Writing a Synopsis | Susan Palmquist | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Lesson One

    • 3. Lesson Two

    • 4. Lesson Three

    • 5. Lesson Four

    • 6. Lesson Five

    • 7. Lesson Six

    • 8. Lesson Seven

    • 9. Lesson Eight

    • 10. Conclusion and Thank You

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About This Class

You'd rather clean your entire house or do a week's worth of laundry rather than sit down and write a synopsis for your novel?

Does this sound like you?

If so, you're not alone because it's often the least favorite chore of an author and the reason I created this easy to follow class showing you what to do and what not to do. I offer shortcuts and tips on how to write the perfect synopsis not only for your current story but future ones too.

I've even included a template you can store on your computer that makes synopsis writing fun and easy.

So enroll now and learn to write a synopsis that does your wonderful story justice and has editors and agents requesting to see it.

Meet Your Teacher

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Susan Palmquist

Author, Dream Inspirer and Writing Guru



I’m Susan Palmquist and for the last 20 years I’ve been an author, freelance writer, editor, blogger, teacher and tutor, (and before that I was a publicist).

It feels like I’ve squeezed a lot into two decades and it’s my tips and experience that I’ve learned along the way that I’m now happy to share with you here at Skillshare.

I’d like to show you how you too can write for fun or even for a living whether it be fiction or non-fiction.

Getting published wasn’t easy for me but I’m now the author, (under my own name and pen name Vanessa Devereaux), of 100 plus books and counting. There’s nothing I love more than helping others do the same thing.

