Monday, 9 August 2010

How to Write a Synopsis

This is hard and I'm not saying I've cracked it. I'm just passing on advice from other sources.

- Write in the present tense and in the third person, regardless how the novel is written
- yes, you have to give away the ending
- Establish - in the first sentence - the location of the story and the era if it’s anything other than the modern day.
- Tell-don’t-show
- Use as few names as possible - probably only the protagonist and one other. Use descriptors, e.g. “The best friend”, “the sister”, for the others.
- Write the synopsis in the same tone as the novel itself, e.g. chatty or serious, whatever.
- The first time you use a character's name in the synopsis, type it in CAPITAL letters. Do this only the first time. Avoid confusion by referring to a character the same way throughout (not "Dr. Evans" the first time, "Jerry" the next, and "the doctor" another time).

The synopsis should go something like this:
  • Give the character's name and a very brief but compelling description,
  • including her back story as needed, in a sentence or two.
  • Describe her dilemma
  • She wants this goal badly because...
  • but can’t get it because ...
  • This goal is important because of her internal goal...
  • She takes the first steps in achieving her goal but,
  • has her first failure.
  • She then reacts, regroups and decides what to do next.

Let's see some enthusiasm. You love your book. You wouldn't have spent all that time writing and rewriting it if you didn't. Let that show through. It's infectious.
Have a one or two sentence synopsis of the synopsis, the blurb that you, your agent and your publisher would use to sell the book. This should also answer this eternal question, "What's your book about?"

Here's a couple of links and and


Summer Ross said...

wonderful- thank you for the advice and links!

Summer Ross said...

very good advice thanks for posting

Jessica Maybury said...

this is very helpful! I've done two synopses (?) and feel like I'm still just getting to grips with it.

ferdia said...

Cheers, really helpful post. Just wondering if you had any idea what the recommended length was for synopsis? (pages or wordcount) Working on mine now and cant seem to find what the industry standard seems to be. Thanks

Emerging Writer said...

My research has't shown an industry standard so you will have to tailor each synopsis according to the publisher or agent submission guidelines