Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD
Memoirs can be a fascinating read, and they offer an insider’s look at a person’s life and can sometimes provide valuable insights into the human condition. In this article, we will list the expert tips and steps on how to write a synopsis for a memoir and provide you with example synopses for five different types of memoirs. From personal narratives to family histories, these synopses will give you an idea of what to include and how to structure your memoir to be engaging and informative for your readers.
What is a Synopsis?
A synopsis is the beginning of your memoir. It explains to readers why you have written the book, introduces them to a central character or characters in your story and their motivations, and gives readers an idea of what will happen (similarly to a TV Guide). A well-written synopsis should include all this information and clearly identify who’s views are being expressed. The difference between good synopses and bad ones boils down to balance and focus. Good synopses are brief but informative; they do not go into unnecessary details (i.e., useless information other than padding the book) or skip over important points that every reader will want to know about (such as why you have made them your subject).
How do You Write a Good Memoir Synopsis?
The ideal length of writing a synopsis for a memoir is approximately 500 words. A good synopsis should include the following three main elements:
- A whole narrative arc
- Your voice and unique story elements
- The ending or resolution (unlike in a blurb)
A Step-by-Step Guide to Write a Good Memoir Synopsis [Including Examples]
Writing a synopsis is often described as impossible by authors. However, you’ll have to do it if you want a literary agent or a commercial publisher to represent you or consider your manuscript. A 500-word summary is often more difficult than an 80,000-word manuscript for many writers. Here are some things to consider.
1 – Must Include the Essence Sentence
The essence of your story should be identified in one sentence somewhere in your synopsis. This is not what your writing is about; this is what it does. In most back cover blurbs, you’ll find an ‘essence sentence.
Your essence statement is extremely valuable, not only for your synopsis but also for your understanding of your work. It may take some time to develop and consider your work’s issues. For example, you can start with ‘This is a story about…’ or ‘This is a story of…’ if you’re stuck.
David Roland pitched his memoir, How I Rescued My Brain, with an excellent synopsis: ‘This is a story of survival, recovery, and revelation.’
2 – Introduce Your Story Line/Key Characters
Remove unimportant plot lines or characters from the major events and turning points in your mind. It’s a good idea to plunge right in and start. David Roland’s 427-word synopsis started as: ‘With his brain gone haywire from trauma, grief, financial ruin, and a stroke, a clinical and forensic psychologist embark on a personal quest to understand and heal his brain.’
Synopses are the first pages of manuscripts that a reader looks at. They need to hook the reader’s interest in the book, introduce the main characters, including the protagonist, and make them want to read it. Putting too much detail into the synopses makes it difficult for the reader to remember what happened from the beginning until the end, which is why you should be brief yet still interesting.
3 – Mention Your Genre and Style of The Story
If you’re a reader and knowledgeable of the publishing industry, an agent or editor wants to know. They want to know where you see your profession fitting into the market. Make sure to specify what kind of writing you do and how long it is.
You might also want to match your topic to other books available and align your writing style to published writers (successful ones, of course).
4 – Keep it Direct and Simple
Your summary is a workable document that an agent or editor can use to determine whether to examine additional work or not. It is not a sample of your writing style. Where feasible, cut out adverbs and adjectives, and direct and simple is the best way to go.
And, in any case, don’t say how great the book is. The agent or editor isn’t interested in your opinion on the book; they’re interested in their own. Remember, a book synopsis isn’t a review.
5 – Finish With a Paragraph Summarizing the Theme, Style, Questions, or Challenges the Story Raises
The synopsis should contain the result or conclusion of the book’s quest. Because the synopsis isn’t the back cover blurb, you can add a hint or end at the question the ending resolves.
If you don’t get it yet, just put a result of the story’s quest or a vague allusion to the resolution. You can tweak all of this later.
You must also have a high-level sentence that shows exactly how the narrator changes as a character from start to end of the memoir.
- Keep it brief – A synopsis for a memoir should be no more than two pages.
- First, decide what your memoir is about – Is it a coming-of-age story? Is it about overcoming adversity? Once you know what your memoir is about, you can craft your synopsis.
- The best way to write a synopsis is to start with the ending. This will give you a clear focus for the rest of your synopsis.
