September 12, 2010

WRITING ADVICE: Nathan Bransford 7 – How To Write A Synopsis

Nathan Bransford is a West Coast agent with the New York literary agency, Curtis Brown, Ltd. For the past nine years, he has been writing a popular blog reflecting on and illuminating the publishing world. Humorous, serious and ultimately enlightening, I’ll be looking at how THE ESSENTIALS (PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU QUERY) have had an impact on my writing. I am using them with his permission and if you’d like to read his blog (which I highly recommend) go to

This is particularly important right now as I am planning on submitting my 110,000 word, 603-page novel, INVADER’S GUILT to Penguin, Inc. They are the publishing conglomerate that owns DAW and ACE, both major publishers of science fiction. I want to go through an agent, but both DAW and ACE accept unsolicited manuscripts, though only if they are complete and disposable.

However, I’m planning to continue to solicit agents as well. The next one on my “hit list” is Mendel Media Group, LLC ( and Scott Mendel requires the first twenty pages and a synopsis of the book.

I’ve written synopses (Latin plural of “synopsis”) before, though I’ve never sold a book that went with one before. So while I reflect on this particular ESSENTIAL, I’m going to be quite literally, taking Nathan Bransford’s advice.

He says that a good place to go is the cover copy of a book – subtracting anything about the author and adding the ending. As an example and the one I’ll probably mirror, go here: In case you can’t read it, here’s what it says: “The Terran exploration vessel STREAKER has crashed on the uncharted water-world of Kithrup, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history. Above in space, armadas of aliens clash in a titanic struggle to claim her. Below, a handful of her human and dolphin crew battles armed rebellion and a hostile planet to safeguard her secret – the fate of the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars.”

The rest of the copy on the page is in praise of David Brin’s second book, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Award for 1983. So, here’s my first stab at a synopsis for INVADER’S GUILT: BOOK ONE OF THE GOD-PART FABRICATION.

Let me know what you think of this:

“The alien WheetAh are half plant, half animal and all ready to defend their homeworld from invading Humans. A Human armada has chased the aliens across the stars to this final battleground. Aboard one ship, a man stands ready to spread a genocidal plague; one woman flees the condemnation of a world for a designer drug gone wrong; another labors to atone for a horrible accident that decimated a peaceful race as well as her family. In the planetary capitol, the Landgrave of Landgraves will blow up his world if Humans breech the defenses. And while WheetAh revolt against WheetAh and Humans fight Humans in space, transcendent beings manipulate both as their own factions vie for control of the god-part created by melding WheetAh and Human cultures.”


1 comment:

slxpluvs said...

You asked; that's permission.

I think it loses it's rhythm at the list separated by semi-colons. Maybe if it weren't focused on them being on that ship, you could break the info out of the list and keep the rhythm. Also, it isn't clear in the 4th sentence who's "his world" belongs to. If we're being anal retentive, the transcendent beings could be manipulating "both" WheetAh and Humans, or "both" humans and space - it's clear by context, but not grammatically. And it's incorrect to start sentences with the word "and."

Plus, your alien's name spelled backwards is pronounced "Hate You."