The Dreaded Synopsis.

So true. 🙂


Every time I even think of writing a synopsis for a completed manuscript, I groan. How on earth does a writer go about condensing their full-length novel into a brisk two to five pages? In some ways it’s cruel to even make us do this, but once all is said and done, there is a great reason behind the request.

First, let me detail what a synopsis is.

  •  Briefly it’s an orderly outline condensed chapter by chapter which catalogs the completed book from beginning to end.
  •  That’s right, you must chop down your two-hundred-plus pages within your book to a measly two to five pages. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Yeah, sometimes the dreaded synopsis is called a sucknopsis, and I can see why.
  • Which reminds me–don’t go leaving the ending out as a lure. An editor needs to see it all in your synopsis. This is a common mistake made, which is why I’m particularly pointing it out.

 Okay, now I’ll break down why editors considering your submission require a synopsis.

  • The editor will learn very quickly if the story is suitable for their publishing house.
  • It’ll also alert the editor to how well you can put together the sequences of your story in a clear and concise manner. If you will, your synopsis is the map they use to judge your skill in weaving a story, for there is a difference between storytelling and writing. Oh boy, that’s a biggy.
  • A strong synopsis can also aid the editor in seeing the raw talent behind any possible writing faults. You see, we must all start somewhere, and for all debut published authors, an editor saw the diamond in the rough–and they read the synopsis first.
  • Ah-huh, are you sweating yet?

Now, what does the synopsis do for the writer?

  •  Apart from the headache of writing it, you’ll soon see if there’re any problems with your manuscript. If you struggle to map out your story and show your hero/heroine’s journey in a clear way, then perhaps there might be parts of your book that need a little more attention to detail.

Which leads to–what’s the best part of writing a synopsis?

  •  Ultimately, crafting a synopsis is a great warm-up of what’s to come when you have a contract. There are many working practices within each publishing house, and completing a great synopsis gives the writer a taste of the challenges to come.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget as I post each week’s blog, I update my current news. You’ll find “News this Week” at the top right of the main page of my website–and if you wish to see what I’m up to at a glance, well it’s all recorded right there.

I’d also like to point out some blog hops I’m participating in–and you’ll find those “hop buttons” pictured on the right-hand side panel of my website. I’m noting them because if you find you’re also publishing a book early in the New Year as I am, then you might like to blog hop yourself for your own book’s promotion. The hops are for readers, reviewers and writers to see what everyone’s up to, and there’re always great giveaways at each blog’s location.

You all have a fabulous week. We’re rocking great weather Down Under and about to head into summer on December 1st. Does that sound weird to everyone living in the Northern Hemisphere? Summer? Really? Yep, in New Zealand winter is out of the way, right in time for Christmas.

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11 thoughts on “The Dreaded Synopsis.

  1. What a great post! Ironically I’m the weirdo who likes writing those things (helped two writer friends with theirs). Thanks for the solid tips. I’ll definitely refer to them in the future! BTW, Happy Summer! Our seasons change on the 21st (June 21 summer solstice/Dec 21 winter solstice) and as we had a long hot summer I’m totally stoked for cold gray weather to sip coffee by. Enjoy fun in the sun and have a great week!

    1. Hey, Cadence,

      You’re fabulous for helping your friends with theirs. A synopsis is a scary thing to write the first time out. I take it the solstice is the shortest and longest days of the year? I’ll have to remember that’s how you tell your seasons apart. Catch ya later.


  2. Terrific post, as usual, m’Lady… reminds me of the tale of the son writing to his mum, saying “forgive me for writing 24 pages, Mum, I didn’t have time to write just one page” .!!!:):)

  3. I’ve was surprised to learn from your article that a synopsis is supposed to be a condensed version of chapter by chapter. Thank you for the enlightenment!

    I have a memoir of 92,000 words, and the other day a publisher wanted a 300 word synopsis. Chapter by chapter is not possible. The other publisher wanted 1,000 which I think I could have managed.

    Not happy with ANY of the ones I’ve written.

    Oh, I see you are a Kiwi – I was born in Greymouth!

    1. Kia Ora, my fellow Kiwi. A 300 word synopsis would be tough to write, but you just keep chopping it down. (I hate doing that too.) A 1000 word synopsis is 4 pages and about the norm–much more manageable as you’ve said.

      It’s not even unusual these days to be asked to construct a one sentence synopsis by the publisher. Before you say what? I’m not meaning the regular 2-5 page synopsis as that’s separate. But a one sentence synopsis in addition to the 2-5 page one. The one sentence is more like a pitch of your book, and this synopsis is dropped into the body of the query. Ie, here’s a one sentence synopsis of my soon to be released YA romance titled Protector as an example:

      “Not all goes to plan when one young Earth woman discovers she is soul-bound to a prince from another world.”

      A synopsis is tough to write. Don’t feel you’re alone with that. Thanks for leaving a comment. I love these.

    2. Thanks for the tip! Actually, I think a one sentence one, I could handle!

      “Nearly forced to flee her homeland to be with the man she loves, one woman battles her government and wins.”

      The 300? OK unless it has to be chapter by chapter. I will start working on the usual as per your description though. That is actually the best guidance I have come across of what a synopsis should contain, so again, thank you.

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