Tips on Writing a Synopsis

Following on from my previous post on Writing Synopses, I’m going to share some tips for writing synopses.

Include only the Important Scenes:
Don’t include every unimportant scene. Only the scenes that move the plot forward

Show How the Story will Reach the Ending:
Editors won’t like a cliff hanger in your synopsis. If you tell them to ‘buy the book to find out’… they won’t.

Answer all the Questions:
All the questions which you raised in your synopsis must be answered by the end of the synopsis.

Keep it Short:
The general rule of synopsis length is one page per 10,000 words of novel. So, a 70,000 word novel should have no more than seven pages of synopsis.

Person, POV, Tense:
Your synopsis should be written in third person, omnipresent point of view, present tense.

Only Name the Main Characters:
Only the main characters should be referred to by name. As I said in the previous post, the named characters should be written in capitals. All other characters should be referred to by the relationship with main character, ie. JOHN’S brother, SUE’s teacher, MARK’s butler.

Tell, Don’t Show:
Tell how the story will move along, don’t show it. (The opposite of ‘show, don’t tell’. Confusing, huh?)

Do Not Submit Your Synopsis in Outline Form:
Dot points is a no-no. It should be written  in paragraphs.

No Dialogue!!!:
Enough said.

A few days ago, I sent Direct Messages to a few published/soon-to-be-published authors on Twitter, asking if they had tips to share. This is what they said:

Twice published historical fiction author, KM Weiland, says:

Biggest one would be let your writing style show as much as possible, but whittle down to bare bones.

Beth Revis, whose YA debut novel will be published in 2011, says:

Just that it’s usually easier to write the synopsis BEFORE you write the book!

Graham Storrs, recently published Sci-Fi author, says:

A synopsis is a product description. It is not a cover blurb, it’s not a teaser, nor any     other kind of sales material, it is a simple, short description of the story – who the     characters are, what’s at stake, how they seek resolution, and what happens.

Finally, YA author, Stephe Bowe, whose debut novel is published in September, says:

They aren’t totally necessary to get published, so don’t stress out too much over     writing them.

Lastly, a few points on presentation and formatting:

  • Quality, white paper
  • One inch margins all the way around
  • Double spacing
  • Standard font, ie Times New Roman, Courier New. Size 12
  • Create a header for each page, with your surname, title of the novel, and the word synopsis on the left, and the page number on the right.

Do you have any tips to include?


2 Responses to Tips on Writing a Synopsis

  1. Wendy says:

    Another very good post.

    I’ve just finished writing both my query and synopsis. It was certainly much harder than I had imagined.

  2. K.M. Weiland says:

    Good list. That top point is probably the one that will save you the most headaches in the long run! Realizing you don’t have to squeeze in every single scene relieves a lot of stress.

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