I have my own coaching and critiquing business... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hello, My name's Sudan Palmquist and welcome to another off my writing instruction courses. Let me start by asking you this question. Would you rather tackle or weeks was of laundry or clean every room in your house rather than sit down and work on the synopsis for your book? If you said yes, then this glasses for you. About seven years ago, I created a workshop called I Used to Hate Writing a Synopsis, but not anymore. I did. Many students tell me that it was the synopsis writing aspect off their career that was holding them back from submitting to publishes an agent. With that in mind, I created the workshop to help students start to love the synopses writing process. Ah, now I've condensed most of the tips and hints on Put them into this course with skill share . I'll take you step by step through the process of planning, writing and perfecting your Synopsys. By the time you finish this close, you'll not only have a great synopsis for your current book, but both the skill and the confidence to write future ones, too. So in role now and let's get that synopses written 2. Lesson One: hello and welcome to the writing the synopsis class on. So why is writing in a synopsis such an important skill toe have? Well, actually, I'll start by saying that it's the one piece of writing that your eventual reader never actually gets to see. But it's an important skill to learn because it can open so many doors to you. We've kind of entered into a new publishing era where many publishers, especially the big publishers of kind of close their doors to people who don't have an agent to represent them or are unpublished. But they will sometimes let you submit a cover letter or a cover letter and Synopsys. So this is your this is your moment to open the door to eventually getting published. Another reason to have a synopsis with you is that you it kind of keeps you on track when you're writing your story. Some people give up because they don't know where the story's going. But I feel that if you have the synopses in front of you, it's kind of like a road map on A lot of my students have told me that they give up halfway and I call it. The sagging middle of the story on having a Synopsys, I think, helps you throw it once again. It's like having the road map. And also, if you're a person who can't keep track off characters, names or names of the towns that you're using. Sometimes having a Synopsys can actually help joke your memory, too. So in this first lesson, this is an overall of why I feel that's important skill for you to learn on. In less than two, we're going Teoh, talk about what exactly the synopses is, so see you in lesson to 3. Lesson Two: hello and welcome to lessen to off writing the Synopsys. So what makes for a good synopsis on what exactly is a synopsis? It's basically what your book is about. It's a chapter by chapter summary off aspect off plot subplot, characters, conflict and resolution on. Lots of my students were telling me that they couldn't decide on what to include and what to leave out, and that was a big stumbling block for them. So I came up with this exercise, and actually, it's the class project for this course. I want you to pick a book. It could be something that you've I recently read or red, maybe a decade ago. But think about that book, and I want you to write a synopsis for it. And once you're done with that, I want you to answer the following questions. Why did you choose to put certain things in your synopsis? How did your synopses reveal your characters and plot line, and what did you choose to leave out? And actually, the most important thing is why did you choose to leave those suspects out on? The final question I want you to think about is after reading your Synopsys, Would you want to request to see the manuscript? It sparked enough interest for you to say Yes, I'd like to read the actual book. So that's something for you to Troy and tackle it because I know a lot of people think, Oh, I don't have the skill to do that because I haven't finished all the course yet. But it really gets you thinking about what to include and what not to include a synopsis. And it really will help you when it's time to start writing your own one. So that's it for this lesson on In the next lesson, I'm going to show you ways he can really perfect your synopses writing skill. So see you then. 4. Lesson Three: hello and welcome to lessen three on this one is all about perfecting your synopses. I feel that the perfect synopsis always makes the reader want to see the actual story that you've told them about. They want to get to know the characters you've described, and see how the plot you've told them well actually plays out. It's kind of like if it was a business term, I think of it as yourselves later to try and draw your customer in to want to buy your product. And in this case, it's either a publisher or an agent. You're trying to get Teoh read your work. And one thing that all my students told me was that there synopsis were coming across as kind of like boring book reports. And actually, they were onto something good, and they didn't realize it on what I'm about to tell you will probably go against everything you've been told about what good writing is, and that's telling versus showing. I know that they always tell us that we should show things and not tell, but actually in the synopses you want to tell and not show because you only have one or two pages thrill five pages to tell the editor or publisher about a book that maybe 70,000 words long. So how do you do that? Well, one thing is to just key in on your major players. Don't go off on tangents and tell them about one character. Maybe only has a couple of lines in your book that's wasting your time and space, and that's something you don't want to do. Another thing that perfect Synopsys always has is a description off the conflict Conflict Salvio book and sells you to the publisher agent, so that's vital that you include what the conflict is in your story on. It's also a good way to gauge. If you do have enough conflict in your story on a swell is telling them what the conflict is. You need to tell them how you sustain it throughout your story. On Editor doesn't want to see that maybe you've got conflict, but it's all kind of resolved by one characters saying sorry to another. That's not what they want to see. They want to see that it carries out throughout your book, so make sure you always include that. They also want to see twists and turns, and I'm not talking big twists and turns that you always see in mysteries. But every book needs a turning point where the reader thinks, Oh yes, that's that's going along fine. But hold on a minute, there's something happened and the plot takes a different direction. So that's something else