Synopsis Time

Since so many of my friends have reached the query stage and asked me about writing a synopsis I thought I'd better blog about them. I hate doing a synopsis. They're hard! They are your first attempt at selling yourself and your story, which can be a bit of a transition for fiction writers. But, because it's your first attempt at selling yourself, it is also an important step. You will have to do some of your own promotion in the future and the synopsis can give you a little taste of that.

The synopsis isn't the time to be humble or secretive. Agents want a synopsis because they want to know how the story unfolds. Tell them. How should it read? That depends. Some agents don't want all the details and some don't want to know the ending. The amount of pages they give you can for it can be an indicator. When in doubt, ask how detialed they would like it.

Start with this premise: A synopsis should read like the cover of a book. I'm talking about the detailed inner cover, not a quick blurb on the back. Quick blurbs are for query letters. I'm also talking about the style, not necessarily the content, because like I said, some agents want all the details.

The main reason for a synopsis is so they can get a quick idea of your writing skills like plot and character. Most agents I've submitted to only want one page, double spaced. If you've ever tried to squeeze your synopsis onto one page like that, you know how painful it is. But don't worry those who want a detailed synopsis usually give you three to five pages. Above all, remember that a synopsis still has to be good writing. It shouldn't read like a play by play manual. Pull a couple of books off your shelf and read the inner jacket. It will give you a great place to start!

Still unsure? Check out this fantastic post by Chuck Sambuchino with eight great links on the synopsis:


  1. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I sort of cheated on this step. I only queried agents who did not request a synopsis first... and then I figured if none of them took me on, I would move to the ones who required a little more work! Ha ha! So the only synopsis I ever wrote was the one paragraph in my query letter. I hope I can keep that record going...

  3. I loved this! Thank you so much for the help. I'm in the process of working on a synopsis right now... and you've helped me a ton! But, I think Anne Riley might have the best idea. :)

  4. You ladies crack me up! It would be great to bypass the whole synopsis thing, since it's kind of like torture. But, since it prepares you for promoting yourself and your book, it's a necessary torture. Hopefully my post or the links make it a little less painless for you!

  5. I started my synopsis a couple of nights ago as a respite from editing my manuscript. I am enjoying the both the process of revision as well as condensing my novel into a scant few pages.

    Thanks for posting such helpful information! I am also blogging my journey along the writer's road. I will be sure to post a link to your blog!


  6. I'm glad my post helped you Cheryl. That's incredibly sweet of you to post a link to my blog! I shall have to visit yours!

  7. A friend and I were just conversing on the topic of the dreaded synopsis and what a pain in the you-know-what they are.
    Although I would love to skip the step as Anne is hoping too, I do agree with you, Heather, that it's a step every author must take. Eventually you will be asked to write one. Agents need the synopsis to show to an editor and an editor needs it to show the cover artists and publicity department. So no getting out of that nightmare!

  8. Unfortunately you're right, there's little chance of getting out of it. Besides, it really helped me start to learn how to sell myself and my story.


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