Writing a Synopsis

Writing a synopsis of your novel for an agent or a publisher takes a particular sort of talent.

In this article, FWS scriever Leela Soma gives some useful advice as to how to tackle this most challenging of writing tasks.

“Putting together my first synopsis was even more strenuous than writing my first book.”

What is a synopsis?

  • Synopsis, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is  a condensed statement or outline (as of a narrative or treatise).
  • A synopsis is a brief summary that gives audiences an idea of what a composition is about.
  • Writing a synopsis is to inform the reader, a potential agent or publisher of the book type.

First Writing Exercise:(Five Minutes)write down what your WIP ( WORK IN PROGRESS) is about. Write a short paragraph describing your novel, non-fiction, memoir, collection of poems or short stories.

The three main parts of the synopsis are:

  1. Characters: The main and secondary characters build the foundation of your story. Therefore, make them strong and memorable from the outset.
  2. Conflict: It is the main part that the audience reads. Include a short description of the primary conflict in your synopsis.
  3.  Narrative Arc: From start to end, the narrative arc is the main framework of your plot. However, the main plot should be multilayer for the synopsis.
  4. Exercise 2:  (Five minutes.)Check your paragraph you wrote in the first exercise. Did they have these 3 elements in them?

Major Plot Points

The literary agent or publisher wants to be aware of the story’s major plot points. Therefore, in this step, you will create a list of major plot points, including:

  • Inciting Incident: It will show the central conflict of the story.
  • Rising Action: It should describe what happens in the interval between the inciting incident and the climax.
  • Climax: It is the most exciting part of your book synopsis, so don’t forget to add them.
  • Resolution: It is the end of the story that brings the plot twists and narrative arc together

If your WIP doesn’t have major plot points, then it is worth thinking of the arc of the story and its protagonist.

Exercise 3: ( 10 minutes)

Write the synopsis 500-800 words.

Check that your synopsis has all the elements above.

What else is the agent or publisher looking for?

Your voice. Make yours stand out. This could be done with quotes from your book. They are looking for your style, your prose that captures their imagination.

Some like to describe their books that are similar to others. This would be better in the query letter rather than in the synopsis.

When do you write a synopsis?

I would do it both at the start and again at the end. The novel maybe very different from the first planned synopsis. Drafting and redrafting of the synopsis is as important as the mss as it is the first thing an agent or publisher would look at.


  1. Keep your synopsis short. 500-1000 WORDS Maximum
  2. Have the three elements in it.
  3. Write in third person even if your novel is in first person.
  4. Show your voice, writing style.

Exercise 4: 

Do the following with your own WIP

  1. Write one sentence to describe your novel.
  2. Expand that one sentence to a paragraph.
  3. Now write your synopsis aiming for between 800- 1000 words.

Some useful sources that I found useful:

1.  https://literaryconsultancy.co.uk/2019/10/how-to-write-a-synopsis/

2. https://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/how-to-write-a-synopsis-for-your-novel/ ( Simple and good)

3. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-novel-synopsis-step-by-step-guide ( Excellent for a chance to look at the greats- Margaret Attwood, James Patterson and even Chef Ramsay, so gives you all genres and would cover your WIP)

4. https://examples.yourdictionary.com/synopsis-examples.html  ( Great examples from Harry Potter to Fairy Tales)

Thank you ,Leela, for the very practical and workable advice.