- Strong verbs will help to engage readers and make your synopsis more interesting to read.
- Writing in the present tense will help to make your synopsis more immediate and engaging.
- To engage readers, include key scenes from your memoir in your synopsis.
- A synopsis is not the place to get creative with your writing. Stick to simple sentence structures and clear, concise language.
- While you want to include key scenes in your synopsis, you don’t want to give away too much. Avoid spoilers by keeping the ending brief and vague.
- Once you’ve written your synopsis, be sure to edit and revise it until it’s as strong as possible.
- Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your synopsis and give you their honest feedback. This will help you make any necessary changes before submitting it to literary agents or publishers.
A synopsis is one of the essential elements of a memoir, and it helps potential readers understand the main points and plot of the book in a nutshell. We’ve outlined some tips and advice in this blog post with examples on synopsis writing for a memoir. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating an engaging and informative document for potential readers. Don’t hesitate to drop a comment if you have any queries or feedback!
Should I keep my memoir private or public?
Answer: It depends on various factors, consisting of the memoir’s content and the author’s goals. If the goal is to generate publicity for the memoir, it should be made public. If the author wants to keep the memoir private for personal reasons, it should be private. Ultimately, the decision comes down to the author’s preferences and what is best for them.
How can I edit my manuscript before submitting it to an agent or publisher?
Answer: Editing your manuscript before submitting it to an agent or publisher is an important step to make a big difference. You can ensure that the content is accurate, well-written, and error-free by editing your manuscript. This will help to improve the chances of your manuscript being accepted for publication.
There are various editing services available online, and it is important to find one that is right for you. Some services offer basic editing, while others offer more comprehensive editing options. Some services also offer online manuscript tracking, which allows you to keep track of the progress of your manuscript online.
Once you have selected an editing service, it is important to follow their instructions to the letter. Make sure to submit your manuscript in a format accepted by their system. Be sure to provide all the necessary information, including the name of the agent or publisher you are submitting your manuscript.
Should I Use a Template for Writing Memoir Synopsis?
Answer: A template can be used as an outline to write a nonfiction book. A template comprises the following parts: promise reader benefits, hero’s journey, secondary characters, and their development and conflict with the main protagonist are some more crucial components of a successful memoir or novel synopsis.
What is the Difference Between the Query and the Synopsis?
Answer: Consider it this way: your query letter is like a brief hello at a party, with the most powerful hook in your tale to attract and compel someone to read on. But, once they’ve sat down across from you at the dinner table and want the whole beginning-to-finish overview of the tale, including a hint at the ending, you’ll get a synopsis.
How to Write a Query Letter for the Memoir?
Answer: In most cases, a query for a memoir is best written entirely in the first person. And unless you regularly consider yourself in the third person, your memoir query will contain the authentic voice.
A good query letter for a memoir narrates a story naturally— very similar to how you would tell a true story to an intimate friend. And so, while query letters for novels often feature book blurbs in the present tense, we recommend that the synopsis portion of a memoir query should be in the past tense. Your query mimics real life.
How to Email Synopsis?
Answer: When emailing your synopsis, it’s always best to include a cover letter. In this email, the author explains that she is, in fact, a reader rather than an agent/editor. She uses her platform as editor/writer to tell her prompters why she might be interested in working with them and what kind of manuscripts they should send.
You should email your email to the author. You can write a synopsis of the memoir in less than 500 words. Submit the synopsis together with an email address, or telephone us when you’re ready. We will reply as soon as possible and send you guidelines on how best to get started writing your memoirs book proposal; who knows what exciting adventures lie ahead?
How long should a synopsis be for a memoir?
Answer: A good rule of thumb is to keep your synopsis under 450 words, and this will help you focus on the key points and not get bogged down in details that may not be relevant to potential readers. It is also important to remember that a memoir should be personal and engaging, so brevity is key! Assembling all important facts in an interesting and reader-friendly manner will go a long way in selling your book.
Another suggestion would be to read sample synopses before getting started on your manuscript, and this can give you some helpful pointers on how best to present yourself and your story. When it comes time to write your synopsis, make sure it flows effortlessly from one paragraph to the next. Also, keep in mind that a well-written synopsis will entice publishers or agents interested in acquiring manuscripts for publication.
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