How to Write a Synopsis

Writing - pretty straightforward, hmm?

Writing – pretty straightforward, hmm?

Synopsis – now there is a word guaranteed to strike fear into any writer’s heart, but it’s a sadly necessary task if you want to sell your book to anyone.

I’m not just talking agents (and more on this tricky subject at a later date, once I’ve figured out the foolproof way to get yourself an agent*), but selling your book online, selling your story to potential readers and even summing it up in 140 characters a la Twitter needs the knowledge of what is important and what can be left out.

The synopsis is where you sell what you have written because presumably someone somewhere thinks – gosh, that sounds worth reading. Or filming, if a script is what you’ve lovingly crafted over the last few months in a daydream about Hollywood fame and fortune.

Of course, this being the online world I could hop around various amazing websites and online resources for writers and plagarise their wisdom on the words for synopsis (what is the plural of the wretched word, btw: synopsises? Synopsi?), but I decided to bravely WRITE THIS BY MYSELF.

So, if you too are struggling with synopsis angst and agonising about how on earth you cram your 80,000+ word novel into a mere 500 words, read on…

1. It is easier to start with a very short synopsis – say, 100 words. A very short synopsis forces you to write only the very, very bare bones of your story. Then you fill it up to make up the 400-word shortfall.

2. If a kind friend has already read your book for you, ask them to sum it up in a few sentences or bullet points. Because you know your characters and your plot inside out, it’s too easy for you to get side-tracked.

3. Start with an exciting sentence – This is the story of housewife Marcia Evans, for example, might sound better as – Marcia Evans’ life has gone tits up ever since her mad, marauding husband abandoned her on the moon**.

4. You can bring in all the main characters for a synopsis, but you don’t need to include everyone – nor every plot line.

5. You need to put in what happens at the end. It is tempting to write a synopsis as if it’s a book blurb – but a book blurb can’t give away the end of a book (or no-one would buy the book). A synopsis for an agent needs to show a well-thought out story with a credible ending.

6. Try not to ramble in a bid to cram too much info in – ‘Marcia, who is startlingly beautiful but has never thought of herself as so and sometimes struggles with eating disorders, married the marauding madman in a fit of spontaneity, for which she was renowned whilst living in a commune in the far north of Scotland…’ loses impact. ‘Marcia’s short-lived marriage to the madman took place during a period of regrettable spontaneity’ doesn’t.

7. Do proof read. If this is the first (and perhaps only) thing to be read, then proper spelling and grammar is a must for good first impressions.

8. And finally – an offer. If you are struggling with your synopsis and you want a second opinion from a complete stranger, then I am happy to offer my t’uppence worth. You can send your synopsis through to the contact details on this site up until 31 July. I can’t guarantee a fast turnaround, nor an expert opinion but sometimes the rank outsider view helps.



*It’s really, really easy. So long as you are famous and/or already a best-selling author. Bitter? Not much…

**I am always, always going to love alliteration and place it everywhere I can. And also, can you feel a plot coming on…?


Picture thanks to wikipedia.