DragonCon: Writing a Selling Synopsis

Writing a Selling Synopsis

The first writing panel I attended at DragonCon was on Saturday, with Anthony Francis, Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons, David B Cole/DB Jackson, Esther Freisner, Bennet Coles, and Jennifer St. Giles/JL Saint, where they discussed the ins and outs of writing a synopsis that will sell your book.

Don’t

  • Ignore directions
  • Use bad grammar
  • Sell yourself, instead of your work
  • Use back cover blurb language
  • Conceal the ending
  • Use bullet points, it should be written in prose
  • Explain the magic system

Do

  • Write only 1 sentence for the setting
  • Describe what happens in 3 pages (then cut to 1)
  • Follow the directions – so editors won’t think you’ll be hard to work with
  • Cover plot points, but if the character growth is important, include it!
  • Go back to your novel and edit/revise if your synopsis exposes holes in your plot

Marketing Notes:

Marketing is in on the buy decision (w/big press), so your synopsis must appeal to marketing AND editors. It should demonstrate the following:

  • internal growth
  • External growth
  • the tropes it uses/subverts

2 Methods to try:

Screen writing

Try to follow the suggested script writing beats:

  • Inciting incident
  • Main Character’s intentions
  • How bad will it be
  • The surprise at the end
  • Lessons learned/resolution

Start with 1 sentence for each and build UP with those points.

Use a sense of pacing, and make your story sound thrilling.

List out everything until you’re done:

Write what happens:

then cut to:

  • 3 pages – long synopsis
  • 1 page – short synopsis
  • 35 words – query pitch
  • 25 words – elevator pitch
  • 140 characters – twitter pitch

Don’t expect to get it done in a day!

Suggested synopsis structure:

  • Describe main character and emotional actions
  • Describe second main character or villain and emotional actions.
  • Inciting incident
  • Plot point 1
  • Plot point 2
  • Midpoint
  • Climax
  • Epiphany

How do you get your Synopsis Written?

  • Remember your ABCs: Apply Butt to Chair – Jade Lee/Kathy Lyons
  • “I tell myself over and over and over again, no one is going to give me money until I write it.” – David B Cole/DB Jackson
  • I regard it as a big ole helping of creamed okra. I write it all disjointed and it’s horrible, but it works. Free form. Then, I clean it up.

 

What about mentioning series potential or how it fits into the series?

  • Book 1 HAS to stand alone.
  • Series potential IS attractive.
  • New authors can have a trilogy, or at most, 6 books.
  • If you say there are 19 in the series, you’ll scare off the publisher.

 

8 Comments

  1. All solid points.
    One of the biggest challenges is how little feedback we get when we write poorly (which is understandable, considering how busy most literary professionals are).

    I think one good exercise is to research professionally written synopses of well established stories, and try writing our own (based on books we know and love).
    Not only does it help you practice good writing skills, it encourages you to analyze the story, and understand why it works.
    In many cases what consciously stands out in the minds of an audience (genre, specific scenes), are actually less significant than the systematic relationships between the characters, conflicts, and underlying ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great timing on reading this post. I was just re-reading my synopsis last night. And? I actually think I like it.

      Just remember, the query is about the main character’s emotional journey and goals. The synopsis is about hitting the major plot points.

      Liked by 1 person

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