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Writing a book synopsis can be a challenging task, but it is an essential part of the process if you plan to submit your manuscript to literary agents or publishers. Some agents and publishers ask for the first chapter of your manuscript to get the feel for the entire book, but since most works don’t start off at a million miles an hour like the Millennium Falcon, this can be an iffy proposition for an author.
Many more agencies and publishers require a one to two-page synopsis of your manuscript or proposed work effort for a better overview. As a result, a synopsis should be short and to the point. It is not a book report, an essay, a “blurb”, nor is it a rundown of your entire plot. There are a number of key concepts one can use to write a compelling book synopsis.
Start by relaxing; take a deep breath. A synopsis is the dreaded exercise none of us enjoy. But no one knows your story better than you. All you need to do now is prove it and this is your chance. Think of this activity as an opportunity to ensure your plot is working the way you expected it to before your manuscript gets to an agent or publisher. Does the narrative flow? Does the plot make sense? Do characters grow? In this way, a synopsis serves the author more than those who will read it later.
Where do I start?
There are three easy ways to begin a synopsis:
If it’s good enough to open your novel, it’s good enough to open your synopsis.
If you have a brilliant hook line that really sells the conflict at the heart of your story, then include this at the beginning of your synopsis.
If you’re going to indulge in one, stylish, luxurious sentence anywhere, it’s best to have it as an irresistible opening line.
Summarize the plot concisely. Focus on the main events and turning points in the story, highlighting the most exciting or significant moments.
Highlight significant themes or messages that you want to convey to the reader.
Are we in the present, past, or future? Your novel’s primary setting should be clear early in the synopsis.
Write in the third person even if the novel is written in the first person. This will help you give a precise overview of the plot points. Skip the dull or resting parts; include the complications and climaxes.
If you are having issues, the answer is almost always to simplify. Return to your plan with the fundamental beats of your story. Try telling your story to yourself again before writing the synopsis.
Introduce the major conflict or obstacle that the protagonist faces, and explain how they try to overcome it through these main events and turning points. This is the heart of the story.
The main character(s) should be identified in the first paragraph. A synopsis also needs to introduce other key characters, what’s at stake for them, and the challenges they face in the context of the events and turning points above.
Adjectives can sometimes be distracting in an actual novel, but in a synopsis, they can be useful to quickly transmit character types and immediately drawing your reader into conflicts. The adjectives in a synopsis should typically describe character personalities and motivations rather than appearance, because these are what impact their actions, and allow the agent to understand the mood of their scenes.
A good synopsis is the ultimate plot spoiler. Tell them nothing but the juicy bits. After all, you won’t be able to give a useful description of your twisty thriller if you hide all the plot turns. If your story is interesting, spoilers of your plot twists shouldn’t stop an agent from reading on. It should encourage them.
You may want to wrap up the synopsis with a conclusion that summarizes the story’s resolution and how the protagonist has changed (if at all) as a result of his / her experiences.
The synopsis needs to be understood by a complete stranger, so ensure you’re not assuming any knowledge about your story that an outsider couldn’t know. If you’re unsure, try sharing your synopsis with a trusted reader. See what they remember if you ask them to tell your story back to you.
Finally, there’s no one uniform template for a synopsis but structure it in paragraphs, not bullet points as I have done here. Look up your proposed agent / publisher on the internet, find their website, and follow any detailed guidelines for submission on each specific website.
How Do I Write a Book Synopsis?
About Writing | The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage