How to Write a Synopsis

At some point while writing your novel, you will need to write a synopsis. These can be difficult to write, but by following a few simple steps, you can ensure you get it right first time.

magicWhat is a synopsis?

A synopsis is a one page overview of your novel. It’s as simple as that! Now that can’t so hard, can it? I mean, you’re writing a whole book, one more page is no big deal.



Why do you need a synopsis?

A synopsis will form part of the package you send to agents and publishers when you are trying to drum up publishing interest for your novel. Your package will contain a query letter, your synopsis, and the first three chapters of your manuscript. Each of these is of vital importance. Think about a newspaper article – you look at the headline and the picture, if you are interested in these you might read the caption below the picture, if you are still interested you might read the tagline, the first paragraph, if you are still interested you read the next paragraph…at each stage of reading you might decide to just put the newspaper down. The headline, the picture, the first paragraph – they all have to be engaging, they all have to draw you in if you are to invest your time in reading the full article. It’s a tough job, but that’s what you have to do…hook the agent or publisher in enough so they will be interested in representing you or publishing your novel.



Why is a synopsis so hard to write?

I know you’ve written thousands of words by now and in theory, one more page, just one page, should be easy…BUT…

It seems almost cruel to have to reduce your carefully crafted manuscript down to just one page. Think of all those characters, all those plot points that you have lovingly, painstakingly crafted –  that you have to just leave out if you are to keep to one page. The task can be a lot harder than you might first think.



How to write a synopsis

  • Write your synopsis in present tense.
  • Think in terms of your main story arc: introduction, problem or obstacle faced, complication or crisis, desperation, climax, resolution, wrap up.
  • Begin with an opening statement – that might include the time, setting, the main idea, and/or introducing your protagonist.
  • Outline the conflict – what is at stake, what obstacles need to be overcome.
  • Character development – the difference between a short story and a novel is the depth of character development. Show how your protagonist changes, evolves, develops throughout the book.
  • Plot points – forget show don’t tell, write the plot points down as they occur…ask yourself, what happens, then what happens, what happens next, and then what, etc.
  • Include the ending – you are not writing a ‘hook readers in’ kind of back cover blurb. In order to show the resolution and wrap up, you must include how the story ends.
  • Make a connection to the market by giving an indication of what books are similar to yours.


What to do once you’ve written your synopsis
Your work is not yet over, you will need to:

  1. Carefully craft a query letter.
  2. Ensure your first three chapters are fine-tuned, eg: well-edited and meticulously proofread.
  3. Research potential agents and publishers – there is no point wasting time with those who do not work within your genre or sending your package to the wrong person in the organisation.
  4. Make a wish, cross your fingers, and send your pack out.
  5. Wait, confident in the knowledge that your hard work will pay off.
  6. Don’t get disheartened when you receive rejections. This is just part of the process, they mean nothing more than you want them to mean but I suggest they mean simply that it is a competitive field and there is a mass of manuscripts.
  7. Review any feedback you are offered along the way.



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  1. Pingback: Finding a Publisher :: Shel SweeneyShel Sweeney

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