Writing a Synopsis

I am not a fan of writing synopses.  Let’s just get that out there, shall we?

Still, it is an essential part of life for this publishing novelist and avoiding it is pointless.

I have developed a system. It’s easy. It’s stupid uncomplicated.  And it requires at least two drafts.  Sigh.

To Begin:

  • Introduce your main characters briefly as well as an “elevator pitch” of what is going to happen in your story.
  • Go through your manuscript chapter by chapter and summarize what happens in each.  For long books, this’ll take a while. Do it anyway.  Don’t worry about the length; just share what happens.
  • End with a flourish.


  • Check the requirements for the synopsis. It varies by publisher/agent.  Go back to your slew of chapter summaries and cut them down so that the length is just shy of maximum allowed.

Finally, read through your synopsis draft and smooth the transitions in the telling of your tale.  Read it aloud and tweak it.

Your agent and/or editor knows this is a synopsis. They know it will not showcase the awesomeness of your prose. This is just the shortest way for them to find out the “scope and sequence” of your story.  If your synopsis is clear, free from errors (I am so serious on this one, people) and gets them from point a to point z, then it has done its job.

This is not the query letter.

This is not a sample chapter or five.

This is a synopsis. A summary.

It’s arduous, but thankfully not too scary.