as your blurb, you want to give away the ending. If an agent or publisher has asked for a synopsis they want to know everything that happened. Including the ending.
  • Be brief. You want your synopsis to be one page single spaced, which is two pages double spaced. Unless they ask for a longer synopsis specifically, stick to a page no matter how hard it is.
  • Write it in third person present tense regardless of how your book is written. Do not write your synopsis in first person.
  • Focus on main plot points only. You cannot include everything that happens, nor should you. Focus on the main plot line and maybe a subplot that’s important.
  • Check guidelines for how each agent or publisher wants the synopsis and follow their rules.

But you don’t want this to be a laundry list of events. You need to make your synopsis intriguing. So how do we do this? The same way you made your story intriguing.

  • Cut out the filler.
  • Use strong verbs and concrete nouns.
  • Use active voice, not passive.
  • Convey your voice– your style of writing that matches your manuscript.
  • Show characterization- how your protagonist reacts to events.

We read to go on an emotional experience so share that journey in your synopsis. Your first sentence needs to hook the reader. You need to include your protagonist and antagonist as well as your protagonist’s goal. Also include what’s at stake for your protagonist and what the main conflict is. The first paragraph should end with the inciting incident. Any major characters should be introduced in relation to the protagonist and in all capitals the first time they are mentioned. Be sure to include the climax as well as its resolution. How does this affect your protagonist? Include your protagonist’s reaction to each event.

Those should help guide you as you try and write your synopsis. You’ll write and rewrite it a couple of times to get it perfect. What are your tips for writing a synopsis? Share below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and my Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

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How to Pitch to an Agent

Once you have a finished manuscript that’s polished and refined, you may be asking yourself what comes next. If you’re looking to get traditionally published, that means it’s time to pitch to agents. Last week we talked about writer’s conferences and those can be a great opportunity to pitch to an agent in person. I’m going to a conference in March and plan on pitching to four agents. So what makes a good pitch? Let’s take a look.

  • The first thing to keep in mind is that you only have a short amount of time with which to pitch. Your pitch should be concise and clear. You need to boil your entire manuscript down to about two paragraphs.
  • Start with the genre, title, and word count. For example: My book is a 60,000 Young Adult story named Fire and Wind.
  • Answer these questions in your pitch: what is the setting, who is the protagonist, what is her conflict, and what must she do to overcome her conflict.
    • An example using the plot from the Little Mermaid:

Under the sea, young and headstrong Ariel longs for more than her everyday life in the ocean. Fascinated by humans, she sneaks to the surface to watch a party on a ship where she falls for a handsome prince. The ship sinks and Ariel has to choose between staying unseen as her father commands or saving the man she adores. After a raging argument with her father about the prince, she goes to the sea-witch for a chance at being human and winning the prince over. Will she find true love or lose it all to the sea-witch?

  • Keep out secondary characters. This is the time for the protagonist and the main conflict of the story. Don’t get bogged down in details.
  • You want to hook the agent right away so make your pitch intriguing and not just a laundry list of events. Avoid using repetitive phrases like “And then … And then …”
  • Be able to answer what makes your story different than what is on the market already. You want to stand out.
  • Match the tone of your pitch to your story. Make it sound like a romance or a thriller and highlight how your actual manuscript is written.
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Agents may ask you what authors you like, where you got your inspiration for your story, and what else you’re working on.
  • Be prepared to ask questions if you still have time. If they didn’t ask to see more of your manuscript, ask them where you can improve your pitch to get the yes you didn’t get.
  • Practice giving your pitch in the mirror until it comes naturally for you. The more you practice, the easier it will be to do in person.

Be prepared and move forward in confidence. Learn from your feedback and try again if you need to. You got this.

Have you pitched to an agent? What are your best practices? Comment below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and my Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration and find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

How to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference

If you’re a writer and you want to make a career out of writing, writer’s conferences are wonderful things to attend. Not only do they disseminate a ton of information on everything from writing to publishing your book, but they also are great for networking and meeting agents one-on-one. You can often even pitch to agents at the conference. So you’ve found a conference to attend, but what do you do next? Let’s look at how to prepare for a writer’s conference.

It’s all about making a plan. Here’s what to prepare before you go.

  • Business cards. You can order business cards from a local stationary or office supply shop or use an online service like VistaPrint. Make sure the cards are clear and easy to read. Your name should be featured prominently on the card and if you use a logo make sure it matches your online presence. Having a matte finish makes it easy for someone to take notes on your card. And make sure you list where others can find you online on your card. Do not include your address.
  • Elevator pitch. You should have your elevator pitch perfected and memorized. You want to hook their interest in your story and want to know more. Keep it short and sweet. It should be no longer than 45 seconds. Practice your pitch in the mirror before you go until you have it down.
  • What to wear. You want to look professional, but also be comfortable. You’re there all day and don’t want to worry about yanking that ill-fitting shirt down while giving your all-important pitch to an agent. Business casual is a good bet for a conference. Also make sure you wear comfortable shoes you can wear all day. Brand new heels are probably a bad idea. Wear layers so you’ll be comfortable whether the room is hot or cold. Be prepared. If it’s a multi-day conference, plan each day’s outfit and pack them together. The less you have to worry about besides the conference, the better.
  • Have a plan. Know which sessions you will attend and where they are. Plan in breaks you may need and which agents you want to pitch to. Research each agent and the agency they work for so you’ll know who is the best match for you. Don’t be afraid to change your plan when you get to the conference if you’d rather network than attend a session or if you decide to attend different sessions than you had planned. Do what is best for you and your career.
  • Be ready to network. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, give them a business card, and smile. Fight past the shyness and nervousness you’ll feel. Everyone will feel the same. If you do get overwhelmed, find a quiet corner for a moment and breathe.

Here is a list of things to bring to your conference:

  • Something to takes notes on. Whether this is a notebook and pen or your laptop is up to you. But remember if you do take your laptop you’ll have to keep it safe, carry it in a padded bag, and have a way to charge it.
  • Cell phone charger. I know I take a lot of notes on my phone and you’ll be getting lots of new contacts as you network. Don’t let your phone die halfway through the day. Be prepared.
  • Fine point sharpies. You may want to take notes on the business cards you receive and they’re also good for signing copies of your book.
  • Copies of your book (if you have one). Give them away for reviews or to pass along to someone in the publishing field who may be interested in it.
  • Something to put business cards in. Whether this is a business card holder or a Ziploc bag, you don’t want all those cards floating around in your bag.
  • Pens. Bring several in case one runs dry or you lose it.
  • A list of the sessions you plan to attend and questions you plan on asking. Most sessions have a Q&A section where you can ask any questions you have so think about what you’d like to know.
  • Snacks and a bottle of water. You don’t want to be distracted by hunger or thirst, or to start lagging because your blood sugar is low. You have to be at your best all day.
  • Something for a headache or an upset stomach or heartburn. Be prepared for anything that can distract you or make you perform poorly.
  • Make sure your bag will fit all of this and be comfortable to carry around all day.

These will help you to prepare for any writer’s conference you may go to. I’ll be going to my first conference in March and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be sure to write about what I learned while I was there. What are your tips for going to a conference? Which ones have you attended? Share below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.