Writing a Synopsis, By Maria V. Snyder

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What is it? A synopsis is a summary with feeling. It is not a blow by blow laundry list of actions. (He did this, and then he did that) The main characters motivations and desires must be shown, and the obstacles they face to overcome them.

Why write one? Most editors and agents request three chapters and a synopsis from writers. The chapters are for them to see if they get hooked into your story and like your writing style. The synopsis lets them know you’ve taken the story to a logical and satisfying conclusion. When you’re a published writer, you need a synopsis to sell your next book idea – so they become even more important. (But they don’t become easier to write – at least not for me!)

How to write one? Keep it simple. Stick to the main plot and the main characters, leaving subplots and minor characters out of it. Use the present tense and third person point of view. Match the tone/writing style of the synopsis with your novel. (i.e. If your book is action-packed and fast-paced – your synopsis should be action-packed and fast-paced). Use specific nouns and active verbs. Don’t include opinions, hints or vague references – just tell the story – twist and all! Yes – you have to reveal the ending – I know, I know – but you do! Use dialogue sparingly if at all – only use to reveal character of further the plot.

Length of a synopsis: Depends on the editor or agent. Some request 1 page (single spaced), others want 6 pages (double spaced) and some look for anywhere from 12-27 pages. My suggestion would be to have a 1 page and a 6 page synopsis written and ready to go when you’re submitting your manuscript.

Elements of a synopsis in order:
  • Opening hook
  • Quick sketches of the main characters
  • Main plot high points
  • The core conflict
  • The conclusion
Try something different? Poison Study is a traditional present tense third person POV synopsis. When I was writing the synopsis for my young adult science fiction novel, Inside Out, my main character, Trella decided to take over and tell her own story. I sold the story – but you might want to remember I already have a relationship with my editor/publisher. However, I really liked how it came out.
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