How to Write a Synopsis

Learning how to write a synopsis is difficult, but it isn’t as hard as you might think. By breaking your story into its key components, you can write a compelling story synopsis to add to your website, blog or use when querying agents.

What is a Synopsis?

A synopsis is a summary of your book and plot that enables agents and publishers to determine if your book suits their tastes and preferences. A good synopsis covers the main conflict and resolution within your story and also describes the important emotional and psychological developments of the protagonist. 

How to Write a Synopsis

Outline Your Synopsis

Take that 100,000-word story you just wrote and boil it down to its key ingredients, including your protagonist’s “normal life”, the inciting incident, major developments and crises within your plot, and the final resolution.

These five components are important to your story… Heck, they are your story!

But by using these pieces, you can boil your entire manuscript to its foundation. There will be details missing, but that’s the entire point of a synopsis. Break your plot into pieces and let your reader put them back together.

Write 300 words about each piece of your book—their “normal life”, inciting incident, major developments and crises, and the resolution—and start your synopsis.

Write Your Synopsis

Once you’ve broken your book down to its core, you can continue writing your book synopsis. Forget about scenes and settings, creatures and beasts, and focus on the meat of your plot and your protagonist’s journey through it.

You want your reader to have an instant connection with your protagonist. Your first paragraph should embellish the beginning of your story, introduce your protagonist, and give glimpses into their normal life.

The second paragraph should introduce other main characters and their relationship to the protagonist, and the main plot of the book. Include any obstacles your protagonist’s faces, but don’t include information about settings, subplots, and backstory or you might bog down your synopsis with unnecessary information.

Continue into the third paragraph by offering how your story ends. Whomever your showing—your agent, publisher, etc.—will want to know how your book ends before reading the entire manuscript.

Bonus Tip: If you’ve boiled your synopsis down further, into 1-2 sentences, feel free to tack that on at the beginning of your synopsis as a precursor for what’s to come.

Edit Your Synopsis

When editing, it’s important to focus on strong word usage and character development. If your character feels flat in the synopsis, they will likely feel flat in the book and many people won’t request to read further.

Your agent/publisher wants to see good character growth and interesting plot developments. Your book synopsis should be a play-by-play of exactly this. They want characters readers will care about; their entire goal is to sell books, and books don’t sell when readers don’t care about the protagonist or their struggles along the way.

The biggest synopsis mistake I notice is writers only telling the plot, which comes across more like they’re talking at me, instead of telling me a story. Avoid this by including character emotions and their psychological responses to certain developments. You don’t have to go into much detail, but emotions are what make books and movies great. We become invested and the character becomes likable.

Now that you’ve written your entire synopsis, you’ll probably have to boil it down further. Trim the fat and hyper-details to between 500-1000 words and you’ll be golden!

This 500-1000-word book spoiler is some of the most important writing you’ll do. This little piece of writing needs to engage readers from the first words and keep them captivated until the very end. Only after that might they buy your book.

Whether you’re a new or seasoned writer, you’ll want many eyes on your synopsis before publishing it across the internet. Test it on your friends and family, your beta readers or even your professional editor.

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