Why You Must Have a Synopsis of Your Novel

Sometimes, you might wonder why publishers ask for a synopsis of a novel when an author makes a submission to them. After all, what is the point of preparing a synopsis of a novel when the complete manuscript is at hand? While you may be confident that you have the whole story mapped out inside your head, the advantages of having a synopsis of your novel far outweigh the trouble you have to go through to prepare one.

What Is a Synopsis of Your Novel?

Many times, authors get confused between a blurb and a synopsis of a novel. In the dictionary, a blurb is defined as “a short publicity notice (as on a book jacket)” . By way of illustration, here is the blurb taken from Khaled Hosseini’s novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns:

“Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.”

The most important thing to note from the above is that the blurb never tells the reader the whole story. It is meant to tease the reader to want to know more, thereby, enticing him to buy the book.

On the other hand, a synopsis of a novel (which is usually no more than 1,000 words long) will explain the basic storyline and is written in the present tense. In particular, publishers will be looking for answers to the following questions when they consider a synopsis of your novel:

  • Whose story is this? In other words, has your protagonist been identified?
  • Where is the story set?
  • What genre of novel have you chosen? Publishers like to be able to categorise novels because it makes it easier for them to sell them to their readers.
  • When does the story take place?
  • What are the main conflicts the protagonist faces and how will he solve his problems?
  • How does the story end?

Why You Must Prepare a Synopsis of Your Novel

Many writers boast that they do not need to work out a storyline before they write their novel. They merely sit in front of the computer, type away at the keyboard and are surprised at how the story progresses. This often results in what the publishing industry tends to call a ‘see-where-it-goes-kind-of-novel’. This, however, is not a recommended method for aspiring authors to use when writing their first novel. The reason is because, more often than not, the aspiring author will end up with a story that is incoherent, dishevelled, chaotic and not acceptable for publication.

What Are the Advantages of Preparing a Synopsis of Your Novel?

One advantage of creating a synopsis of your novel is that, more than convincing a publisher to accept your manuscript, you will have an idea of how the story pans out from start to finish and act as your guide to see if the events in your story flow in a logical and proper order. You will know how all the characters interact with each other. Sometimes, a synopsis of your novel can reveal obvious flaws like whether you’ve devoted too much space to an inconsequential character or ignored a more important one. Furthermore, you will find out if there are enough dramatic high points and conflicts in the story.

Perhaps, the most important advantage of having a synopsis of your novel is that you will be able to asses your main storyline and work out where your sub-plots should appear. Sub-plots should always be woven into the story in such a delicate and neat way to ensure that the story appears seamless. If you’re writing a mystery story, a synopsis of your novel will help you keep an eye on where all the clues and red herrings are placed.

As you can see, a synopsis of your novel does not merely help the publisher get an overview of your story, but helps you keep on track when writing your novel. As such, make sure that the synopsis of your novel is written properly and you will certainly not have to waste time going back to rethink your novel.

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By Aneeta Sundararaj

This article was first published on Suite.101: http://suite101.com/article/why-you-must-have-a-synopsis-of-your-novel-a354633


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