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BrainPick Writing Killer Synopses & Book Proposals

AgentPete

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Our final seminar of this year will take place on Saturday 18th December(*), replacing the usual Huddle for that Saturday.

It’s on a topic that will be very familiar to Huddlers – synopses and proposals. There’s widespread confusion / lack of clarity on both topics, and my aim is to ensure you have both the understanding and skills to become a virtuoso at both :)

Seriously, if you really understand how to put together a shockingly good synopsis and/or proposal, you’ll automatically be way ahead of the rest of the pack. So don’t miss it.

As always, I’d love to have your questions and topics for seminar discussion below.

(*) Edited to correct the date. The Huddle Xmas Party takes place the week before, Saturday 11th Dec.
 
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RG Worsey

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Question: Ideally, how many character names, maximum, should be mentioned in the synopsis, and is it a good or bad idea to write them in capital letters?
 

Jan L

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Should the synopsis be short, like a page? Or is this a deeper dive into the story? I've heard both from online courses. And should we include a "cover" image? And should we get in our connection/why me to the story? Thanks so much for putting this together! Such a great resource!
 

JamieRae

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I think even hugely successful writers get the synopsis wrong sometimes. Some of them seem really cliche or drab/standard, and yet you read the book and it's the opposite!
 

CageSage

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How many different length synopses should we prepare?
I do one for planning, one for checking/revision/editing stages, and one for the final product - but the times I look to agents/publishers, the differences in what they ask for can be confusing and obtuse. What is the standard, and if there's more than one, how are they best presented?
Thanks.
 

Ancora Imparo

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Should we cover anything about themes as well as plot points? Main characters' internal as well as external journeys? Or just stick to what happens?

It seems one size does not fit all, so should we be prepared to adapt our synopsis to fit different agents / publishers, since quite a few seem to want different things?
 

Galadriel

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I find it tricky to balance giving a sense of voice along with what often ends up as pedestrian writing, especially if you're confined to a one page synopsis. I end up trying to lose the 'pretty' words - the adjectives, etc and I'm left with a rather flat document that doesn't reflect the writing in the novel (which we're told isn't necessary, but even so).

The synopsis shows an agent how the story hangs together; if word count curtails, you're still left with trying to show that the middle of the book has a lot going on.
 

Andy D

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Totally agree with the above, especially those last two posts. Is there a way to produce a sense of style / tone, evoke a voice in essentially a one page outline?

Should we frame it with, say, a central argument or allow space (somehow) for a sub-plot and individual character arcs?

And what to do with all those ‘And then…’s???

It should be a really interesting seminar! Although if it means I have to unpick my current one, this could turn out to be the worst Christmas ever :)
 

Galadriel

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As I see it, if it's short synopsis, you keep to the main story arc and leave out the sub-plots. A synopsis doesn't need to cram in every character. I type the first mention of character in bold, so that agent can pick it out.

Re: details, in Fell Stafford and his friend have a number of encounters with dogs both real and spectral; I say as much because there's no space to write what those encounters entail or how their details pull the story along. But, I'm always aware that while an agent might look at opening inciting incident, and flip down to 'the end,' they're really examining the middle to see that it's got 'story.' Therefore, with limited words, one has to try and demonstrate as much!
 
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