Bah! Tuesday Book – ‘Write A Great Synopsis’ by Nicola Morgan

Bah! regulars will remember crabbit old bat Nicola Morgan from her help with the first Bah! book, and her book ‘Write To Be Published’. (The title of which I have only just ‘got’, right then, as I was typing it. Dear oh dear. I’m not the sharpest scalpel on the trolley sometimes.) Well, she’s been at it again: her e-book ‘Write A Great Synopsis’ is out now. And she’s popped over to talk about it. (Oh, and don’t go thinking that Ms Morgan only writes about writing. We haven’t even mentioned her fiction, or her books about brains.)

Hello Nicola, and welcome to Bah!. You’ve written an awful lot of books. Which of your books is your favourite?

Hello, Stephanie and thank you for letting me invade visit your lovely blog. And I see you’ve started with the “Which is your favourite child?” question :-) . My usual answer to that question is, “The one I want to talk to you about at that moment.” So, you might expect me to say, Write a Great Synopsis (WAGS), but I’m going to play another card and say Mondays are Red. It was my first novel and it has a special place in my heart.

The new book is ‘Write a Great Synopsis’. Why do we need to be able to write a great synopsis?

Aspiring writers have to include one in their submission to agent or publisher; published writers often have to write one for the benefit of the sales and marketing people who rule the roost at the acquisitions meeting. On its own it will not get you a deal (or lose you one, unless it’s complete eel vomit, which is very unlikely if you can write a book because if you can write a decent book you can write a decent synopsis.) But it’s one of those exercises we need to get under our belts.

I think I’d rather write a whole book, delete it, then write it again from memory before I sit down and write a synopsis. Why do so many writers dislike synopses so much?

Because no one (until now…) has ever come along to show you how simple they are! And because writers think synopses are more important than they are. They are importantish, yes, because if you are a writer all your writing is important. Also, I think writers hate synopses because we never feel as though they do our beautiful book justice. Of course they don’t. If your synopsis was more gripping and wonderful than your book, your book wouldn’t be worth publishing. (Think about that.)

What are the common mistakes that people make in synopsis writing?

Not knowing what to leave out; not seeing the clearing for the forest. Being too close to the book and not being able to see it through a fresh reader’s eyes. Thinking that detail in a synopsis makes the story sound plausible: it does the opposite.

And what’s the single most important thing to get right?

Know the core of your book and the main character and build the synopsis around it. I advocate a trick called the Crappy Memory Tool, which involves forgetting (easy for me) as much as possible about your book. What you’re left with is the important stuff. As all our mothers used to say, “Well, if you’ve forgotten it, it can’t be that important.” And if it’s not that important, leave it out.

I believe your next guide for writers is already in the pipeline – can you tell us about it?

Erm, “pipeline” is possibly an exaggeration. It’s a twinkle in my eye. It’s called (probably) Dear Agent (subtitle to be added) and will be about how to write (and how not to write) the tricky covering letter to agents and publishers. Now that is difficult. A synopsis is far, far easier.

And where can readers (and writers) buy your books?

Ooh, I like that question! In lots of lovely places. Probably the best thing I can do is suggest that you either go to any bookshop and if they don’t have it ask politely if they will order it, or follow this link.

Thank you so very much for hosting this stop on my WAGS blog tour. Any of your readers who are also writers might be interested in the Big WAGS Competition – all commenters below this post will be entered and prizes include synopsis critiques. (If you’d like to comment but don’t want to enter the competition, just say!) Details on my blog, where you’ll see details of the other blog tour stops – and the more participating posts you comment on, the greater your chances of winning.

Meanwhile, all you writers out there: Don’t panic – it’s only a synopsis!

For details about the book, including buying options, go here.

17 Responses

  1. What a lovely interview!

    I read the very wonderful Write A Great Synopsis and my dread of synopses-writing was banished forever. I’d even go as far as to say it made me ENJOY writing one. What madness is this?

    Definitely a must-have book for anyone who wants to give their novel the best possible chance of success.

