Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Dreaded Synopsis

To wrap up this little series on courting agents/publishers, I thought I'd tackle something I find particularly challenging (as do most writers, probably). The dreaded synopsis.

Many agents ask to see a synopsis (overview of your entire novel). Some require it to be brief (2 or 3 pages), while others don't mind a longer version (5-8 pages). The reason a synopsis is so difficult to write is because you're whittling down a 400-page book (or thereabouts) to a couple of pages -- while still trying to make the book sound interesting. An enormous task.

As with the query letter, I suggest writing the synopsis EARLY. Start writing it, in fact, as soon as you start writing your novel. This will make the process much easier.

Also making it easier are these two GREAT online articles I've recently found. I couldn't say it any better than this, so I'll let them do the talking:

How I Write a Fiction Synopsis

Synopsis Writing This list of articles is particularly fascinating. What a great idea! Here's Chuck Sambuchino's clever way of looking at a synopsis:

I always tell people that if they're confused as to how a novel synopsis should look, simply go to Wikipedia. Search any movie made in the last five years and the first thing on the page is the long "Plot" section, which is essentially a front-to-back synopsis. A lot of them are too long; a lot of them are poorly written; but some are good - and you will get a sense of how they work.


  1. Great stuff Traci. Thanks for the links. Synopsis are harder than queries, in my opinion. I've read suggestions to let others write your synopsis, but I don't see how anyone else could capture my voice. I just have to muddle through but these articles will help.

  2. Yes - synopses are always challenging for me. I struggle with making the story sound interesting enough. And - we're always taught "show, don't tell." But with synopses, it's the opposite!

  3. Thanks for the links! I'm just about to do a second synopsis as an agent requires a longer one. So will definitely be checking these out!

  4. The chore of writing that synopsis is actually great practice for what an editor may require up the road.....trimming down the entire manuscript to reach a certain word count, for ex.