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Synopsis Writing - advice sought

edited July 2016 in - Writing Problems
I have had several tortuous attempts at creating a synopsis, but how does one "correctly" condense the contents of a 400-page novel onto a single page?

What does the synopsis have to include? What can you leave out? I have found synopsis writing difficult because I feel am giving away the entire story, which is something that just feels wrong. I want people to read the whole novel, not the cheat sheet.

I think I understand the point. Hard-pressed literary agents and publishers do not generally have the time or inclination to read an entire manuscript, but they want to know that you have a story that contains believable, interesting characters and events, and that there is a decent chance that it “works” from beginning to end.

So...should a synopsis mention every key character and every key event that occurs? Do you have to reveal the plot twists? For example, if the novel is a murder mystery, does the synopsis have to outline the character flaws that drive the main participants, the clues, the insights, the leaps of imagination, the dead ends, the red herrings? Does it, at the end, have to reveal who the murderer is, and their motive?

Do you have to write something that would result in the novel having no significant surprises for anyone who had already read the synopsis? They would already know that for 60% of the novel the suspicion is on the milkman, then for 30% it is on the gardener, but in the last 10% you find out it is the butler.

I know that I have asked a "Yes" or "No" question, but if anyone can spare the time to write something a little bit longer to help me understand this better, I would appreciate it. Thanks.


  • There is quite a long article here about synopsis writing. It rambles on a bit but does have some useful stuff in it.


    But yes, you do need to include all of the plot including whodunit (if anyone did). Otherwise how will the agent/publisher know if the plot makes sense?
  • Creating a synopsis?
    I read all the articles I could find on the subject before even starting!
    Think of it as a precis, if you learned how to do that in school, and yes, you do have to give away the ending.
  • 5 W's - Who, What, Where, When & Why.

    Cover that and you're almost there - I hate doing these too and my agent usually gets me to do 20 drafts before its even close to being right.
  • 6 W's, datco - you missed out 'What happens in the end'.
  • Precis is THE right word for a synopsis. It is simply reducing down all the eventful drama happening to the characters into a manageable sized context to allow an insight into one's story. Master that, and you'll probably grab an agent's attention.
  • . . . and you can save a word by not using 'reducing down' as it is a tautology.

    Sorry, Lydia, I can be such a bitch, but I was nice to you about the Kindle question :x .
  • No. Do correct me when i go wrong. No proper education so any time i slip up, do put in a little suggestion. I'm open to learning and correcting mistakes. Just worry i am set in my ways now and not pliable as i would want to be...?
  • What an excellent attitude!

  • A synopsis conveys the narrative arc, a proof of the hassle or plot, the characters, and how the book or novel ends. It ensures person movements and motivations are sensible and make feel. It summarizes what takes place and who modifications from beginning to give up of the story. Regards: Professional Dissertation Help
  • Sorry, Jadewyatt, but you've given yourself away with your badly written post.
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  • A synopsis should also have the same kind of shape as the novel. The mid point of the  novel should be the mid point of the synopsis. No need to mention all of the characters, but the main ones. No need to mention everything that happens – only the main story movements. You have to reveal twists and the ending.

    Bear in mind that the point of the synopsis is not to tease a potential reader. The point is to make an agent or publisher read your work. They need to know if the story looks workable and consistent. A poorly written synopsis suggests that the novel is also poorly written.

    I never mention themes, metaphors, allegories etc. I think that scares people off. Just the characters and the story. It has to look like an interesting journey

    Synopses are difficult. Even more difficult is the blurb on the back of the book. 
  • It's all part of the process, isn't it? I don't have synopsis or blurb experience, but I can tell you that writing an article pitch for an unknown editor is equally hard.
  • Synopsis, I hate them...
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