that publisher or an agent will be looking for. They'll also be looking to see how you resolve the conflict. Some people, especially beginning writers, have a tough time bringing the book to a conclusion. So make sure that you've addressed that, and they know that you can conclude this plot and everything. All the loose ends are tied up to make sure that's another thing that you include on the last thing. Never, ever be a tease. I had one publisher that I was talking to it well, actually an editor from a publishing company, and she said you'd be surprised how many writers send a partial synopsis and at the end there, saying to them, You know, if you're interested and you want to know how this story ends, request to see my manuscript or 1st 3 chapters on and it really puts them often. You've really you know, you need to strike against you. So never be a tease and always include the whole Synopsys on tie up all loose ends together . So that's it for this lesson on in the next one, I'm going to address some common questions that most writers have about writing. It's adoptive, so I'll see you then. 5. Lesson Four: hello and welcome back to Lesson four, which I've chosen to include some common questions. I'm often asked about writing at an upset on the most common one is what tense the synopsis should be written in. I know most stories have probably written in past tense, but for the synopsis, I think present tense gets the job done more efficiently. For example, Jack and you'll go up the hill. But they experienced some trouble along the way. I just think it makes for a much smoother sounding words that kind of flow better, and I think it makes it easier for you to create our synopses. That why so even if your story is in past tense, I recommend using present tense for the sops is the second question I often get asked us about our first or third person. A lot of people say they write their story in the first person, and should they use that tents for their Synopsys on my recommendation is no use third person once again, the Jack and Jill example from above. I think that gets the job done, and it just makes for smoother sounding ah synopsis. The last question is often about dialogue and should ever be included in a synopsis. Now my first response would be No, it really doesn't have a place in this synopsis. But I have broken that rule myself. I wrote a mystery and the opening. I should say that the story is told in the first person, and the opening was a piece of dialogue from the main character on. I thought it was so strong and would pull the reader in that I decided to open my Synopsys with it and hopefully have the same effect as this story, my pulling the reader in. So yes, I did break the rule that one time and I used it. So my recommendation would be to, um, use it on a case by case basis. If you feel that there is something strong with dialogue of use, then yeah, go ahead and on, use it, but just use common sense. OK, that's it for the common questions, and I'll see you in the next lesson. 6. Lesson Five: hello and welcome to Lessen five. And this one is all about when to write your Synopsys. And actually, it's another question I often get asked. Is it easier to write a synopsis before you've written your book? Or after? And like all things, writing. There's no rule set in stone on It varies on a story by story basis. Well, at least it does for May. In my experience, sometimes it depends on how long the story has been in my head, Um, on. I don't think anyone way is easier than than the other. So my suggestion is to try both ways and see what you're more comfortable with. But I do have some exceptions that I would like to share with you. If you are thinking ahead and know that you want Teoh go the agent route or you you've got a publisher in mind. Sometimes it's good to write a synopsis and get it perfected and sending out while you're working on the story, because that way you can get some valuable feedback. Maybe there's something that ah publisher is saying. You know, I fought in your story that that might get rejected, so it's something that you can work on while you're still, uh, in the process of writing your novel on agent, Might you know, maybe several agents are pointing out a common problem that you need to dress. So that's something that you might want to consider writing your synopses before you actually finish the book and kind of put the wheels in motion. Ah, about getting a publisher and agent. Another exception is you have, you know, it might be overly long. I know some people that I have a couple of students that have written books that are in the 90,000 plus word range, and I think that probably is a good idea to right the synopses in that case. So you get everything straight on. Also, if you've got lots of suspense or mystery element, I have written a couple of mysteries, and I find it hard to keep track of plotlines and where I'm going. Teoh put clues in with the plot, so if you write suspense or mystery, I suggest writing a synopsis before you actually tackle the book. And also another reason. And this is something that happens to lots of people, and I mentioned this in the introduction. Ah, lots of writers lose steam midway through, and sometimes they abandoned the book altogether, which is a shame that so having a synopsis sometimes can act like a road map. So if you know you're that sort of writer or you experienced that problem when you're writing your first book when I would try writing a synopsis before on DSI How that helps you. But overall, I think that you have to Ah, go on a story by story basis and figure out what works best for you and what's more comfortable. And I always say, Make it easy on yourself and you can't get wrong. Okay, that's it for this lesson. And then in the next lesson, I'm going to be talking about using an outline to help you write a synopsis. So I'll see you then 7. Lesson Six: hello and welcome to Lessen six, which is working from an outline. Now this is entirely optional, but sometimes having an outline to work from actually helps you write the synopsis, and sometimes you could. It makes you right and even stronger. One. And I've had a couple of students tell me that they would never, ever think of writing a synopsis without first outlining everything on the way you do that is to just think about the big Big are elements in your story. For example, your character moves to a big city. They start a new job, they start to get homesick. Then they get Rob. So think about the big picture, and maybe you can write like Chapter one and what happens in that Chapter two and then take it from there. Break it down and then when you've got your outline, start thinking about Synopsys and expand upon everything that's in your outline on. And I think that that for some people, that really eases them into the synopses writing process to It's kind of like a