The Top 5 Questions to Answer When Writing a Compelling Book Summary

Have you've finished writing that enchanting book and now you're left wondering, what's next? It's not time for a marketing plan, website buildout or even an agent. It's time to write a compelling book summary that sells that masterpiece. But how do you summarize that 80,000-word work of art (or in my case Brom)? After years of writing, I've broken down this complexing task with 5 easy questions. Once you have these answered, you'll have one compelling book summary.

Who is my main character?

Answering this question is more than a name. Include the most important information that describes the character. Paint a picture to show who the character is instead of telling. Don't: "Michael Gray used to commit crimes. He made many mistakes. He would have probably ended up in jail if Stormreign did not enter his life." Do: "Michael Gray was far from the model citizen. Mistake after mistake, he figured he was destined for jail or an early grave."

What issue is the main character dealing with?

You don't want to give away too many details, but you need to give enough to peak the reader (or agent's) interest. Write one sentence that gives a glimpse into what the main character is facing without telling them what will happen. Don't: "Gray earns his redemption by fighting the Shades with a magic sword name Stormreign." Do: "Now Gray is fighting for his life, his eternal one."

What is the story setting and how important is it? (I know, a combination question)

Some story settings are simply a backdrop, while others are another character. If your setting is more the latter, then include a gripping sentence showing the setting within your summary. However, if your story is about someone that travels all over space or the planet, simply using a broader term like the universe is sufficient. Don't: "Mike lives in a large city in the north." Do: "Being homeless on the dark city streets, Gray travels unseen. That is until winter hits and he can no longer take the cold."

What is the turning point of the story?

Every story has a turning point and your readers want a little taste of it. Again, don't give away everything, just enough to leave them wanting more. Don't: "When Gray meets Pastor Carl at church, he begins to question God's plan for him and his idea of redemption, which leads him to true redemption." Do: "Could a chance meeting be the difference between Gray returning to his old ways or becoming the hero he's destined to be?"

What is the high-level theme of the story?

Ending your summary with a statement of the high-level theme is an effective way to recap your summary and remind your reader (or agent) why they want to read the book. Don't: "The Edge of Gray: Stormreign is about a man named Mike Gray who uses a magical sword to serve God and make up for his mistakes." Do: "Join Gray on his journey of discovery, sacrifice, and redemption."

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