Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing the Dreaded Synopsis

You've finished your novel, and now it's time to write a synopsis. Have you ever asked exactly why is it necessary to take a full novel's worth of prose and summarize it into a few short pages, and keep the feel and voice of the book in tact? Impossible you say? Well, synopsis writing is not my favorite, but they are necessary for the fast-paced publishing industry. Here are some of my tricks:

  1. First, let's get the mechanics out of the way. A synopsis is written in present tense, third person, should include the setting, the time period, the word count and the author's CONTACT INFORMATION! Some people suggest single spaced. I might use single spacing for a 1-2 page synopsis, but otherwise I use double spacing (always 12 pt. Times New Roman).
  2. I start by summarizing each chapter in a few paragraphs, specifically pointing out the most important incidents in each scene. This always leaves me with a document far too long, but it forms the framework upon which to build the synopsis.
  3. I then mold this into an exciting summary, only leaving in the scenes that are this stage it is important to remember that a good synopsis makes the reader want to see the actual story.
  4. To be concise, surprisingly, a synopsis has more telling than showing.
  5. A synopsis tells the reader about the conflicts within your story.
  6. Never tease the reader and always reveal the ending.
  7. Once you've written the synopsis, let it sit and then read it aloud--Have others read it. Are they asking for the manuscript?
  8. I always end up with a document that's about five pages long. But, some agents/editors want an abbreviated version of that.
  • Start with an opening setting or concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
  • Introduce what the protagonist wants.
  • Describe the inciting incident.
  • What is the first turning point of the plot? What is the action that the main character takes that changes the direction of this book?
  • What are the conflicts, and character encounters. How does the antagonist interact with the MC?
  • What is the middle turning point?
  • What is the black moment?
  • What is the climax, the final blowout between good and evil (perhaps)?
  • What happens to tie up loose ends?
  • What is the final image that you want to leave the reader with?
Though synopsis writing is not easy, I think formulas can help us to narrow down what is truly important, and what will draw in your readers. Do you have any ideas to share?

Good luck, and Write On friends!


  1. Believe it or not, this post is really useful to me as I'm almost at the stage you are now! So thanks, and good luck!

  2. Great line up of the process, Amy. Writing the synopsis can be more intimidating than the novel itself!

  3. Fantastic tips for creating a synopsis! Thank you!