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How to write a synopsis

If you are publishing your book or looking into the process, then you will have probably heard of the word 'synopsis' floating around. A synopsis is essentially a summary of the main elements in a piece of work. Writing a synopsis is used in a lot of industries, from publishing to education. If you're publishing a book, it's essential to know how to write a synopsis. So, today we're going to look more specifically into writing a synopsis for your novel.

So let's start with the basics...

What is a synopsis?

A synopsis is a concise summary of a fiction novel. It typically includes the key plot points, main characters, central conflict and resolution. It's important to remember that a synopsis isn't like a blurb, that's supposed to entice readers, it's there to fully inform. Spoilers are a must! The purpose of a novel synopsis is to provide a clear overview of the story, its themes, and its main events without delving into the full narrative detail.

Why do I need to write one?

Novel synopses are often used by authors when pitching their work to literary agents or publishers, as well as by publishers and editors when considering whether to acquire a manuscript for publication. When seeking representation from literary agents or submitting directly to publishers, authors will need to provide a synopsis along with their manuscript. Agents and publishers use synopses to quickly assess the potential of a novel and determine if it aligns with their interests and publishing goals. This is the first your novel's first impression, which is why it's essential to get it right.

A well-crafted novel synopsis can effectively convey the essence of the story and capture the interest of potential readers or industry professionals. A synopsis can also be essential during the publishing process of your book:

Marketing and Promotion

Publishers may use a synopsis to develop marketing materials and promotional strategies for the book. A well-written synopsis can provide valuable insight into the story's appeal and target audience, helping publishers position the book effectively in the market.

Editorial Consideration

Editors within publishing houses often review synopses to evaluate the overall structure, plot coherence and thematic elements of a novel. This helps them determine whether the manuscript requires substantial revisions or if it fits well within their publishing program.

Rights Management

A synopsis can be used for negotiating various rights deals, such as foreign language translations, film adaptations or serialisation. Having a clear synopsis allows agents and publishers to communicate the essence of the story to potential buyers or collaborators.

How to write a synopsis?

Writing a synopsis for your novel can be a challenging task, but following these steps can help you craft a compelling and concise summary:

1. Read and understand your novel: Before you begin writing your synopsis, read through your entire novel to refresh your memory of the plot, characters and themes. It's essential that you're only writing your synopsis when your manuscript is fully finished. Make note of the main plot points, key events and character arcs as you go. This will provide you with something to consult as you write.

2. Identify the main plot elements: Determine the central conflict, main characters and primary storyline of your novel. Focus on the essential plot points that drive the narrative forward and contribute to the development of the story's themes and characters.

3. Outline the synopsis structure: Decide on the structure and length of your synopsis. A typical synopsis is 1-2 pages long and written in the third person, present tense, regardless of how your book is set. It should cover the major plot points from beginning to end, including the resolution.

4. Start with a strong hook: Begin your synopsis with a compelling hook or opening sentence that grabs the reader's attention and sets the tone for the rest of the summary. This can be a brief description of the setting, a character introduction or an intriguing plot twist.

5. Summarise the plot concisely: Provide a brief overview of the main plot, focusing on the key events, conflicts and turning points. Include enough detail to give readers a clear understanding of the story's progression, but avoid getting bogged down in unnecessary details or subplots.

6. Introduce the main characters: Briefly introduce the main characters of your novel, including their motivations, conflicts and relationships with each other. Focus on the protagonist and antagonist, as well as any other significant characters that drive the plot forward.

7. Highlight the themes and message: Discuss the central themes and messages of your novel, as well as any underlying symbolism or allegory. Explain how these themes are explored throughout the story and how they contribute to the overall impact of the narrative.

8. Include the resolution: Conclude your synopsis by summarizing the resolution of the main conflict and the ultimate fate of the characters. Tie up any loose ends and provide closure for the reader, while leaving room for interpretation and curiosity.

9. Edit and revise: Once you've written the first draft of your synopsis, take the time to edit and revise it for clarity, coherence and conciseness. Eliminate any unnecessary or redundant information, and ensure that the synopsis flows smoothly from start to finish.

10. Seek feedback: Before submitting your synopsis to literary agents or publishers, consider seeking feedback from beta readers, critique partners or writing groups. There are even services out there that can help you. Their insights can help you identify areas for improvement, highlight anything missing and ensure that your synopsis effectively captures the essence of your novel.

Remember, writing a synopsis may take several drafts, so be patient and persistent in refining your summary until it effectively captures the essence of your novel. By following these steps and putting in the necessary time and effort, you can write a compelling synopsis that effectively communicates the heart of your novel and increases its chances of catching the attention of literary professionals and readers alike.


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