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Writing a Synopsis for your Novel

Writing a Synopsis for your Novel, guest post by Gregory Erich Phillips

As a writer of novels, I always used to find the task of writing a synopsis to be tedious and frustrating. I'm used to taking 90,000 words to tell my idea, not a single page! Even if I succeeded in conveying the essence of my story in a synopsis, the writing felt bland--more an outline than a story.

Writing a Synopsis for your Novel, guest post by Gregory Erich Phillips
My feelings on writing a synopsis changed when I decided to actually tell a story. We novelists are storytellers after all. It's what we do best.

For my latest novel I decided to do just that, and suddenly, my synopsis became something that was compelling to read. Even better, I told this short story from my protagonist’s third person point of view, so anyone who read the synopsis would immediately feel invested in her conflict. A synopsis necessarily only skims the surface of a novel’s story. By writing it in P.O.V., you can make this grand sweep feel personal and urgent.

Don’t feel like you need to introduce more than a handful of characters in your synopsis. Besides your protagonist, two or three others are all you need (a love interest and an antagonist, for example), and not all of these people need to have their names told. The goal of a synopsis is to quickly hook someone on your story and make them care about your protagonist. Excess names and side themes only confuse from your major point. Most people try to use the synopsis to show that they have a compelling story. Perhaps even more important is to show that the story revolves around a compelling character. Done well, writing a synopsis in P.O.V. accomplishes both.

The structure and overarching plot line of a novel can be told in a P.O.V. synopsis, it just requires a bit of nuance. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the timeline, for example. Reveal the setting piece by piece, not all at once in big overly descriptive opening. A conventional synopsis might open as follows: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a couple of droids were stuck on a desert planet.” But wouldn’t this grab your attention more quickly? “C3PO thought they must have been the two unluckiest droids in the galaxy to be stuck on this godforsaken desert planet.” Both sentences convey the same information, but only the second one aligns you immediately with the character and his problem.

Now I’m sure there are literary agents and editors who may say they disagree with my approach... who would rather see a synopsis that lays out the plot of a novel in a conventional, organized format. My view is that if you are an unknown writer, preparing your synopsis as part of a pitch, you need to use every part of that pitch to grab your audience. This is equally true if you are writing it to hook the attention of an agent, an editor, a reviewer or a reader.

There are many approaches to the synopsis and it is not a exact science. If you are feeling stuck, or that your synopsis does not showcase your best writing, I would encourage you to give the P.O.V. approach a try.

The shorter your synopsis, the better. I believe it should be no more than one page. You will have to leave a lot out. Don’t think of condensing your story into this single page. Write the synopsis as a short story that can stand on its own. If you can hook them on your character and the basics of your story, there will be plenty of time to tell more… maybe even 90,000 words of time.

Your synopsis is your first chance to show what you’ve got as a writer. Put your best foot forward. Write a story!

Please be sure to check out my newly released debut novel, Love of Finished Years. Link:

Writing a Synopsis for your Novel, guest post by Gregory Erich Phillips
Love of Finished Years, a debut novel by Gregory Erich Phillips won the Chaucer Award in historical fiction, as well as the Grand Prize for best book of the year across all genres from Chanticleer Reviews while still in manuscript form. It was then picked up by the Sillan Pace Brown Group to be published January 2018. Some people have called the author a renaissance man, because of his diverse life experiences. He works by day as a mortgage banker, and in his spare time plays the violin, sings in cathedral choirs, and moonlights as a tango performer. Writing novels has been his passion since he was in high school as he was inspired by his literary family. He enjoys researching historical context for his unforgettable characters to explore. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife, Rachel: his wife, his tango partner, and his muse.


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