How to Write a Synopsis

Follow these tips to help condense your manuscript into a catchy synopsis

Three books between a vice illustrate how a synopsis is a condensed version of a novel.
Unsure how to condense your manuscript
into a well-written and catchy synopsis?
Follow our helpful tips to get started.

If you’re wondering how to get published, assembling a query package is the first step. Your query package should include a synopsis, which is the lynchpin. However, the task of writing a synopsis can be quite overwhelming. It should be an ultra-condensed version of your manuscript, written in such a way as to leave the person reading it wanting more. An effectively written synopsis will not only help sell your manuscript faster, it may also result in someone paying more for it! When trying to define what a synopsis is, an easy comparison to make is to a film trailer. A trailer is designed to entice a potential audience to spend their hard-earned money to see the film. The trailer must be tempting and exciting, so that once someone has seen it, they need to see more. This same premise should be adopted when creating a synopsis. A publisher should read yours and instantly crave more.

Put in the Time to See Results

Considering that writing a manuscript of any value takes significant time and resources, misrepresenting it with a poorly written synopsis is never justifiable. It is important that proper time and care are invested in constructing your synopsis.

Organization Matters

Organization is paramount. If you were to submit a helter-skelter synopsis with no definable plot line and loosely connected themes, the chances of selling your manuscript would be slim to none. Take some time to draw out your plot line, accentuating the key elements you think are important to the integrity of the story. Try to leave out anything that could be construed as unnecessary or pointless, as this will only bore and frustrate the publishing agent. Keeping in mind that a synopsis should be relatively short, creating an organized outline will allow you to focus on the essential information and filter out that which is superfluous.

Summarize

As you write your synopsis, think of it as a mini version of your manuscript. Remember, this is what will ultimately sell your work. You have to make it “pop” so that when a publishing agent is finished reading it, they are thrilled with the prospect of buying your work and selling it. A boring or error-ridden synopsis will drastically diminish your chances of publication.

Keep it Clear

When you’re writing, remember that clarity is your friend. If a publishing agent finishes reading your synopsis and isn’t entirely clear about what they’ve just read, your manuscript is going nowhere but into the rejection pile. This rejection is tough for a writer who has generated a manuscript with deep plot twists and a surprise ending. Remember, though, that it doesn’t have to explain everything. It should make the reader want to continue on to uncover the mysteries for themselves. You can explain things a bit, but don’t worry about going into extreme detail, as this will only weigh down your word count and give away too much. Give the reader only a taste, but make sure that taste is so good they have to come back for more.

Formatting Tips

As far as formatting goes, there aren’t really any set guidelines as to what you have to do, but there are definitely things that are good to do. Do not make your synopsis too long. A busy publisher will hate this, and will likely not even read it. It’s generally a good idea to try and keep it to around five or six pages. Do double space your synopsis; this makes it easier for the publishing agent to read. Always write it in the present tense. Never give away the ending or any of your key plot twists, but always introduce them and leave an element of wonder. The “outline” part of your query package will take care of this part. Imagine if the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense told the audience that Bruce Willis was dead at the end? The movie would have been a complete flop.

Writing a synopsis is quite often an author’s least favorite thing to do, but remember that this is your major marketing tool. Taking the time to write a well-crafted, enticing, and thorough one will pay off in spades. Review our example of a synopsis to get a better understanding of how to write one. You’ve likely spent months, or maybe even years writing your manuscript, so don’t misrepresent it with a poorly constructed synopsis! If the task is too daunting for you, consider sending your manuscript to Scribendi.com’s Query Package Service. We will craft a Grade-A Query Package for you, complete with a synopsis.

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