How to Write a Synopsis

You wrote a novel. You revised and revised and revised. You’ve spent hours and days and maybe years working on this baby, and now you’re ready to send your baby out into the world. As you prep your submission package, whether to an agent or a publisher, they keep asking for one specific thing: a synopsis.

Been there my friend. In fact, I just had to write one for the novel I’m shopping around. And if you’ve ever Googled: How to Write a Synopsis, you may find–like me–there is a lot of confusing information on what makes the perfect synopsis. So to make it easier for you (and save you on multiple Google searches) here’s what I’ve learned:

What is a synopsis?

It is a short summary of your novel that hits all major plot points including the ending. It covers details of your characters, and themes of your book. It’s usually about a page, single-spaced.

Don’t be surprised if writing the synopsis is more stressful and annoying than writing the actual book. Just when you think your work is done, you have to write MORE and condense a 80-100k novel into a single page?

Why do you need one?

Many agents and publisher require a synopsis as part of your submissions package. They use the synopsis to decide whether or not they can sell your book.

This sounds cold and totally uncreative, and it is. Publishing is a business, and while writing is and art and a craft, if you want to sell a book you have to know how to market it. A synopsis helps agents and editors decide if they can actually sell your book.

How to write a synopsis?

Keep it in present tense

Regardless of what tense your book is written in, write the synopsis in present tense, and try to convey your voice as best you can. Be sure to include the center conflict to create tension. (Because without conflict, you don’t have a story.)

Use third person

Like tense, it doesn’t matter what point of view your book is, write you synopsis in third person. Still include character development. How does your protagonist change over the course of the novel?

Keep word count at 500-700 words.

Yep. Keep it short and sweet. I’ve read that the gold standard is one page, single-spaced, so put those editing skills to use and tighten!

Give away the ending.

Give the full arc of the plot including the ending. This isn’t like a jacket flap description, you want to include the ending.

My favorite resource I found was from Margret Atwood on this subject. She knows what she’s talking about in this area, so I highly suggest you check out this article.

Good luck!


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