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Leave Them Wanting More: How to Write a Good Synopsis for Your Manuscript

You’ve done it: you’ve written your novel, edited it, and are now ready to submit it to Swoon Reads. There’s just one more thing to do: write up the synopsis of the story that will intrigue readers to want to check out your book. Ask any writer, trying to come up with a synopsis of the story that arouses the interest of a potential reader while not giving away too many details isn’t an easy task, but it’s also an important one. For some of us, reading the jacket of a book helps to decide if we want to read it or not, and same goes for picking which manuscript to read on the Swoon Reads site. So, how can you not give away too much information, while at the same time giving the reader just enough to pique their interest? That’s what we’re going to discuss.

First, start by thinking about your own reading experience. Go through your bookcase and pick up one of your favorites. What made you want to read this book in the first place? Whether it was the cover art that caught your attention or someone recommended it, the first thing you did when holding the book was read the synopsis on the jacket. Now, what is it about that synopsis that intrigued you? Make a list of these things and then see if your synopsis does the same.

The first thing you might notice that many editors try to do when writing a summary of the story is give readers an idea of the main plot, while not giving away too many details that build up that plot, or the resolution of what’s going to happen at the end. It’s perfectly fine to let your readers know what the genre of your story is (contemporary, fantasy, thriller, etc.) or what the main conflict will be. However, as I like to say, leave them wanting more. Don’t feel like you have to give away your entire story in a paragraph or two.

It’s also important to introduce your main characters in the synopsis. You want to make them seem interesting and appealing to your audience, without giving away their entire background story. If you’re not enthusiastic about your characters, then why should we (the readers) be? It’s perfectly fine to address your main character’s arc or flaw, but don’t feel you have to go into too many details about why or how your characters will develop and grow (that’s what the actual story is for). You can address the love interest (after all, this is a romance novel), but don’t start going into details about their romance, or what’s going to happen to them in the story; are your star-crossed lovers meant to be? We’ll have to dive into the story to find out!

And then there are some of the mechanics that all published authors and editors abide by: always write your summary in the third person (even if the book itself is in first person) and use present tense (again, even if you don’t use this in the story). Just like using MLA or APA format in college, these rules necessarily don’t make sense, but as someone who is aspiring to become a published author, this is the way to do it!

So, still feeling a little overwhelmed and not sure if your summary is at its absolute best? Here’s a quick checklist of Do’s and Don’ts to check off as you read over your synopsis before submitting the manuscript:

Do:

• Introduce your main characters

• Establish the genre of your story

• Write in present tense, third person

Don’t:

• Forget to tell us what the story is about

• Give away all the details of the main love story

• Give too many background details about your characters

The point of the synopsis to get readers interested enough to pick up your manuscript, without giving away everything before they turn to the first page. By following these simple guidelines, you’ll be well prepared to write the perfect synopsis to accompany your manuscript on the Swoon Reads site.

Don’t forget, the deadline to submit your manuscript for Season 5 is Sunday May 31 at 11:59 p.m. EST!

Author spotlight

Erin Carroll

Born and raised on the Jersey Shore, I always had a fascination with NYC and books, and now I get …

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