Revisited: How I Conquered the Synopsis



Bite me, synopsis.

So, I’m attempting to write my first synopsis. And it’s bringing back all these horrible memories of being paralyzed with fear–literally, can’t write a word, paralyzed–when I first started writing and I read all of these how-to books and web sites. Here’s what I’ve gathered, so far:

  1. It’s the opposite of show-not-tell.  Tell, tell, tell!  Okay, so do what I spent ages learning how not to do?)
  2. Tell your whole story, don’t leave unanswered questions.  But leave out the parts, like secondary characters and subplots, that aren’t important to the developing relationship.  (Well, if they’re not important, why are they in the book at all?)
  3. Focus on the developing relationship, not the external plot.  (Are they supposed to be that easily separable? )
  4. A page for every 10k words is acceptable, but an agent may only want 3…or 5… or anything that’s not what you’ve already done.  (So I have to condense it further?  Should I write the long one and then try to make it smaller or should I just do one for everyone?)
  5. Make sure your voice, the voice that should be strongly present in your story, is also in your synopsis.  (All that and I have to write it well?  And why is it harder to write naturally… because of the flipping rules, that’s why!)

I think you can see where I’m going here.  I can’t find anything good, solid, “Here’s how you do it,” or even an example of a book I’ve read.  That would be awesome.

And after this, I’m going to be crafting a query letter.  Which will be nifty since I have no writing credits to my name.  I did find this, which may help, I’ll let you know.  The Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters

Oh, and if I ever do figure out how to write a synopsis, I’ll share the wealth.

EDIT: This looks promising: Writing the Tight Synopsis. I’m going to try this, starting with the one page and building up. Will update on my progress.



I Wrote a Synopsis!

Yes.  You read that correctly.  After much nail-biting and teeth-gnashing online, I wrote a synopsis.  I’m tempted to use lame web animated fireworks.  That’s how proud/excited I am.

Want to know how I did it?  Fine.  I’ll tell you.  But, I suspect, it’s one of those things that you can read a dozen articles about, but eventually you just have to hunker down and write the damn thing.  Much like writing a book.

  1. I went through my book and summarized the turning points and points  of conflict.  This was 12 pages long.  A crazy length for a synopsis.  Some editors or agents will take ten.  Some will take five.  Most want 1-2 pages.  But don’t despair!
  2. I included my GMC in the first paragraph or two, when introducing my characters.  It’s the easiest way to explain who they are, what they want, and what’s in their way.
  3. I highlighted my turning point scenes.  If you’re not writing to turning points, here’s a clue.  Those I trimmed a bit, but mostly left intact.
  4. What was left, the ‘in-between’ I pared down, summarized, but with a goal of maintaining my voice throughout.
  5. Look for what must be included, look for what must be included that you can say with less words, and look for what is not absolutely essential.  Don’t include subplots, don’t include dialogue (more than a line, but I advise against it).

Things to remember: Write in present tense.  Include the ending–don’t ever leave a hook and suggest the editor/agent read your book to find out.  Practice–just like writing, it’s okay if it’s bad at first.  You can fix it.

Even Later


I wrote this post, which I’m not going to include, and made available my Word Template for writing a synopsis. Which may not work for you, unless, like me, you write with GMC and turning points strongly in mind.

The Synopsis Template | Always available on my Downloads page.

Update 09.03.2011: I updated the synopsis template.  Turns out, I know a little more than I did a few years ago. ;-)

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