How to Write a Synopsis Editors Will Want to Read

Done with your story? Great! Want people to read it? Then you need a synopsis.

In short, a synopsis is an outline of the plot of a book. It demonstrates that you can construct a story and should focus on how each event leads to the next until the conclusion (and yes, it should include the ending!). This focus will show what happens, who changes (internally and externally), the events leading up to the climax, and how the conflict is resolved. Don’t think of it as a chapter by chapter summary: think of a synopsis like a friend recalling a movie or book to you.

And a sweet bonus? A synopsis is also great for plot-level editing. You can see what’s missing or not working when you can see all the events in a page or less summary.

Most agents and editors receive a lot of synopses so they don’t have much time for loooong synopsis: the shorter the better. In fact, a brief synopsis, at one to two pages long, is the best way to go. How are you supposed to squeeze two hundred pages into a one page summary? Let’s take a look!

How to construct a brief synopsis:

First, list every event you can remember from your plot on a page from memory. Make it like you’re telling the events to a friend. Don’t forget the conflict!

Second, cut the bits that don’t focus on the main character’s journey. I know that it’s tough since every part of the story seems important (and it may be!) but the supporting characters add length and dangling plot lines to the synopsis. Your story should follow the main character and their quest: focus on what directly impacts the main character and shows their growth. This narrowing of the synopsis to the events surrounding the protagonist limits the length and leaves your summary concise. We’ll be able to see what’s at stake for your protagonist and identify the character(s) we should care about. It additionally shows the core conflict, what’s driving the conflict, and how the protagonist succeeds or fails in dealing with that conflict.

Next, go back to the beginning to set up the premise (setting and other world-building necessities).

Lastly, edit! Keep in mind that your synopsis should be written from an active third person perspective in present tense.


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