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Synopsis Writing - advice sought
I have had several tortuous attempts at creating a synopsis, but how does one "correctly" condense the contents of a 400-page novel onto a single page?
What does the synopsis have to include? What can you leave out? I have found synopsis writing difficult because I feel am giving away the entire story, which is something that just feels wrong. I want people to read the whole novel, not the cheat sheet.
I think I understand the point. Hard-pressed literary agents and publishers do not generally have the time or inclination to read an entire manuscript, but they want to know that you have a story that contains believable, interesting characters and events, and that there is a decent chance that it “works” from beginning to end.
So...should a synopsis mention every key character and every key event that occurs? Do you have to reveal the plot twists? For example, if the novel is a murder mystery, does the synopsis have to outline the character flaws that drive the main participants, the clues, the insights, the leaps of imagination, the dead ends, the red herrings? Does it, at the end, have to reveal who the murderer is, and their motive?
Do you have to write something that would result in the novel having no significant surprises for anyone who had already read the synopsis? They would already know that for 60% of the novel the suspicion is on the milkman, then for 30% it is on the gardener, but in the last 10% you find out it is the butler.
I know that I have asked a "Yes" or "No" question, but if anyone can spare the time to write something a little bit longer to help me understand this better, I would appreciate it. Thanks.