How to Write a Novel Synopsis

You’ve finished your novel and are ready to shop it out to agents and publishers. Besides writing a great query letter, there’s one other key task to complete: Write a novel synopsis.

Many beginning authors think of a novel synopsis as a summary of their books. But, when done right, a novel synopsis is like a drop of ocean water; like the drop, which contains all the elements of the ocean itself, the synopsis is an accurate distillation of a novel.

The idea of taking the key points of an entire novel and relaying it over just a couple pages can be daunting. Check out my tips to write a novel synopsis that best helps you on your way to publishing success.

Follow these 3 steps to write a novel synopsis:

1. Focus on story, not plot.

The biggest mistake I see authors make is writing only what happens. They make the synopsis so plot-oriented that a reader can’t see the story—the journey, the emotions, and the risks characters take—for the plot.

The key to a sizzling synopsis is allowing an agent or publisher to see how the story progresses. Do include plot points if they drive the story forward. Present how your story gets tenser as it unfolds and how your novel’s central problem grows bigger, testing your main character more and more until a climactic resolution. You don’t have to list every single character, but do include when key characters meet, especially if conflicts arise from their interactions.

2. Be concise and clear.

Keep a novel synopsis to one or two pages, max. Submitting just a couple of paragraphs or several dense pages can mark you as an amateur. Aim to write a novel synopsis that is tight and grabbing, similar to back cover copy. But the difference is that a synopsis also includes how the novel ends.

For maximum clarity, write in present tense, even if your novel is written in past tense. This makes it feel like the story is unfolding before a reader’s eyes and presents all the major points and main characters as clearly as possible.

3. Keep with the tone of your novel. 

Another mistake is writing a synopsis that doesn’t accurately represent the novel. A publisher may be turned off when discovering the novel synopsis doesn’t reflect the tone of the manuscript. Even if the synopsis was well written and intriguing, a publisher may be turned off when the manuscript doesn’t reflect what was promised. Like that drop of water that reflects the entire ocean, the novel synopsis should be an accurate impression of what to expect from the greater book.

What are your biggest questions on writing a novel synopsis? Ask me in the comments below.

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