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What is a synopsis? And WHY are they so hard to write?

It’s the first thing an editor or agent sees, it’s a vital part of your submission process (along with your covering letter), and it’s fiendishly difficult to get done!

In some ways, it’s easier to talk about what a synopsis isn’t. It’s not a book blurb, designed to entice you in and leave you hanging. It’s not a blank canvas for you to use your most exciting words on.  It’s not a chapter plan, going on for pages and pages.

A synopsis should be:

  1. One side – or at most two – of A4, single spaced
  2. A complete plot summary (including twists, turns and the ending)
  3. Easy to follow
  4. Include all your main characters

And why are they so hard to write?

Well there are two main reasons I see authors struggling. One is that they are just too close to their novel to be able to describe it – and they find it hard to work out what the editor needs to know. The other is that in writing the synopsis, they realise their plot isn’t going how they want it to.

If the first of those strikes a chord, try writing a synopsis of a published book – see what events you automatically prioritise and which you leave out.  Concentrate on getting the whole story told within a tight word count, and you will learn ways of summarising facts neatly.

Plot troubles need a different approach: try going back to your chapter plan – or writing one if you haven’t already – and see where the arc of the story is going adrift. Once the plot is clearer within the novel, the synopsis will be much easier to write.

If you found this article useful, you might like to try:

What is it in the ideal submission package - and what isn't?

Write a great synopsis

How not to write a synopsis