Monday, February 3, 2014

A Great Synopsis Leads to a Great Book

Every Great Synopsis leads to a Great Book
Guest Post by Nikolas Baron

A synopsis is commonly mistaken for the teaser, printed at the back of books to give readers an idea of what it is about. Though similar, a synopsis is submitted to the publisher and is typically one page, sometimes bleeding into two, but submitting a 3-page synopsis is not unheard of, but definitely not recommended.

Though seemingly humdrum as compared to the rest of the action-packed novel, the synopsis carries with it a considerable amount of importance. In many cases, you’ll first need to submit a query letter to a publisher, which is usually followed by a synopsis, and if they like your idea, publishers will request for the first few chapters of your book. Of course, this is all rather standard procedure and many publishing companies have very specific requirements that will be listed on public domains. But here’s the thing. If the synopsis doesn’t get the green light, it stops there.

As part of my work at Grammarly, I get to speak to many professional and amateur writers, and through picking their brains, I’ve come to realize how the feat of writing a great book can actually be much easier if you first start with a great synopsis. And as a bonus, if you start with that first, you even get one of the most dreaded tasks of publishing out of the way without all the other clutter.

To support this hypothesis, just the other day, I was speaking to an author who seemed to churn out book after book without much of a hiatus in between. He was publishing almost every year, and mind you it was selling! I had to get in on his secret. Turns out, he had his entire synopsis done before he wrote a single word of his book. ‘Doesn’t the story develop as you write?’ I asked. He told me that the story will definitely change along the way, but the main points, the climaxes, and the characters should be carefully crafted before you even begin. In this way, it makes for much clearer writing without having to deal with which information should be included or excluded in the synopsis.

Although this method wouldn’t suit all writers, there’s no harm to give it a shot. In a nutshell, a synopsis should have a few vital components of which I’ll cover in point form:

  • A start, middle and an end. Seems rational enough? Remember, this isn’t a teaser; your potential publisher will want to know that you’ve thought this out, they definitely don’t want to be left hanging at the climax.
  • Not only introduce the main characters, but a brief description of their personalities as well
  • Emotional connection to its reader. Yes, I understand you’re trying to squeeze all of what would possibly be 400 pages into 0.0025 of the original amount, but it’s paramount that your publisher understands that you are capable of invoking some kind of empathy into your writing
  • Flawless grammar. The last thing you’d probably want is for your potential publisher to tell you how awesome the plot was, but how she simply couldn’t invest in a writer that couldn’t nail the language. Don’t risk it. Always put your text through programs such as Grammarly that can check for imperfect grammar and every single mistake before submission. You could also seek a second opinion, but whatever you do, never submit your work with a simple edit on a word processor
  • Less is more or KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), is your mantra for writing your synopsis
So now that you’ve got some great tools under your belt, writing a synopsis shouldn’t be equated to your worst nightmare anymore. It’s all about practicing and employing the right methods.


Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

Thanks for visiting Story and Logic, Nikolas.

To our readers: I recommend writers take the time to check out Grammarly and see what they have to offer.

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