No novel writer likes doing the synopsis, a tool for planning and marketing their work. When you’ve written 100,000 words of carefully crafted prose, it’s a bit of a sweat to distil it down to a couple of pages. But it does concentrate the mind…
From the advice I’ve been given or read, the essentials seem to be:
1. Say what what kind of novel it is – crime, thriller, historic, romance, fantasy,etc. I know it’s stating the b**** obvious, but it should get it to the right person (hopefully), save everybody’s time and indicate where you think it should be placed for selling purposes;
2. Start with a really sparky first sentence that’s going to grab the agent’s/editor’s/publisher’s attention;
3. Say what is it about – the big story, the theme (saving the world, money versus family, growth and recognition);
3. Give an outline of the environment – place, date, time;
4. Get the main characters’ names in as soon as possible with a little about their personal situation at the start of the action;
5. The plot should cover main dramatic events from start to finish, including the denouement. I’ve heard that professionals in the publishing industry get mega-peeved if the end is left as a surprise or teaser;
6. Write it in the present tense, in the third person (even if the point of view is first person), in single line spacing;
7. Keep it under 2 pages – the reason? Time. Agents/editors/publishers are very time-strapped and can’t spare it to read pages & pages of a synopsis even though the book may be fabulous. You want to avoid be in the ‘Can’t be bothered to read any further’ heap.
Far more experienced writers can tell you more – see the blogs recommended under Pages (at the right), but this is what I’ve gleaned in my stint so far in the synopsis mines.