Advice for Writers: How to Write a Good Synopsis

A synopsis is often the first introduction a publisher has to your novel, and, as we all know, first impressions are everything! It’s an elevator pitch via email, and you only have so many words to get it right, so every single one counts.

You’d think, that after writing a manuscript with tens of thousands of words, a simple synopsis would be a breeze, right? But we know condensing your hard work can be daunting, so we’ve put together some Do’s and Don’ts to make sure you submit a synopsis so shining that no publisher can resist diving into your full manuscript.

•  Do keep it short. I know it sounds almost impossible at first, but you should be able to condense your story into about 500 words. Think of the essentials and go from there.

•  Don’t include every little detail. Does your main character have fierce red hair that whips through the wind like a wildfire spreading across the hot, summer plains? Amazing. But it’s not crucial information. This rule applies to plot, as well: subplots need not be mentioned. Leave them as a nice little surprise for when the publisher digs into the complete text.

•  Do neatly express the basic structure of your novel. Include major events that move the story along. You don’t necessarily have to fully reveal every plot twist, but, if there is one, that’s obviously a big draw.

•  Do format it neatly. This shouldn’t be a rambling of the first 500 words that come to mind about your plot. Give each main point a new paragraph. Bold or all-caps your characters names upon introduction for easy navigation. Start at the beginning and end with the end. This is your first chance at making an impression and proving you can organise your thoughts is a great place to start.

•  Don’t include cheap tricks or gimmicks. In this business of ever-competing creativeness, you may find yourself trying to employ unique (or so you think) tricks to get your work noticed. More often than not, these ploys don’t come across well through an email to a publisher who has no prior experience with you. If your manuscript is truly impressive, that will show without need for any additions.

As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with tips that you’ve found useful for synopsis writing!