How to Write a Short, Sweet Synopsis.

Hi. It’s me, Ollie. I hope you’ve been having a wonderful new year. James and I have been snowshoeing over the last two weeks. We apologize for the late post. I been visiting with friends in a kennel, and James marched in Washington, DC. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe it was a military march in which James participated. But I could be wrong.

As promised, I’ve allowed James to use my blog for yet another of his writing concerns. He’s been querying agents over the past month or so. He tells me that part of that process is providing agents with a synopsis of his novel. When I asked him what a synopsis was (no, I don’t know everything even though I pretend that I do some times), he told me to read my blog. Without further ado, let’s get reading….

(Ollie playing in the snow while James snowshoes.)

The first thing to consider is the purpose of a synopsis. A synopsis helps the agent (or publisher) decide whether your novel is worth reading. Since their time is valuable, and reading a novel takes time, a synopsis should be short, concise (sweet) and let the agent know how the arc of the story progresses and ends. Yes, it has to divulge the ending.

The second thing to consider is the length of a synopsis. Typically it should be no more than six hundred words. A common theme: less is more. However, make sure you follow an agent’s submission guidelines as one agent will ask for a one page synopsis while another may not specify, or ask for a longer version, i.e., a full synopsis.

Once you know the purpose and length, it is time to think about how the synopsis should flow. What are the major plot lines that should be discussed? Which characters and their conflicts should be mentioned? In order to keep the synopsis short and to fulfill its purpose, many twists and turns and characters will need to be left out. As such, only the most salient pieces of the story should be included. Remember, major conflicts and resolutions should be spelled out.

Next on the list is to begin writing the novel’s synopsis. The first paragraph should identify the protagonist, his/her major conflict and the setting (time and place). The last paragraph should provide the conflict resolution – how the book ends – and what this means for the protagonist. What comes between the beginning and ending should include the plot lines driving the conflict and how it is dealt with.

That’s all there is to it.

Actually, there are other things to consider, as well as some things to avoid.

Things to consider:

  • succinct, crisp language in a synopsis is more impressive than literary language
  • write the synopsis in third person, active voice
  • include only those plots and characters that help make sense of the ending
  • incorporate key emotional reflections: express feelings
  • at the first mention of key players, put their names in all caps
  • a synopsis is where you tell and not show

Things to avoid:

  • don’t include back cover (sales) copy
  • do your best not to only include sterile language
  • forget about including every character’s name
  • never try to unravel what the story means
  • avoid the use of dialogue unless pertinent to the story
  • flashbacks and backstory should be left out unless the conflict, actions and ending wouldn’t make sense without them
  • don’t put subheads or sections unless the narrative structure requires it

Have you ever written a synopsis? Did it follow this format? What experience do you have to share? You are welcome to let us know in the comment section. We always enjoy hearing from you, so please leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.

In two weeks, James and I will begin a new series. I asked him if I could revisit the first year we were together. He thought that was a wonderful idea. James wrote a series of poems that I’ll incorporate. We hope you’ll stay tuned and read each one.

Until next time,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of
All photos © James Stack 2017 unless otherwise indicated

2 thoughts on “How to Write a Short, Sweet Synopsis.

  1. Excellent advice on writing a synopsis. I hate that every agent or publisher seems to want something different – one page synopsis, three page, five page…it would be great if a writer could just write one synopsis for everyone.

    Can’t wait for your new series! I’d like to know more about the first year you two were together. Dragon is very interested, as well, and she sends her best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. James wrote an entire series of poems about my first year. He submitted it to a slew of contests but no one wanted to publish it. I told him we should write about it here while I still remember it. Surprise of surprises, James agreed. He was worried that posting his poems here would place them out of running for publication elsewhere. I told him to get a grip. Then he reminded me that two of them have been published – one won an award. Still, I got him to bite the bone, so to speak.

    Tell Dragon it is always nice when she enters my dreams – we have so much fun together. I can’t wait to see her in drag (like of like “in person,” but you get the drift).


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