Crafting a Novel Synopsis - Writer's Digest

Crafting a Novel Synopsis

If you write a novel and want to sell it, you’ll need a good synopsis to hook a literary agent. A synopsis, simply put, is a long summary of your fictional story, detailing the events and characters.
Author:
Publish date:

If you write a novel and want to sell it, you'll need a good synopsis to hook a literary agent. A synopsis, simply put, is a long summary of your fictional story, detailing the events and characters.

At a recent writers' conference, I critiqued several synopses from amateur writers. When I met with the writers, I found myself repeating the same things over and over regarding formatting, content and length. I'll try and relay some tips in this post, so writers don't follow in their footsteps.

- First of all, synopses have a specific format. They begin on a new page and should have all your contact information in the upper left corner of the first page. Just below your contact info, centered, should be the book's title, its genre and your name.
- The body of the synopsis is double-spaced.
- Use dialogue sparingly, if at all.
- You can get to the point, meaning you can say if a character is "a hopeless romantic."
- Starting on the second page, there should be a header at the top of all pages, looking like this: Author/TITLE/Synopsis. That should be pushed left while the page number should be pushed right.
- Synopses should be as short as you can make them. The average length is 7-8 pages. A general rule is to have 1 page of synopsis for every 25 pages of your work, but remember—the shorter the better.
- Things must be explained. You can't say a character has "psychic powers" or "finds a surprise around the corner" without saying what these things mean. I find that writers, when questioned about confusing details, will often say, "Well that's explained in the book." Then I say, "OK ... but an agent won't read the book if they're confused by the synopsis. Make sense?"
- Try to stick with main plot points and characters. This will help cut down on confusion. Ideally, an agent won't get any name/character confusion because the synopsis doesn't detail needless subplots or minor characters.
- When characters are mentioned for the first time, CAPITALIZE their name.
- I read somewhere that a synopsis should read like you've summarizing a story for a 12-year-old. This is good advice. To practice, read a novel. Then explain the plot and characters of the story to a child as if it were a bedtime story. Tell the tale from beginning to end in 5-10 minutes. That's a synopsis.

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:

Hall_10:27

Seven Tips for Intuitive Writing: The Heart-Hand Connection

Award-winning author Jill G. Hall shares her top tips for how to dive into your latest project head-first.

bearing_vs_baring_vs_barring_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

15_things_a_writer_should_never_do_zachary_petit

15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Former Writer's Digest managing editor Zachary Petit shares his list of 15 things a writer should never do, based on interviews with successful authors as well as his own occasional literary forays and flails.

Green_10:26

Evie Green: Imaginary Friends and Allowing Change

Author Evie Green explains why she was surprised to end writing a horror novel and how she learned to trust the editorial process.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The 3 Prime Rules of Horror Writing, Contest Deadlines, and More!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series! There's always so much happening in the Writer's Digest universe that even staff members have trouble keeping up. So we're going to start collecting what's on the horizon to make it easier for everyone to know what's happening and when.

Bell_10:25

Lenora Bell: When Fairy Tales Meet Reality TV

Bestselling historical romance author Lenora Bell discusses researching, avoiding info-dumps while still charming readers, and how her latest book was inspired by her life.

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.