The Submission Process and the Synopsis
Today I’m going to discuss the submission package that I have to pull together for my agent, to go on what is called ‘submission’ to Publishing Houses. It’s a slightly different process than what I had to do originally to get an agent and Publisher – and I’m actually really happy that it is, because now it means that my agent can query publishers on my behalf, with just a query letter, synopsis and the first three chapters of the book. Yay, I don’t need to write the full book now until I get a contract for it – how cool is that!! Ok, so I still have to write the dreaded synopsis… but hey, I can get a submission package done in a fraction of the time, now that I can just submit on proposal. Awesome!
Which means I now have to put together a query letter, synopsis and write the first three chapters… The query letter and first three chapters I’m cool with, lol (and do check out my query letter showcase on my blog for an example of my original query letter that got me my YES, with my agent and Publisher – along with other author query letters, soon to come). However, it’s the synopsis, that I am literally dragging my heels with! However, when I did my original synopsis for ‘The Devilish Duke’ I had to research not only how to write a synopsis, but how to make it engaging and sellable. In my quest, I found some definite rules of thumb about what to do and not do in a synopsis, which I’m going to share with you below.
These are the DOs and DON’Ts for writing a synopsis:
- Try to only introduce a maximum of three characters in the synopsis. Because I write romance with a twist of suspense, I will always introduce the heroine, the hero and the baddy, aka the antagonist, into the synopsis.
- Introduce your main character first.
- When you first introduce your characters, use CAPITAL LETTERS for their names. That way, it’s very clear for the editor to see who is who in the jungle.
- Make sure you have a hook at the start of the synopsis – something that will grab the editor and have them wanting to read more.
- Make sure you include the character’s emotions and motivations– their story/journey arc, and include the story’s KEY CONFLICT.
- Include the pivotal plot points that progress the story forward.
- ALWAYS include the ending. Do NOT leave the editor in suspense. Basically they want to see that your story has a beginning, middle and end, and a good journey throughout. And they want to see this in a condensed 1-2 pages.
- Don’t use dialogue, unless you absolutely must.
- Write the synopsis in third person (regardless of whether or not you are using third person in the novel), and be sure to write it in your ‘voice’. You want to sell this story to an editor, so it has to be exciting and give them a sense of what the novel is going to read like. Remember a synopsis is NOT an outline of your book.
- Be as concise as possible with every single word – however maintain your voice – easy right??? Lol!
In part of my research on synopsis writing, I found a great article on the pubcrawl website, written by Susan Dennard, that has an eleven-point template (with an example using Star Wars) on what to include in a synopsis. I’ve Included it below (and the original article can be found on the pub-crawl website here):
Fill in the Blanks
- Opening image
An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.
- Protagonist Intro
Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.
Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland.
- Inciting incident
What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.
When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it—a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.
- Plot point 1
What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vader – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.
- Conflicts & character encounters
Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.
To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vader’s home and the Empire’s main base.
What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 180 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.
- Winning seems imminent, but…
What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.
After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vader kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship.
- Black moment
The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?
Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vader and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.
What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?
The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.
Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?
With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism.
- Final image
What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?
Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.
Ok, so now I have to get back to actually writing up my new synopsis for my latest submission package. And that my friends, is my goal for January. I MUST email my agent my new submission package by January 31! So feel free to email me and ask me how I’m going – there’s nothing like a bit of accountability to get things done, hey, lol!
Take care and talk soon!