View Full Version : Synopsis Confusion

02-13-2008, 07:54 AM
I have confused myself. On the recommendation of an editor I really respect, I am entering my book in a literary contest. The contest requires a synopsis and then the first chapters of the book up to 28 pages in total. I went through, chapter by chapter, writing down two or three sentences for each chapter. I'm not sure if I can even explain my problem here, but I'll try.

My book follows my father and I from the time he gives me more than 400 pages of letters he wrote during WWII, to the end, when he finally comes to peace about some issues associated with the war. So in my synopsis, that is what I include. However, each chapter also includes a few of the letters he wrote, virtually word-for-word. My problem is this; how do I say that and have it make sense?

I can make the story cohesive and understandable, but how do I throw in the letters, other than to say that there are letters? Just stating, "Each chapter also includes 3-5 of the original letters..." doesn't seem appropriate for a synopsis. Any ideas on how to do this.

The other option would be to leave it as it is, not talking about the format of the chapters at all. Any advice you have to offer is very much appreciated. I have seven days to finish this and am feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all. Thanks! ~Karen

02-13-2008, 01:56 PM
Synopsis writing has also been one of my problems. (I don't think it's supposed to be a chapter-by-chapter summary, but I could be wrong.)

Maybe you could state why certain letters were included in certain chapters. Describe the way that the letters are important in regards to the chapters.

Georganna Hancock
02-13-2008, 11:04 PM
Some people think a synopsis is more difficult to write than the book, or the query letter. I concur. A synopsis is not a summary of the book, chapter by chapter. It is the overall story of the book, condensed into whatever length you need it to be. In the synopsis, you can mention that you reproduce your father's letters, or some of them.

Good luck!

Cathy C
02-13-2008, 11:23 PM
I think you might be thinking "outline" here, rather than synopsis. I might be wrong in this case, but generally, a synopsis is two pages, single spaced that tell the ENTIRE story in overview. If I were you, I'd email that editor and ask if they're talking about a short detail by chapter (like you've done), or a general overview of the book. The more space you take up doing the synopsis, the less pages you have available to send the actual BOOK, which could ultimately hurt you.

While they're about novels, it might help you to look at the "Selling Synopsis" (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=71843)thread I made over in the romance room. It might give you some different ideas of how to structure yours.

02-14-2008, 03:25 AM
I think I may have described my method in a confusing way. Sorry. What I meant by the "chapter-by-chapter" bit is this. I read in several places that the best way to do a synopsis is to go through your book, chapter by chapter, writing down the most important parts, limiting it to two to three sentences each. Then you basically cut and paste, and add and so forth until you have 1-3 pages that describe your book in its entirety. Does that make sense? Anyway- I read other ways to do it but this made the most sense to me.

It seems to me that for this contest, if I just write the synopsis, it is not appropriate to add words that describe how there are two or three letters in each chapter. But maybe I'm wrong. I also want to tell it in as few words as I can as it is included in the 28 pages, and it has to be double-spaced too. Anyway- thanks for the help! ~Karen

02-14-2008, 03:39 AM
CathyC- Thank you for the link. I just read through it and realized that perhaps a nonfiction synopsis is quite a lot different. ~Karen

Lauri B
02-14-2008, 07:53 PM
When I've written a synopsis for a nf book, I usually limit it to about 250-500 words. Just explain what your book is about (which you sum up nicely in your first post, actually), and mention that each chapter contains letters your father wrote. If you want to pm me what you have so far, i can take a look at it and give some suggestions.

02-14-2008, 11:07 PM
I'd paraphrase from a letter from each chapter, using a few lines that best represent your Dad and that chapter. The book sounds like a great read.

Cathy C
02-15-2008, 12:34 AM
I'd take Lauri B's offer, Karen. She'll set you on the right path. :)

02-18-2008, 10:29 AM
Thanks for all the help everyone. Fortunately, I found a fabulous blog: http://www.annemini.com . Anne describes in detail, over the course of many, many entries, how to write a synopsis which is specific to a contest...including the contest I will be entering. How cool is that? Very! I highly recommend it to anyone who is writing a synopsis, especially one for a literary contest. Thanks again, Karen