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nonfiction synopsis: present or past tense?

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I know the general rule for a synopsis is present tense, but it seems really weird when it's nonfiction (history). Is it OK to do a synopsis in past tense in this case, or is present tense the rule no matter what?

Thanks in advance!
Kip
#1 - March 04, 2009, 04:54 PM

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Hi Kip,
My opinion -- and I haven't sold hundreds of books or anything -- is that the synopsis should match the book. So if the history is written in past, write the synopsis in past.

Or just write it so it says what happens in your ms. I know that seems like a throw-away line, but I have the general impression that the editors I work with aren't interested in rules as much as getting the information and knowing that you are a good writer. So if you write a smashing synopsis in past tense, they will be happy to see a smashing synopsis. But if you write an okay synopsis in present, they will be more likely to pass on the book.

yay nonficiton-- i still think there isn't enough of the good stuff out there.
amy
#2 - March 04, 2009, 06:18 PM
How Things Work (Publications International, 2006)
Bugs & Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter (Boyds Mill Press, 2010)
Touch the Earth (NASA, 2009)

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I wrote the synopsis for my Anne Bradstreet bio in present tense. The book is in past. In ICL's book market guide, the sample nonfiction synopsis is in present tense. 
#3 - March 04, 2009, 06:37 PM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet
www.marciahoehne.com

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I wrote a proposal for a non-biographical nonfiction historical subject. The synopsis section is mostly in past tense, and it got a nibble from a major house.
#4 - March 05, 2009, 05:22 AM

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Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I guess the fact that there is no consensus is telling ... but it's really good to hear what everyone else does. Thanks again!
#5 - March 05, 2009, 01:08 PM

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