The Dreaded Synopsis

If you’ve ever renovated or built a house from the ground up, you understand what a  monumental pain in the butt is.

Finally, after months of hard work and anticipation, you see the finish line. You’re certain once the paint goes on the walls, the finishing touches will go quickly and you’ll be moving furniture in place and hanging pictures on the wall.

Only, you soon discover the most tedious part is the finishing work. Weeks of wading through catalogs, and home improvement stores made it clear, light fixtures, switch plates, countertops, cabinet hardware, plumbing fixtures, made it clear, building the structure was only half the game. The magic lay in the details.

Writing a novel is much like building a house and writing the synopsis is the finishing work. Next to editing, writing the dreaded synopsis can be the most difficult.

Creating a riveting, one-page summary out of nearly 80,000 words is not as easy as picking out light fixtures, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I’ve done my homework and here’s what I learned.

Here Are A Few Tips, I’ve Learned About Writing The Dreaded Synopsis:
  1. It’s not rocket science. Don’t make it harder than it is.
  2. Write in an active voice – third person, or present tense.
  3. Introduce your character and the main storyline in the opening paragraph.
  4. It should be 500-600 words, single space – unless submission guidelines request otherwise.
  5. Use the same font as your novel – New Times Roman or Courier.
  6. Only explain character details relevant to the story.
  7. Avoid using names and places that are not significant to the whole story.
  8. Don’t highlight subplots that don’t move the story forward.
  9. Avoid anything that requires more information.
  10. Avoid long character, setting, too many names, long explanations, or dialogue.

What You Need to Include: (From How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis by Bryan Cohen)

  1. Introduce your main character.
  2. Establish what is at stake for your character.
  3. Increase the tension.
  4. Additional main characters? Repeat the above steps.
  5. Bring the characters together
  6. Raise the stakes for the characters
  7. Place the character in the worse case scenario of failing.
  8. End with a bang.

Other Resources






8 thoughts on “The Dreaded Synopsis

  1. I am putting off my synopsis and working on more novel edits instead. However, this post has made me feel more confident about getting back to it, and getting that synopsis done once and for all. Thanks for the tips and advice!


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