Trust Me, I'm a Storyteller

May 26, 2011

Writing a Successful Synopsis.

 The very idea of writing a Synopsis can make a novelist shudder.

The Synopsis Scream

Compacting a full length work or a collection of stories or poems into a page or two to pitch to a publisher is an art in itself.

Synopsis head-scratching

Very few examples of successful synopses are available and the advice that is there can be conflicting. One excellent book is ‘A Decent Proposal’ by Rhonda Whitton, she shows step by step how to put together a book proposal that will impress publishers. It not only allows the writer to assemble a ‘decent proposal’ but also makes the writer really think about the different aspects of publishing a book. By going through the steps to create a book proposal, the writer has also had to answer various questions about their manuscript which makes them better prepared for the publishing process. I know, I’ve used it myself. However, it does only lightly touch on exactly how to write the dreaded synopsis.


Varuna newsletter March 2011 also has some advice. 

Author! Author! Blog 

This blog is written in a very accessible way and gives tips on How to Write a really good Synopsis.  Practical advice dished up with humour from the point of view of an editor and agency screener. Much of it is written tongue in cheek, nevertheless there is sound advice in there. It’s a UK blog but still relevant, especially if you are thinking of submitting work to the UK. Though, as I mentioned earlier, some of it conflicts with the advice given in ‘A Decent Proposal’ which is aimed at Australian authors.

The Author! Author! blog has loads of links to other pages with advice on book proposals, pitching a story, formatting and submitting a manuscript, editing as well as writing techniques.

Some of the advice that is on offer recommends chapter by chapter summaries, others say summaries should be avoided or that the chapters and scenes should be described rather than summarised. Some suggest writing a synopsis along the lines of a jacket blurb; others advise against it.

Most agree, though, that formatting should be in the style of a manuscript, with indented paragraphs and 1.5 line spacing; 2.5cm margins; 12 pt font. A running head with author name, book title and page numbers should be shown on each page (though the first page is optional). The book title and author name and the word ‘synopsis’ should appear at the beginning.

Successful Synopsis!

Have you written a successful synopsis?

Would you care to share it as an example?

Have you found some practical and sound advice about writing a successful synopsis?

Many writers are looking for advice, tips, templates or examples that will give them a strategy for writing their synopsis. Let us know what you think.



  1. This is important. A synopsis can ‘kill’ the interest of a publisher if a writer details the plot. The secret of a successful synopsis is to capture the theme, the spirit, the characters with teasers – what will happen?

    The aim is to excite interest.

    Comment by SusanneGervay — May 26, 2011 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks, Susanne, great advice from a very successful author.

    Comment by Sharon — May 26, 2011 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

  3. […] Writing a Successful Synopsis. ( […]

    Pingback by All Night Tweaking | Alison Amazed — August 17, 2011 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

    • Good luck with your synopsis and first 2000 words — what part of writing the synopsis did you find most challenging – capturing the style of the narrative, condensing the storyline, – to make your synopsis ‘sing with the playful, magical adventure I’m creating in the book’?

      I agree with Michael that many first chapters have too much setting up that can be woven into later chapters — narrative withholding is an excellent technique to keep the reader turning the pages to find out what will be revealed. The pruning and all night tweaking you did should make the pace better, too. It’s interesting that you say that the rhythm changes – is that for a particular purpose.

      & thanks for visiting RTW – I’m originally from Brighton and Hove, too, though now near Sydney, Australia.

      Comment by Sharon — August 19, 2011 @ 10:43 am | Reply

  4. […] Writing a Successful Synopsis. ( Rate this: Share this:FacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

    Pingback by The Dreaded Synopsis « The Word Nerd — November 2, 2011 @ 1:13 am | Reply

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