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Document 2 - Synopsis

Please supply a synopsis of the whole book. It should be about one to four pages of A4, single spaced, 12pt.

For each chapter provide a numbered paragraph with a few sentences covering the main plot points. (For a children's picture book that lacks chapters, your synopsis will be just a few paragraphs of the plot, or can be omitted.)

Here’s a trite example:

1) Our hero, John, receives a mysterious invitation to a new restaurant. The food turns out to be wonderful, but even better, he meets Helga, who has apparently received a similar invitation. John is smitten, but Helga seems distant. They part without exchanging details.

2) Next day on the train to work, John is amazed when Helga enters his carriage and sits a few seats away. As he watches, a man accosts Helga. John intervenes and the man runs off. Helga is grateful and gives John her phone number.

...

31) John confronts Helga. She admits to staging the fights and setting the fire, but says she did so out of love for him. Just as John is about to leave, Helga drops the final bombshell - it is in fact her restaurant that John was initially invited to. John realises the extent of his feelings for Helga, and they agree to meet again. The future looks good...

Notice the following:

  • There is enough text to follow the story, but not every sub-plot needs a full explanation.
  • Name your main protagonists (‘John, ‘Helga’) and/or give them titles (‘our hero’) so you don’t have to keep saying ‘the man from chapter one’. However, ‘a man accosts’ is fine if the character does not make a repeat appearance.
  • The full motivation of the characters can be explained, but need not be. So ‘John is smitten’ tells us John wants Helga and will probably pursue her. ‘Helga is distant’ tells us John will have difficulties. In this story, Helga is setting-up the whole affair, but this need not be explained to the editor in the synopsis of chapter 1, unless it is important for the reader to know.
  • The ‘bombshell’ of chapter 31 is a big reveal that turns the story on its head. Notice how you tell the secret to the editor. You may think this will ruin the story for the editor if they read the whole book, but if it is vital to the story, then it is vital to reveal it in the synopsis. It is the synopsis that determines which editor will read your book.
  • Revealing this type of plot-twist to your editor is very important, and the bigger the twist, the more important it is. If your synopsis fails to mention that Helga is, in fact, an alien; a dolphin; a vampire, or some other twist, then it increases the chances of your work being read by the wrong editor and hence rejected at a later stage.
  • Tell us about the ‘happy ever after’ (or otherwise) ending. You may wish to keep the reader guessing, but the reader is not your editor. Tell your editor how they should feel after reading your work ‘The future looks good’.

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