Author's Tips

HOW TO WRITE A SYNOPSIS

You’ve written what you consider to be a decent novel and now comes the hard part – finding a publisher or agent, but first, you need to know how to write a synopsis!

You search online for publishers/agents accepting submissions and one item they all want is a synopsis conveying your story from beginning to end in a brief, engaging fashion. This summary of your masterpiece needs to triumph.

So, how do you do it?

Here are 6 tips on how to write a synopsis:

1. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!

the-sound-of-music-561821

Most publishers and agents receive dozens of submissions per week and I know from personal experience that:

  • “Dear Sir,
  •  
  • My name is Blah and I have written a book about blah blah blah…”
  •  

is not a great start. Why not try:

  •  
  • “Dear Sir,
  •  
  • I am an NY Times bestselling author… or I will be one day.”
  •  
  • *********************
  •  
  • “Dear Sir,
  •  
  • I have just completed the most terrifying book you’ll ever read.”
  •  

These immediately catch the eye and make the publisher want to see what comes next.

2. Show your skills, tell your story

Publishers and agents are looking for writers with good writing skills. Use active voice, the third person and check your grammar and spelling. Remember, this is not the time to get clever with your prose. Forget flowery, poetic descriptions. The synopsis is the place where you need to tell not show.

Think of a synopsis as your shop window; no one will enter if it looks sloppy and unprofessional. If not well written, this doesn’t bode well for the manuscript.

3. The narrative arc

This is a summary of the plot, not the back cover blurb.

The synopsis should give the publisher/agent the bare bones of your story and must reveal the ending.

It should not:

  • Include twists or unnecessary detail
  • Mention insignificant characters or embrace character backstory
  • Contain flashbacks
  • Ask rhetorical/unanswered questions
  • Give detailed explanations about themes
  • Lack emotion or feeling. Wooden is not advisable
  • Include dialogue (unless done so sparingly)
  • Be padded with fancy prose in an effort to impress

When learning how to write a synopsis it is essential that you make the first couple of paragraphs strong. Introduce the setting, the main character(s) and any problems they need to overcome.

The next paragraphs should include any plot twists, characters who need mentioning to enable the story to make sense, and any conflicts.

The final part should explain how these conflicts are resolved and must disclose the ending.

The easiest way to do this is to skim through the chapters of your novel noting the important events, pare these down then string them together in a standard synopsis format. (There are handy templates online.)

4. Be unique

Publishers and agents looking to sign new authors want something fresh and unique so it’s important to make your writing stand out. If you have a story that includes a love triangle (and many do) what elements does yours have that make it different?

‘Cliché‘ and ‘predictable’ are words that should never cross the mind of a publisher or agent. Avoid them both like the plague. (See what I did there!)

5. Make a connection

If you want the reader to connect with the characters in your novel, you use emotions and feelings. This should also be true of your synopsis. Any publisher or agent is unlikely to take on a book if they dislike the main character (unless they are supposed to).

Beware!  Unnecessary detail is exactly that. Don’t babble.

6. Keep it brief

Publishers and agents are busy people. As mentioned above, keep your synopsis brief. If you need 26 pages to explain what happens in your novel it isn’t going to be the next bestseller.

A good guide is to spend 300-400 words outlining the plot and 200-300 words giving information about the characters, their story arc and emotional development.

Final note

So, there you have it; How to write a synopsis and what to avoid. It can be a daunting task, but breaking it down and following our tips should help to make it easier.

Remember… you’ve done the hard part. Now all you have to do is get someone to believe in your story the way you do.

We can help

Many authors find getting published the most difficult part of the writing process. Every month we provide tips and articles, including:

  • The importance of grammar and punctuation
  • Writing for the reader
  • Developing characters
  • How to write different scenes
  • Preparing your manuscript
  • Finding agents
  • Writing a cover letter
  • Press releases
  • The truth about royalties

For anyone wishing to embrace the literary world, we also run writing competitions.

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