What to include in a Synopsis

Once Upon A Time, Writer, Author, Story

Hands up who finds writing a synopsis harder than writing a book? I know I do.

A synopsis is a selling tool. It’s what the editor and publisher use to decide if you’ve written a novel they want to sell. If you are thinking of working with an agent, you might find that they will ask you to provide a synopsis.

Before submitting your manuscript and synopsis make sure the publisher publishes the same genre that you have written. You don’t want to waste their time or yours.

An editor will have set guidelines for you to follow. Some want a 1-page synopsis while others may request 2 pages. They may also request your synopsis to be single or double spaced. The publishing house that I recently looked at said they wanted 500 words with single spacing. Make sure you adhere to the guidelines. If an editor asks for 500 words, don’t write 1,000 and think, they’ll love my story because I wrote it. Wrong!

A synopsis is an outline describing the events that take place in your novel and it is usually written in third person present tense. Type your name at the top right-hand corner and the title of your novel underneath it.

The editor wants to know the protagonist’s conflict and whether it is strong enough to make readers want to read your novel to the end. Therefore, a synopsis must provide answers to the following questions:

  • What is the story about?
  • Who are the main characters and what do they want?
  • Why do they want it and what stands in their way?
  • What is the setting, tone and pace of your novel?

Include any sub-plots and how they interact or affect the plot and characters.

Leave out description and dialogue.

You must tell them everything that happens in the book.

When you’ve finished writing it, read your synopsis out aloud to see if it flows. At the moment, I’ve got a lot of work to do on mine because it sounds like he did this, she did that.

When you send it to the editor via mail, make sure you write on the envelope: ‘requested material for e.g. Melisa Quigley’s manuscript. Do the same thing in the subject line if sending it via email. That way you avoid it being placed in the slush pile.

Good luck!