Over the years that I’ve been writing, I’ve come across a few posts from agents detailing what a synopsis is, what they expect from it, etc. I thought I would share these posts with you.
- Nathan Bransford used to be a literary agent. Now he’s an author. This is a very helpful post when you’re writing a synopsis. You can find it here.
- BookEnds, LLc- This is the MOST helpful post about writing a synopsis I’ve found. It gives explicit details on what you need to do with a synopsis and what the agent is looking for. You can find it here
- Miss Snark (who’s an anonymous literary agent) gives a good description of why an agent asks for a synopsis. Find it here.
- Carly Watters is a Canadian literary agent. She has lots of good info on here blog. Here is post with a few tips about writing a synopsis.
- Chuck Sambuchino is actually an editor. Here is an example of a synopsis that he wrote.
I hope some of these are helpful! What resources do you consult when it’s time to write your synopsis?
Writing a synopsis can be tricky. Most writers do not enjoy doing it. Here is a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you slog through your synopsis.
- Do not write it in the form of a list, like an outline. A synopsis is NOT an outline!
- Do not include a detailed breakdown of each chapter.
- Do not include every scene in your story.
- Do not include most (if any) of the subplots.
- Do not include minor characters.
- DO NOT include dialogue.
- Do not write it in anything other then third person, present tense, even if your book is written differently.
- Do not ramble. Give the agent or editor what they ask for, whether it’s a one sentence synopsis (yes, they ask for this!), a one paragraph synopsis, a one or two page synopsis, or the “long synopsis”, which is generally three to five pages (double spaced) or one page for every 25 of your novel.
- DO write a summary of your novel, in narrative form. (It’s basically a dry story, with NO dialogue. Occasionally, people will include a few lines of dialogue, but it’s really better to avoid this.)
- Do state the premise of your novel.
- Do tell your ending. DO NOT leave it out, thinking that you will hook the agent by doing so. They ask for a synopsis so that they can see if you know how to plot. If you leave it out, they will only be irritated with you.
- Do make sure you cover the high points of your plot in the synopsis.
- Do remember that a synopsis is a sales tool and try to make it as exciting as you can.
- Do try to show your characters’ emotions and motivations for their actions.
- Do introduce you main character first.
- Do include age and gender if it isn’t obvious.
- Do give a sense of time-period, setting, and mood (Serious, funny, snarky, etc.).