Tips for writing a synopsis

Time and time again we see that writers, even after slogging through writing a whole book, struggle to write a concise and punchy synopsis.

Fresh from giving her Fiction Masterclass on How to Get an Agent, Kirsty Mclachlan offers these great tips for synopsis writing:

A synopsis is not a retelling of your book – it’s a stand-alone tool – and will help the agent to decide if they want to see more of your book.

The chapters is the sample of your writing – but the synopsis is the outline of your narrative. A good list of questions to ask yourself when
writing a synopsis is:

  1. What is the story about?
  2. Who are the main characters?
  3. What do these characters want?
  4. Why do they want it?
  5. What stands in their way of getting it?
  6. What is the theme of the novel?
  7. What is the novel about?
  8. What is their journey?
  9. What happens to them in the end

Don’t leave any cliff-hangers – you must include the whole story.

Read your synopsis aloud so you get a sense of how the words flow.

It must make sense – I read a synopsis that I just couldn’t understand and I had to ask the writer to explain – when an agent’s time is short, you don’t want this happening.

Synopsis are told in the present tense.

Some further helpful tips when writing a synopsis are:

  • trim it down by taking out all adjectives and adverbs, unless really vital
  • don’t include secondary characters or plots
  • find someone who has a good ear to talk through the synopsis with and in trying to make them understand the story, you will hit all the right points
  • take a look at the backs of other books, TV listings and film blurbs.  They all manage to refine a story right down to the bare skeletons.

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