How to Write A Synopsis

Even if you're not at a querying stage, a novel synopsis is helpful to better explain and understand your story. A synopsis should be between 500 - 800 words and should represent a complete summary of your book in non-salesy language. Rather, the synopsis's purpose is to let an agent see the full plot for your story, spoilers included, and a clear story ARC. Let's dive right in!

How to use hashtags correctly

What is a synopsis?

A synopsis;

  • Is a short summary of your complete novel, with plot lines, story ARCs, character names and spoilers included.

  • Should follow the same chronological order of your story. For example, if mid-way your character jumps back in time in the middle of the book, this should be included in the middle of your synopsis.

  • Is usually between 500 - 800 words, however, many agents have different requirements, so make sure you're looking at the agent profile and are following their requirements correctly. If a particular agent wants your synopsis to be 1000 words, that's what you bring it to.

  • Written in neutral, non-salesy language. Although a synopsis is part of your agent submission, and ultimately you want them to accept your proposal, your synopsis should not be written in salesy language, meaning leave out the rhetorical questions and ellipses for suspense.

Essentially, you need to let all the spoilers in your novel loose and make sure you're mentioning any and all dramatic moments, such as plot twists, deaths, betrayals and anything else.

Things to consider

There are a few things that you should consider when writing a synopsis, such as;

  • Your synopsis should always be written in third person. Even if your book has been written in first or second, your synopsis must be third person.

  • Capitalise or bold your character names when you first introduce them. Much like in your query letter, doing this helps make your synopsis easier to navigate and ensures your highlighting characters with potential character ARCs in the synopsis. Personally, I prefer to capitalise the names, rather than bold, as I feel bolding makes the names stand out too much and can look a little odd.

  • Your language should be professional and well-written. Don't include slang or relaxed language. In your synopsis, you don't need to worry about worldbuilding or descriptive language as, contrary to how you should write a novel when writing a synopsis you should tell not show.

  • Your file name should generally be in the format of title-synopsis. For example, my debut novel file name would be Cloaked Shadows - Synopsis.

The first paragraph

Your first paragraph should combine answers to the following questions;

  • How does your protagonist get involved in the story?

  • What conflict arrives to move the story forward?

  • What setting/world is your story based in?

  • What makes your book interesting?

Combine these answers to 50 words or less and have it as your first paragraph.

The second paragraph

In the second paragraph, you should start to talk about the major plot points of your story and how these affect your hero. Talk about only the main stakes. Does a certain death cause them to react a certain way? Maybe a geographical eruption happens, splitting the land and causing certain doom? Whatever it is, make sure you include it in your novel. In this paragraph, you should also introduce your villain and what their main goal is, as well as the most important secondary character (a love interest, best friend or family member for example).

The third paragraph

Talk about how the main conflict is resolved, how the characters are better off than they were at the start of the book, and, most importantly, how your book ends. You should also make sure you're closing the character ARC and clearly talk about how your characters have grown (or in rare cases, worsened).