I have always feared the dreaded pitch and synopsis. The idea of condensing your work down to a short description (your synopsis) or an even more minute few sentences (your pitch) fills me with dread. If you worry that you will risk losing the essence of your work, read on.
I read a post recently on twitter by author, psychologist and fiction reviewer, Lucy Beresford. It challenged me to really pick out the key idea, the very core of a story. Her post was on twitter and she said this:
“Hone that 3-sentence pitch. Know your book, pitch around the ifs, describe plot, sprinkle gold-dust.”
While I’m not sure that I have gold dust anywhere around the house to sprinkle, I do have some cake sprinkles and some silver balls for cupcake decorating! Seriously, though, her words revolutionised the way I saw the dreaded pitch and synopsis.
Agents and publishers talk about the elevator pitch – what you would say about your book in the minutes that you might share during an elevator ride with them – but the idea remained elusive, a concept just out of reach.
Beresford’s words PITCH AROUND THE IFS made perfect sense yet, through all the writing and publishing advice I have read both in print and online, I have never heard the idea that the ifs are the very heart of the pitch – the what ifs, the hows, the whys. Leaving your reader with questions, rather than mere statements of fact, builds suspense and anticipation. It creates a compelling main idea or a set of ideas which, until the book is read, remain unanswered.
So, this morning I set to work on a short synopsis of my current work-in-progress and put the questions down on paper. The difference between my initial synopsis and today’s revision is the difference between an abstract for an academic paper and a news headline for an act of crime. Although both are necessary for different purposes, a news headline should (in theory) leave you wanting to read the whole article, it should be a teaser. Find a sysnopsis of your favourite films and books and try to work out what makes it compelling.
I should add here that the longer synopsis, which an agent would want to read, is less about the ifs and more an outline of your story (plot spoilers included), but this would be a different post entirely.
Do you have any synopsis or pitch writing tips? Have you read any particularly good ones?
If you would like to follow my writing tips or connect with me on twitter, you can find me here @fcmalby