What do writers dread the most?
Some might say getting a rejection letter, while others would probably say getting a bad review. One thing they may all agree on is that they dread the process of writing a synopsis. However, it is something that you absolutely need to get your children's book out.
Writing a children's book synopsis may be difficult, but it is not impossible. This guide will show you the basics in writing a synopsis that will get you noticed by a literary agent (if that is your aim). It includes all the elements that you need to factor in.
But first, I am going to answer your question, 'how long should a children's book synopsis be?'
Some say one A4 sized document should suffice. Others peg the maximum word number at 500 words while more say you can go as high as 800 words. It would all really depend on how long the story is and how complex the plot is.
If you are one of the many people that use synopsis and blurb interchangeably then you might want to read on!
What is a synopsis?
The synopses for a work of fiction, which most children's books are, summarize the main elements of your story per chapter. Its objective is to present the entire story. It is what literary agents check to see if your work has the potential to see the light of day.
According to the Anatomy of a Children's Book Synopsis, the synopsis focuses on the major character and the story's driving plot. It might touch on other characters and what happens to them as long as it is closely related to the central storyline.
What a synopsis is not
A lot of people mistake the synopsis for the back cover or a blurb. The Wordsmith says that while the two share elements, a difference is that the synopsis reveals everything, including the ending. A blurb is a teaser designed to make the reader buy your book.
In other words, the blurb, just like the book's cover, is the children's story's glittery dress. It entices the buyer with its beauty and mystery. The synopsis, on the other hand, is the skeleton of your book.
Both are there in order to sell it, but the synopsis is not there to tantalize the audience but to reveal the story's entirety. It does not leave the reader with questions; rather, it answers the questions and clarifies any confusion. There are no cliffhangers in a synopsis.
Why is the synopsis important?
The primary function of a synopsis is to get your children's book noticed by an agent. To reveal to them that your work is something that they have never seen before and that it is worth exploring. In short, it is the introduction that will prompt the agents to let you talk about your work even more. Likewise, if you are going down the self-publishing route then the synopsis will not be very important to you and you might want to direct your efforts towards writing a powerful blurb instead.
Publishers and book agents receive thousands of manuscripts. Wading through all these will take so much time. In order to make the selection process faster, a lot of them require writers to submit a synopsis before they even ask to see a copy of your manuscript.
In Kirstan Lamb's blog, she likens the synopsis to the skeleton. A doctor can see if there is something fundamentally wrong with you by looking at your bones. In the same way, agents can also tell if something is fundamentally wrong, or right, in your book just by reading the synopsis.
Another importance of writing a good synopsis for your book is it is what your potential book editor will read to assess if the book is of a topic or genre that fits his or her style. Even book cover artists use the synopsis to imagine what type of art and text to use for its cover.
Now that I have established why it is absolutely necessary for you to write a synopsis for your children's book, we turn our attention towards learning how you can write it. Read on to see what you need to include, what you should leave out, what format to follow, and more detail on how long should it be.
What a children's book synopsis should contain
While different publishing houses may have different requirements in the synopses they accept, most agree that the synopsis should concentrate on the main character and his or her journey. Write down the general plot points, including the climax and the end.
If mentioning the minor characters is absolutely necessary to explain the plot, then do so. If not, skip them. For example, do not mention the friendly neighbor who drops by from time to time, unless the character undergoes a major upheaval from something that the neighbor does.
While some authors say that you need to write everything, including subplots and twists in your story, others claim that you should skip it. I believe that the rule of thumb here is, if the subplot affects the general storyline, then include it.
More on length: If writing based on the single A4 page advice, stick to single spacing unless you feel that using double space would help in making it easier to read. If possible, avoid using elaborate fonts. Even if your story involves magic and dragons, you do not need to put stars or smoke effects on your synopsis.
Should you send the same synopsis to all the agents and publishing houses?
For convenience, you can do that. However, to increase your chances of getting a book deal, it can help greatly if you contact them individually and ask about their submission requirements. What could be worse than working tirelessly to write your synopsis (and book of course) only to have it rejected before the agent or publishing house even goes through it, simply because it wasn't presented according to their standard?
More reminders in writing your synopsis
Experienced writers suggest that you use a generally neutral, omniscient voice in writing your synopsis.
- Avoid gimmicks like writing from a character's point of view.
- Avoid salesy language, because it is your story that should sell the product at this point.
Speaking of characters, Jerry Jenkins suggests in his blog that you use boldface text or CAPITALIZE the names of the characters when you mention them in your synopsis the first time. It will help the reader keep track of who is appearing now.
To create a better picture, add a character sketch if possible. This normally states the character's age, appearance, and connection with the main character. For example, You can write, "ALICIA GARDNER (40 – newly divorced stay at home mom who is now looking for a job) comes into the diner..."
Stick to the general structure of your novel. This means you have to present the events as they appear in your children's story. If possible, stick to using the present tense. Avoid doing flashbacks if it doesn't appear in your story.
Writing a synopsis can be daunting, but it need not prevent you from submitting your work and getting your children's book published. Look at it as a crucial tool in ensuring that your work is structurally good and print-worthy. So, sit back down in front of your computer (or typewriter) and start working on the best synopsis for your work.