Monday 30 January 2012

Write A Great Synopsis with Nicola Morgan

It's a bargain!

The 'Crabbit Bat', Nicola Morgan, is on a 'Write a Great Synopsis' blog tour and we welcome her to Notes From the Slushpile along with her Twitter Buddy and SCBWI member Rebecca Brown. Over to you Rebecca!
With apologies for their shameless advertising of twitter friends products! Maureen 
*tiptoes onto stage, peers nervously into darkness and taps on microphone* Is this thing on? Ooh, yes it is…Hello Slushpilers! I’d like to thank the Academy, my parents…hold on, wrong speech. Ah, here we go.
I’m very chuffed to be doing a post on Notes From the Slushpile, and I’m even more chuffed to be interviewing the fabulous Nicola Morgan about her new ebook, Write A Great Synopsis: An Expert GuideI intend to write a couple of synopses myself this year and the thought was enough to make me curl up into a corner. Until I read Nicola’s book. Anyway, enough preamble. It’s not really me you want to hear from, is it? 

 *deep breath, cheerful voice, TV smile* Hi Nicola! Thank you for being my guinea pig on Notes from the Slushpile.

Hello and thank you for inviting me! *cracks open Botham’s of Whitby Tops’ cake*

So, think back to those dim and dusty days when you were on the slushpile yourself. Many of us approach the task of writing a synopsis with horror, fear, and the kind of sickly dread that comes of trying to putting yourself and your work into a concise work of staggering genius (pause to pour drink with shaking hand at the very thought). How did you cope with it before becoming published?

I am afraid I have no memory of horror, fear, or dread! Not because I’ve blocked it out but because I honestly never knew there was a problem. I was on the slush-pile for 21 years and I must have spent most of that in a state of ignorance. (Possibly why I stayed there so long – who knows?) I just did the best I could, and I’ve no idea whether my synopses were crap or not, only that they never bothered me. (Probably best I didn’t know, tbh.) It was only in very recent years, since starting my blog and interacting with writers on Twitter that I realized that almost all writers hate or fear them.

And why have you decided to help out us poor Slushpilers now by publishing Write A Great Synopsis: An Expert Guide? Wouldn’t it be more fun to let us fumble our way through?

No, it’s no fun at all watching people fumble! I was born in a school to teaching parents, lived in a school 24/7 (including holidays) until I went to university, and teaching is in my every cell, I suppose. So, I am quite unable to stop myself trying to teach people who look as though they want to be taught, and quite often those who don’t J. So, I’m publishing Write a Great Synopsis because it’s not there.

If you were in a lift with a Delusional Wannabe who was too awestruck to deliver their elevator pitch, what would be your 30 second piece of advice to them (in synopsis writing, I mean. You’re not allowed to recommend alcohol or shoe-shopping)?

If I were in a lift with a Delusional Wannabe, I would pretend to have a highly infectious disease. They don’t listen, you see, so I’d only stress myself talking. But, if you mean that I am in a lift with an aspiring writer, I’d say, “Forget how much you love your book and step into the shoes of someone who has to sell it. Now, get a piece of paper and brainstorm words/elements/episodes; choose the fifteen most compelling-sounding, of which at least 5 must relate to the main character; create a 25 word pitch which only contains what sounds fabulous and which the agent will remember tomorrow because the book sounds special. No alcohol necessary.

Finally, imagine you have written your latest book and are about to start tackling your own synopsis with a light and carefree heart and an inner calm to rival the Dalai Lama. What three things would you have to hand to keep you going? Charms? Lucky boots? Expensive chocolate?

Bearing in mind that I need none of these things, of course, but am never averse to a spot of indulgence: chocolate from Coco of Bruntsfield (in Edinburgh); sparkling wine of reasonable quality and extreme dryness; and new boots, because I always get new boots when I sign a contract and the synopsis will help secure that. (Though, as I emphasise often, it is most unlikely to be the deal-breaker.)

I know you’re on a blog tour at the moment and there’s a competition to enter with a brilliant prize. What do we have to do to be in with a chance of winning and what will we win?

All commenters below (by Feb 15th) will be entered into the Big WAGS Competition, with chances to win a critique of your synopsis by the Crabbit Old Bat herself! One comment per person on each blog – though you can add to your chances by commenting on the other posts on the tour. Details of all stops on the tour will appear on my blog (Help! I Need a Publisher!) as they go out.

Thank you for asking fun questions. I hope all the writers reading this will soon stop fretting about the synopsis – it’s not nearly as stressful as you think J

*wipes brow* Hey, that wasn’t so bad after all! Thanks, you’ve been a marvellous audience! Rebecca. 

Nicola Morgan, a mega blogger and tweeter of advice on how to get published, is a prolific children's author and runs regular competitions for aspiring authors.
You can follow her here
and here
and here
and here!
and there's probably lots of other places too.

Rebecca Brown is an aspiring author and you can listen to her podcast interviews with debut novelists and industry professionals here


  1. I'm loving getting these basic points repeated almost day by - what a way to learn.

  2. I definitely need help so I've just downloaded it - for £1! Thanks Nicola! Am I right thinking this is a limited offer? I've already got Tweetright, so I can now find my way round Twitter. And I have Write to be Published, which is packed with useful stuff. If you could just do one called, Write Right - NOW, that would be great.
    Thanks for joining us Nicola, and my lovely scoobie NE friend, Rebecca Brown.

  3. hmm..... I'm thinking this might translate to non-fiction too. I write a lot of biography and the synopses always seem to come out as a boring precis of their lives.

  4. I've got to brace myself for a synopsis soon - so I think I might download it too. Now let me search for the link......

    Many thanks for guesting this slushies. Another coup!

  5. The links under the pic of the book Jeannette.

  6. Maureen - yes, the £1 offer is till end of Jan only!

    Kathleen - yes, applies to non-fiction, too.

    Good luck in the competition, everyone! And thanks to Slushpile for hosting me and Rebecca for asking sparkly questions.

  7. Yes, well done Rebecca. You've let her crabbitness's advice shine through nicely here!

  8. The 30-second piece of advice is great. The snag is that you have to write the thing properly in the first place!

  9. I think the word 'synopsis' sounds like a horrible disease. It's something we suffer from and isn't easy to cure. To writers that is. To agents it's just a synopsis and they often wonder why we find them so hard.

  10. Thanks for this, what a bargain... Great advice on the elevator pitch too!

  11. Thanks for all the comments! I really recommend the book, and if you're not following Nicola's blog already (link above) you really should be! Excellent advice on getting published.

  12. Well, this is merely a cat you already know purrowling in to say I really enjoyed reading this! It was great funl And WAGS is excellent - although I would rather write the book!

  13. Thankyou, Nicola and Rebecca! Synopsis, synopsis, synopsis - there I've said it and it's not so bad...

  14. I LOVE your brain storm idea, and am going to try it out very very soon.

  15. Dangit!
    30+ queries to agents already sent: some of them requiring a "Synopsis". This is the least-polished element in my query package... :(

  16. Hello, Slushpilers! I just wanted to come and say a huge thank you to Rebecca for interviewing me and you for putting up with me and even commenting. It was a pleasure to be here and I hope you found it helpful.

    In your writing lives, I wish you all the luck you deserve and all the fulfilment you wish for. I'll let Rebecca know if any of you are among the competition winners but there are a LOT of names to collect and then put through the random generator!

    Good luck to everyone and thank you again. x


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