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Synopsis and pitch

In the lead-up to her Novel in a Year workshop on Synopsis and Pitch, Clare Strahan shares a couple of exercises to get you thinking about the submission end of the writing process. 

Synopses and pitches get a bad rap – nearly every writer I mention them to shudders at the thought, and editors and publishers are quick to say we must keep them short. In preparation for our excavation of the mysteries that are blurb/synopsis/pitch, I suggest two exercises.

  1. Whether your project takes a traditional structure or not, under the form is the essence of the story. In brief dot points:
    1. Identify the “inciting incident” – the introduction of conflict that sparks the action.
    2. Name the series of events that increase the tension/conflict/struggle. Events might be funny, dramatic, action-driven or tragic (or some combination of these). The events might be character-driven (inner conflicts) or event-driven (outer-conflicts) or a combination. This is not a list of every event of the story – pinpoint the events that drive the story forward, that change things for the character/s.
    3. Identify the climax of your story – that turning point when the protagonist is changed/transformed/deeply affected in some way and this change prepares him/her/them to resolve the conflict in the story. The climax isn’t necessarily the most exciting moment in the story, though it may be – it’s the moment when events reach a “tipping point” – from the moment of climax, things improve, or deteriorate (tragedy).
  2. Make your way to your nearest bookshop that has a good range of Australian titles (Readings, Dymocks, Collins, or the Sun Bookshop and Brunswick Bookstore, for example).
    1. Jot down where you think your book would sit in the bookshop.
    2. Identify two “comparison titles” – books that a commissioning editor could compare your book to when discussing it with the marketing team. Comparison books are books you admire that are similar to yours – the plots can be widely different but there is something reminiscent.

Good luck! I’m looking forward to meeting you.


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