  2. I haven’t read the very wonderful ‘Write A Great Synopsis’… yet! But I would like to, so hoping I win, as that’s the book I would choose!
    thank you (nothing like blatant, shameless begging, is there?!)

  3. Thanks for having me here, Stephanie! And Jo and Helen, thanks for coming along and commenting.

    Helen – WAGS is only an ebook so wasn’t in the “signed book” part of the prize. The prize is a critique of your own synopsis, and since the book is only going to be 99p as an intro offer it wouldn’t be a very generous prize!

  4. Hi Stephanie and Nicola,

    it’s fantastic that Nicola is writing all these books to help us writers. What’s even more fantastic is that her timing is SPOT on for me.


  5. Dan Holloway says:

    “Thinking that detail in a synopsis makes the story sound plausible: it does the opposite.”
    That’s something Ialways struggled with. The synopsis is built up as the way a writer has of showing they can carry a story through so, especially when there are elements of the absurd or you’re writing a tight-plotted thriller, the worry is always that you’ll let yourself down because it will seem like a vital action doesn’t spring from character or that you don’t understand clue placement. So a book that shows yhow to override that hang-up we have is hugely welcome

  6. Abaloo says:

    “Dear Agent…”

    A great, short title in the pipeline there Nicola :)

    Excellent post!

  7. (NB @abaloo is my cover designer so he likes short titles because they can look sparkly and clear on the cover.) Abaloo – actually, since writing that answer for Stephanie, I’ve come up with a different book with a different title: “How to promote your book without bugging the pants off people.” hehehehehehehe

  8. sarah says:

    Nicola at every writing event I go to I hear your name and get your books recommended. I think I NEED the entire collection! It’s great to know there are so many people out there willing to share their expertise and help aspiring writers get published.


  9. Cat says:

    “Importantish”? :-)

  10. kath says:

    Lovely interview! I’ve read Write A Great Synopsis; sadly after I’d written a bad one. Feedback from a literary appraisal agency said ‘oh dear, you’ve made a mess of this’. Ah well plenty of time to rethink it along with the rest of the novel.

  11. Mari says:

    Lovely post and excellent advice from Nicola as always. A good synopsis is the most important tool in a writer’s box of tricks. I wish Write a Great Synopsis had been available to me when I struggled to write my first. It will be read before I write my fifth. Oh yes. xx

  12. Barbara Keenan says:

    I’m in the process of trying to write a synopsis and I’m sure WAGS will be a massive help. Also, I’d love to win a critique!

  13. Laura Mary says:

    I started my synopsis back when you first began talking about this on your blog Nicola – started but not finished!!! I lost my way three quarters of the way through!
    Will arm myself with knowledge then go back and re-tackle the beast!

  14. Kirsty says:

    Wow, I hope you still don’t feel like you’d prefer to delete and rewrite a book from memory over writing a synopsis now we have Nicola’s great advice. I was saying elsewhere that I have the Crappy Memory tool hardwired so the rewriting from memory just wouldn’t happen.
    Nicola’s books about brains I hope aren’t zombie related ;o)
    Thanks for the interview.

  15. Having read Write To Be Published and taken a peek at Write A Great Synopsis on my Kindle for PC, I have no doubt that WAGS will be all I need when I come to that stage. Yes, Dear Agent, would be another perfectly-timed guide for me! Thanks for the way you generously share your knowledge. Money well spent. What else would you buy – not even 10 fags, a pack of Basmati rice, a Tesco ten-pack of biros, a pack of post-its? Ah, but would they get a great synopsis written? I think not!

  16. Stephanie, I thought I’d come and say a big public thank you to you for hosting me, now that the tour is over and all the tent pegs are packed away. Thank you! And thank you to your lovely readers and commenters, many of whom took the trouble to comment on lots of other blogs, too.

    I’m gathering names to enter for the competition and I’ll let you know asap if one of your readers has won. (Though it may take a while – there were a LOT of names!)

    Meanwhile, write well and be well. And thank you again. nx

  17. Stephanie says:

    It’s my pleasure, Nicola! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Bah! readers. x

    Leave a Reply