You have to strip away all those “unnecessary” details and wrap it all up in a concise little package known as a synopsis.
In a nut shell – the synopsis is simply a general summary of your book from start to finish (and yes – they want to know what happens in the end, so no cliff hangers here). Generally, a synopsis should be about two-three pages unless otherwise specified (some want a little more detail, but most are just looking for the basics).
Writing a synopsis can definitely be a challenge. For author’s who are so close to the work they created, especially for plots that are more complex, it can be hard to summarize your story in just a few pages without feeling like you are losing elements that make your book GOOD!
Fear not… the point of the synopsis is not to dazzle the person reading it, but rather to give them a step-by-step breakdown of the essentials of the story. What an editor or agent is looking for in the synopsis is a general idea of the main characters, plot lines and conclusion of the story. They just want to know the core aspects to get a better feel for what happens in the book. Believe it or not, it’s actually okay if your synopsis reads a little boring. Not to say that you shouldn’t make the synopsis engaging, but this is not the place to flaunt your unique author’s voice or creative writing style.
The best way to get started is to consider your main characters – who is the book about? Be careful not to give too much credit to supporting characters – while they are important to the dynamics of the actual story, they don’t necessarily need to be expanded upon in the synopsis.
Next, think of the main plot of the story. What happens to these main characters along the way that builds the overall plot? Again – be careful not to go into too much detail about events that don’t have a major impact on the progression of the plot.
Now that you have picked out the main characters and events of the story, you should be able to being summarizing how Character A stumbles into Event 1, where he encounters Character B and, together, they go through Event 2. Okay, I know this is a little vague, but if you narrow your focus to the people and events of your book like this, piecing together the important elements will help you build your synopsis without too much trouble while keeping you on track.
Again, I recommend having a friend or colleague read over your finished synopsis to make sure you give a good representation of your book without going into too much (or too little) detail. Don’t be afraid to write more than one. Put them aside for a day or two and read them when your mind is fresh. It may help you determine which synopsis works best, or if you still need to work on it a little.
If you would like to see an example of a synopsis, I welcome you to read the synopsis for my book, The Nameless World, at http://www.thenamelessworld.com/synopsis.html
(ok – I admit, I do not give away the ending here, but that is for the sake of the readers. Would hate to post a spoiler for my own book! Rest assured, the formal synopsis tells all).