Thanks to Olivia Rojas and Rishabh Choudary.

You did it! You wrote your first novel, and you are proud of your work. Now, you want to look into your publishing options. In 2020, as a writer, you have more options than ever when it comes to getting published. You can go the old-fashioned route and seek representation from a literacy agent, or you can self- publish. Whichever option you choose, you are going to need to know how to write a synopsis that adequately encompasses your work to get published and/or market yourself. Read on to learn the basics when it comes to writing a synopsis. 

What is a Synopsis

A synopsis is more than just a summary of your novel. It’s a representation of the storyline, characters, and major themes. It gives publishers and readers a general idea of your work and why they should read it. When sending a query letter to agents, several will ask you to send a synopsis, so it’s a necessary step in your journey to getting published. A synopsis helps agents determine how marketable your novel will be and will give them an idea of how your book will do in sales.

A synopsis is not an Amazon book description or a book jacket; it’s longer and it spoils the entire plot. Leave no plot twist out.

Planning

Develop a list of all relevant characters that contribute directly to the main plot. Determine the main conflict that takes place in your novel and write a brief description of your narrative arc, which is the skeleton of your plot. This basic information will be an excellent reference when writing your synopsis.

Steps

  • Answer These Questions : 
  1. Who is your protagonist and what role do they have in your story?
  2. What conflict arises that moves the story forward?
  3. Where does your story take place?
  4. The top 5 things that make your story interesting. 
  • Create an Outline 

Write out a brief three-paragraph summary of your novel. Include:

  1. Paragraph one: Protagonist, conflict and the setting
  2. Paragraph two: Major plot turns 
  3. Paragraph three: Resolution of the conflict 
  • Fill in Relevant Details 

Use the following questions as a guide to filling in the details:

  1. Who is the antagonist?
  2. How does the antagonist interact with the protagonist?
  3. Is there a gray area in terms of morals? Describe it. 
  4. What lesson do you want your reader to walk away, having learned?

Tips

  • Keep it short 

No one wants to have to read through a long synopsis to find the main point. A good synopsis is typed, single-spaced or double-spaced (look for agent guidelines), and no longer than two pages or 500-800 words. Also, always write in the third person as it makes you seem more professional. 

  • Always capitalize your characters names the first time they appear and describe them well

This is just a standard industry format that allows readers to easily follow who you’re talking about. For example “MARTIN DELOITTE (42), a retired lawyer – handsome, wealthy, depressed, and lonely—…”

  • Tell It All

A synopsis is different than a summary found on the back of a book. A basic summary works to entice a reader to pick up your book without giving away the plot’s main details. A synopsis, on the other hand, is meant to represent your book completely and should include the plot in its entirety as well as any twists that make your novel more exciting. 

  • If you can sell your story in a few lines, include it at the top of your synopsis.
  • Write in third person. Even if your novel is in first person, the synopsis should be written in third person.
  • Name your file with your last name and the title of your novel + synopsis.
  • Don’t go into too much detail about the character or the setting.
  • Delete connectors like “Then the novel picks up,” “in the next chapter,” etc.

Sample Synopsis

The following synopsis is from Writer’s Digest

TOM STALL owns a diner in the small town of Millbrook, IN. He lives a simple life with a lovely wife, EDIE, and two children. His idyllic life is shattered one evening when two killers pass through Millbrook and decide to rob Tom’s restaurant and rape one of the customers. During the robbery, Tom deftly kills both robbers, and his brave actions make him an overnight celebrity and local hero.

Tom is soon visited by a physically-scarred gangster named FOGATY, who alleges that Tom is actually a killer named Joey Cusack, who used to run with him in the Irish Mob 20 years ago in Philadelphia. Tom denies these accusations and claims he has never been to Philadelphia, but Fogaty continues to stalk and threaten the Stall family. Under pressure from Fogaty’s harassment as well as his newfound fame, Tom’s relationships with Edie and his teenage son JACK become strained. Edie is unsure of what to think of Fogaty’s (somewhat convincing) claims, and Jack, who has been bullied in high school, now decides to use violence against his student tormentors. Tom chastises his son for said violence, but Jack claims hypocrisy and runs out of the house.

Fogaty arrives at Tom’s house with Jack as a hostage, demanding that “Joey” return with he and his men to Philadelphia. Tom kills Fogaty’s men with the same precision he used against the robbers, while his son Jack kills Fogaty with a shotgun in defense of his father. At the hospital, Tom shocks Edie by admitting that he is actually Joey Cusack, and that he ran away from Philadelphia around the age of 21 to escape his criminal past and start a new violence-free life. This furthers the tensions in their marriage and Tom starts sleeping on the couch.

Not long after Fogaty’s death, Tom receives a call from his older brother, RICHIE CUSACK, the head of the Philly Irish Mob, who demands that “Joey” return to Philadelphia or violence will befall his family. Tom drives to Philadelphia, meets Richie at his mansion, and offers to make peace. Richie seems happy to see his long-lost little brother again, but claims he has no choice in what comes next. He orders his men to kill Tom. Tom defends himself and kills Richie and all the guards.

Tom returns home to Indiana, but the atmosphere is tense and silent as the family sits around the dinner table. The future is uncertain, but the family indicates their acceptance of their father by setting a plate for him and passing him some food.

Now get out there and get published! The world is waiting to read your story! 

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