warm up exercise. So it's as I said, it's optional, but give it a try. I'm once again see what works best for you. That's it for this lesson. And I'll see you in lesson seven, which is the synopsis template. So you then? 8. Lesson Seven: Hello. I am welcome back on, and I've called this lesson the synopsis template on day. I think it will really help you. I've included it in the download section of the class project. It's something I've been using for about five years. I always say, If there's something out there that can help you, Ah, make your writing life easier and quicken the pace that you can get work out there so much the better. And that's the reason I came up with this, and I keep it stored on my computer and use it whenever I need to compose a synopsis. So basically, I'm going to go through each of the sections with you 1st 1 is your name, which you probably at says pretty self explanatory. The 2nd 1 is your author pen name. If you use one, I suggest including that on the synopsis. Next is the contact information, and even if you've included your ah phone number or email on the cover letter, I suggest including it on the Synopsys, too, because sometimes they get lost or separated. And if on agent or an editor does want to request a manuscript, it's an easy way for them. Teoh contact you. The next one is the genre and the sub genera and ah, sub genera. I think it's pretty important because, say, like you write romances and yours is a historical, um, at least the publisher or agent knows what kind of romance it it and the reason to do that . It's sometimes they're looking for something very, very specific on. If they're paging through lots of writers and ops is and cover letters, yours might kind of jump out that them like, Oh, this is exactly what I'm looking for. And it can maybe get your work read, as opposed to a writer who hasn't included that. So always, always be a specific as you can the next Issa setting. I always include ah where the story is taking place, because there again they might be looking for something specific next this time period. Always include if it's, ah contemporary present day futuristic historical. There again, they could be looking for something very specific, so it's to your advantage to let them know when your story takes place. The next one is just for our romance writers. If you write romances like I do, I always include the sensuality level, so they know if it's sweet romance or maybe, ah, you know, hotter level, more erotic romance that lets them know, uh, a lot about that. And there again, they could be looking for something specific and finally always include the R word count because it gives him an indication of how long the book is. And sometimes if it's overly long, they might request the 1st 3 chapters, or some people just like to see the whole manuscript in one goal. So be a specific as you can, because I think all this still works to your advantage on Once again, feel free to use this and keep it stored on your own computer on. I think it'll be a great aid for you. Okay, that's it for this lesson, and I'll see you in the next one 9. Lesson Eight: hello and welcome to the final lesson in writing the synopsis class. This one is about the long versus the shorts and ops is on DA. Lots of people ask if they should write both on, and I suggest you do, because some publishers and agents request long ones, whereas others only like a 1 to 2 page are synopses. In fact, along synopsis is in the 3 to 5 page range on the short would be in the 1 to 2 range on. I would always check on the publisher and agents website to see what they are they require before you send something, and that's always a great idea. So you start off on the right foot, and one thing I do recommend, if you are tackling both, is to write the long one before the short one. Because you've got a with the kind of the hard stuff out of the way. And with shorts and ops is, everything is. Basically, you can work from the long Synopsys, and everything's there for you, or you have to do is pull out certain things. But one thing is, you do have to get more brutal with cutting out Ah, elements that you feel are necessary for the story to make sense to the reader. Maybe there's a scene that you've included in the long Synopsys that you don't need to include in the short one, and it will still make perfect sense that, you know, it follows on naturally on everything is in Alina fashion that you're not jumping from one scene to another, and the Revis starts to get confused. So I would try writing the long one first, then going with short one. And another tip is I would let the synopsis whichever one you tackle or both sit for a while on, then maybe go back and take a look and see what you can eliminate, just like every other piece of writing you do. Sometimes if you let it sit, you can go back in and think, Oh, yeah, that that's That's an unnecessary word. I could cut that out and it's still gonna be good, or it's gonna be even stronger. So let your synopses sit for a wall on, and, uh, they take a look at it with almost ah, new vision. And you said of always if you will okay, that's it for the lost lesson. And I'll see you in the concluding Ah, lesson. So you then 10. Conclusion and Thank You: Hello. I am Welcome back. And I thought I'd leave you with some advice before you head off and write your synopsis on I mentioned this in Lesson eight on a great idea is to let your synopsis sit for a while a couple of days, maybe a week, if you can, and approach it. Maybe, like you didn't write it or you're reading it for a fellow writer. Capture, critique, partner on and go through and see what you can leave out might be refined on. Do what you can do to make it strong as possible on DA. This next piece of advice is no matter whether you're writing a Synopsys short story or, Ah, novel this. This business is tough and not everyone succeeds the first time around. But don't give up on and please keep trying. Just keep on sending your workout on. Finally, you'll get there, and I love to hear success stories of people like me who struggled for many, many years and then then kind of found some success, and it kind of snowballed from there. So I really encourage you never, ever to give up and just keep trying because you'll get there eventually on. Finally, I want to thank you so much for taking this class and, um, you know, taking my advice. And I love to see what you you come up with and seen your class projects and please tell me about any success that you have or any questions you have. I'm always here to answer questions and like I always say that there's no such thing as a silly question. So please ask away. I'm here to help you in any way I can on I'll be, ah, uploading some more classes shortly and I hope I'll see you then. And once again, thank you so much for taking this class and I wish you much success by