February 25, 2014

How to Write a Synopsis

Not only do you have to write your book and a query letter, you also have to write a synopsis. I think this word is slightly more dreaded than the “E” word . . . edit. Whenever I think about writing a synopsis I feel my soul darken. Okay, that is a little dramatic, but it gives you an idea of my dislike for the big, bad synopsis.

A synopsis is a 1-2 page summary of your book including the conflict your character(s) face and all the events that build to the climax. Every main event, character, and plot twist has to be revealed. No surprises can be left out of the synopsis!

Here are 10 steps you can follow to help you get through the task:

1. Put your name, address, phone number, and email in the upper left-hand corner of the document. In the upper right-hand corner indicate the genre and rounded word count.

2. Several lines down, put your byline just as you would with your manuscript’s cover page. Then several more lines down begin the synopsis.

3. Single space, no tabs, Arial or Times New Roman size-12 font.

4. Write in the present tense and third person point of view, even if your story is written in past tense, first person point of view.

5. Whenever you introduce a character for the first time, type their name in all CAPS.

6. The first paragraph needs to introduce the main character, setting, and the beginning of the story.

7. A simple format to help you figure out what events to highlight is this:

Inciting Incident
Plot Point #1
Pinch Point #1 (smaller, linking event)
Plot Point #2 (midpoint)
Pinch Point #2
Plot Point #3
Black Moment

8. Just as you write about every event that leads to the climax, you also have to give away the ending. Yup, however the story ends you need to reveal it at the end of the synopsis.

9. Write “THE END” at the bottom of the synopsis like you would at the bottom of a manuscript.

10. When you send your synopsis to an agent/editor, follow their guidelines. They may want you to mail it, which you’ll need an SASE for (self-addressed, stamped envelope), or email it by either attaching a .DOC file or pasting it below your query letter.

Don’t let the S-word scare you. Face the big, bad synopsis head on.

See also:

How to Write a Query Letter
Formatting Your Manuscript

QUESTION: Do you hate or enjoy writing synopses?

SHARE: Your tips for writing a synopsis. 


  1. I detest writing synopses and that's why I gave up too easily after only two attempts at trying to find an agent. I was too stubborn to write in the twists-and-turns and, yes, also the ending. I couldn't see why I should give away all this information for, perhaps, someone else to use.
    I know now that I should try again and not be so awkward, cynical, tetchy etc. I've always been my own worst enemy!
    Thank you for setting me right.

    1. You definitely should try again, Fanny. It's always difficult to reveal everything about our stories, especially in such a limited amount of space, but it is worth it if it can get us an agent. :)

  2. I hate them. I try to pretend I'm describing a movie when I write them.

    1. Me too, Kelly. That is a great technique to use.

  3. I hate them too. Great tips on writing one. :)

    1. So far I haven't met an author who does like to write synopses, but it can happen. lol

  4. Great tips! Writing a synopsis of the novel I'm getting ready to send to agents has been so difficult. I'm glad you say two-pages. One just will not do. My problem is that I have three main characters, each chapter is written from a different perspective, but they each have their own stories, plot-lines, conflicts, etc, within the overreaching story, plot, conflict that affects all of them. So it's difficult to summarize, and I need more space to get it all in. Thanks for giving me a place to whine.

    1. Thank you, Deborah! There are a few agents out there who do request a one page synopsis, but mostly they can go to two pages. I remember when I had to write one for the first book in my supernatural-thriller series and I was panicking because the story is so complex. The important thing to remember is to only use the main plot-lines. That cuts down on a bit.

      Good luck and feel free to come back anytime to whine. :)

  5. Excellent tips! I agree with you on following their guidelines, it's crucial! When writing a synopsis it really shows if you understand what you're doing in the realm of your current story. The key is to know the area that you're writing.

    1. Absolutely, Anita! Thank you for stopping by. :)