After writing the post last week (link below), I set about (once more) writing that promo synopsis for The Mosaic. However, I still ran into a few snags. I asked someone who had read the novel to try to write a few sentences about it without giving away any secrets. What she gave me was way too short for one, but it brought out something I hadn’t considered previously.
I went back to my seven-step process to see if maybe it was flawed—or incomplete. As I thought about what my friend gave me, I saw that the process was fine. The problem was that I’d left out a couple of keywords in step 1: mystery and adventure. With those in mind—and putting aside my earlier failed efforts—I tried a different approach.
You see, previously I was so hung up on explaining the background of the novel. In all fairness to me, that was how I’d talked about the novel whenever I told people about it. I’d gotten so used to describing the concept and setup of the story that I lost sight of the essence of the story.
When writing a promo synopsis, remember these three points:
(1) No spoilers. Do NOT reveal any of the surprises in the novel.
(2) Do NOT lapse into giving the plot (or the background) in the synopsis. I read one article that mentioned this. How do you know you’re talking about the plot? When you find yourself telling what happened (this happened, then that happened…), then you’re into the plot.
In step 7 in last week’s post, I had you write down a brief “what’s the book about” synopsis. While this can be helpful and may work when telling someone about the novel, it only works as a good promo synopsis IF you can really do it in 2-5 short sentences and no more, as we did with our Jurassic Park bit last time. Many books can be that easily summarized, but not all can—at least not in an interesting way. This brings up to the third thing to remember when writing a synopsis:
(3) MAKE IT INTERESTING!
The job of your promo synopsis—again—is to make the reader want to buy the book, or at least want to know more about it. When the reader is shopping online, you want the reader to read the sample (if its available) and the reviews.
There is rarely just one thing that will sell a book. You have what I will call your “Promotion Suite” to do that: the cover, the synopsis, the reading sample, the reviews. While a buyer may be sold on one or two of these, you must ensure that all of these pieces are good and that they reinforce one another. You don’t have any direct control over the reviews, but if you have done the best job you can of writing the novel and have had it well edited and properly formatted, then the reviews should take care of themselves.
The promo synopsis, therefore, is a key part of your marketing and Promotion Suite, regardless of how much actual marketing you do. You want to be sure that anyone who encounters any part of your Promotion Suite, even in passing, will see something solid that invites one to explore further.
Here is one version of the various promo synopses I’d been crafting. Some were better and some were worse, but all of them were variations on this. Note how it attempts to explain how the story came about, and therein lay the problem. It’s mostly story setup. It may be interesting, but it’s certainly not very compelling.
Long ago, Man and Magic Beings shared the earth in harmony until the Witch Queen tried to seize control of the world. To stop her, the Elf Queen created a magical mosaic. When she activated the Mosaic, all parts of the Magic World were pulled into it, to be sealed away forever and leaving Man behind to develop on his own.
In Ancient Egypt, the inevitable happened. The hidden Mosaic was rediscovered, and whenever an individual tile was broken off, the magic being it contained was returned to the world and became parts of myths and legends. Larger pieces broken off the Mosaic had magical properties, which some used to their advantage. But as far as most of the world was concerned, magic and magical creatures did not exist. So it went until a recent accident released the Witch Queen herself, and she intends to complete her plan to take control of the world.
Chloe and Zoe Tozier, fourteen-year-old identical twins, live with their grandmother in a private museum in a small town in Kansas. They are about to learn that the world is a far more fascinating place than they ever imagined.
Not only is it stiff, but it’s long and yawn-worthy. After writing up the seven-step process and seeing my friend’s suggestion, it all came together for me as soon I abandoned the old concept and approached it from the mystery and adventure perspective, which is how the novel itself plays out.
My wife likes the new synopsis, and I may have convinced her that I can write a decent promo synopsis after all. The key was finding the right approach. It still needs some tweaks, but here it is:
Secret passages. It all started with looking for secret passages. Chloe Tozier’s impulsive twin, Zoe, insisted that all old mansions had them. Grandma denied the existence of any here. Except for the boarded-up service elevator that she forgot to mention before the girls discovered it, the elevator that didn’t seem to go anywhere. They had been living in this private museum, converted from the original mansion, with their grandmother since the death of their parents four years ago. Their parents had gone to Egypt on an archaeological trip that had something to do with an unusual mosaic.
Why put a museum in a tiny town in the middle of Kansas? The things they had on display were nothing important. Then Grandpa mysteriously disappeared two years ago. What about those packages wrapped in brown paper that were delivered and that they never saw again? Maybe Zoe was right about family secrets. Maybe it was time to dig further.
Unlike the previous synopses, this is written more from the perspective of the characters. When writing your synopsis, when possible, make your characters an active part of the synopsis. Let them, not you, tell the reader what it’s about. That’s where I was failing. I was TELLING it from my perspective—telling instead of SHOWING from the characters’ perspective.
I’m not saying that this idea will work for all novels. Every story is different and, unfortunately, no universal pattern exists for synopses. If it did, they wouldn’t be so blasted hard to write. That’s where your writer’s skills and imagination must come into play. After all, if you were able to write a whole novel, you should be able to write a short synopsis about it. It’s just a matter of shifting your thought process.