You’ve written a novel, agonized over character names—after all you’re going to have to live with these people for many years. You’ve progressed from the draft to rewrite rewrite rewrite, and then to edit, polish, and proof read. Along the way you’ve made the difficult decisions regarding your title, and cover design. Finally, you have it all in place. You’re done!
NOT! Reading agent and publisher submission guidelines you learn that you must include a 1 to 2 page synopsis—a summary of your novel—an objective outline of the story which includes all the key points of the entire main plot through to the end. Well now, that can’t be too hard.
“Writing a synopsis is like slowly pulling a tooth with pliers.”
“I hate it.”
“The deconstruction of a novel to reduce it to its simplest form is insane.”
“You never feel you’ve done your book justice.”
“Too much information to compress into too little space.”
“It’s the hardest writing we have to do.”
Oh, come on, don’t exaggerate. You authors are so emotional. Numerous sites offer advice on how to write a synopsis. Check them out. It’s easy, you’ll see.
Written in present tense, third person, (in the same style of writing as your book) it’s a summary of your novel—with feeling. You do not have to include every character or every scene or plot point, but you should give a clear idea as to what your book is about, what is at stake for your heroes, and how it all turns out. Yes, you must put the conclusion to your novel in your synopsis. No cliffhangers or teasers.
Armed with all this guidance, you sit down to write the synopsis. One hundred drafts later and you’re crying in your beer, tearing your hair out, reduced to a blubbering piece of mush.
And no, even if you self-publish, you’re not off the hook. Now you need to produce the shorter, and even more difficult to write, synopsis meant for the public—the blurb or book description used to promote the book.
A blurb is not something that sums up your book in a nutshell. It’s meant to create enough excitement and interest to get people to want to READ your story. Think ad. Think movie trailer. Keep it short and simply written, easy to skim. Build in conflict and end with a good hook—a question that will get the reader to click that “ORDER” button.
Here’s the current version of my blurb. I think I’m getting a little closer to a good description, but undoubtedly, there will be more rewrites.
Emily doesn’t believe in heaven, but she has an insane desire to go “up there.” A yearning that’s so strong that she can no longer function in daily life. Even the wonderful Dr. David can’t help her find the answers she needs.
Then a stranger arrives claiming to be her soulmate, claiming to have loved her in other lives. She is inexorably drawn to him even as she runs from him.
To prove what he says is true, Yves takes her to his world. There she meets gods and Powers and people rescued from doomed planets—living the perfect heavenly life. She knows she belongs “up there” with Yves, but all is not as idyllic as it appears. Emily is the only one who sees the danger. Can she leave her family and friends to stay with Yves? Will she be able to save him and his world?
As for the tagline, that catchphrase or slogan to advertise your book, how hard can that be?
Keep it simple, tell a story, be clear, be scenario driven, be creative, be memorable—all good advice from the Internet, but not so easy to put into practice. Movie taglines—In space no one can hear you scream. Alien (1979), Houston, we have a problem. Apollo 13 (1995)—are inspiring, but aren’t always the ticket for a novel.
This is what I’ve come up with so far for my books.
Aliens take over Em's life. Trouble is the guy in charge is a rookie. Of course he messes up.
Jasmine is convinced she's invincible. The visions she experienced as a child told her so.
Abby believes the clickings she hears in the fillings of her teeth are messages from aliens. She's right.
Emily is obsessed with the notion of going “up there.” She arrives to a world in crisis. Saving it and the man she loves is up to her.
Mali to Mexico and points in between
I have to tell you a story. Snippets of a life well lived.