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How to Write a Synopsis - Easy Steps and Format Guide

How to Write a Synopsis - Easy Steps and Format Guide

After writing a book or novel, writers often ask to draft a precise document, i.e., a synopsis. The publishers sometimes require it as they want to see what happens in a story. Therefore, it must present the entire narrative arc and reveal the ending.

Do not confuse it with a marketing description. Instead, it is an industry document that helps potential agents or editors to assess your story. Similarly, an appealing synopsis also makes it worth it for the audience to read the entire manuscript.

It is not that hard to write a good synopsis. However, it is important to understand that each literary piece has specific guidelines. Follow the easy tips given in this guide to learn how to write a synopsis in no time.

What is Synopsis?

A synopsis presents a brief summary of a literary work to the reader. It must include the following elements:

  • Major plot
  • Subplots
  • The ending
  • Character descriptions
  • Overview of major themes

Unlike the summary, it just gives a general overview of a story. Similarly, it covers the main conflict, the resolution, and the character’s emotional development.

A good synopsis appears in the query letter that you will send to the literary agent or publisher. Then they will use it to determine the marketability and salability of your writing piece.

Essential Parts of a Synopsis

Below given are the essential parts of synopsis writing:

  • Characters - Ensure to make the main and secondary characters of your story strong from the outset. They form the foundation of your literary work.
  • Conflict - A conflict is a central reason to keep the audience reading. Therefore, don’t forget to include its short description in the synopsis.
  • The narrative arc - It serves as a skeleton of your plot points. Thus, it must be an inciting incident from the beginning.

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What is a Synopsis for?

The following is the primary purpose of writing a synopsis for your book or novel:

  • It should tell the agent directly what the major plot twists are.
  • It must give a clear picture of the narrative arc.
  • It must identify the main characters of your short story.
  • It should give hints about the major character development arcs.
  • It must clarify the audience about your point of view, hook, premise, and pitch.
  • It must demonstrate the appeal and how the plot momentum increases.
  • It must share an ending that feels satisfying.

The agent will ask you for the full manuscript if your synopsis achieves the purposes mentioned above.

How Long Should a Synopsis Be?

It is recommended to keep a novel or book synopsis short unless there are any specific submission package guidelines. It is because most editors are not interested in a synopsis longer than a few pages. Thus, the standard length is about one or two single-spaced pages containing 500-1000 words.

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Formatting a Synopsis

Here is a complete format structure of a good synopsis:

  • Word Count - One to two pages, 500 words
  • Line Spacing - Single spaced or 1.5
  • Font Type and Size - Times New Roman, 12 pt
  • Margins - One-inch margins
  • Indentation - Paragraphs must be intended
  • Language - Clear, to the point, neutral, and business-like with no spelling mistakes
  • Presentation - Include your title, name, and word “synopsis.” Similarly, it must be written in the third person
  • Character Names - Put the character names in bold and CAPS while introducing them
  • Character Thumbnails - Give a short description of the characters in this section

Lastly, you can also insert a little snippet up of 2-3 lines at the top of your synopsis.

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How to Write a Synopsis?

Follow the below-given steps to write a synopsis.

Note Down the Main Characters

In the first step, a writer must note down the main characters, and plot. Keep in mind that only the most important characters will be mentioned in a synopsis. Also, ensure that each character should impact the book published in a significant way.

Apart from this, you should also emphasize character motivations at the beginning and end of the synopsis.

Enlist the Major Plot Points

The next step is to identify the narrative arc of your story. However, it does not include the subplots. The best way is to make a list of the major plot points that include the following:

  • The Inciting Incident - It must mention the central conflict of your story.
  • Events led to Rising Actions - It should discuss the incidents that lead to rising actions and the climax.
  • The Ending - This section should mention the story’s ending as it brings the plot and narrative arc together.

Listing down these points effectively helps to map out the actions and arc. It will also enable the readers to follow the story from beginning to end easily.

Identify the Unique Perspectives of the Story

The publishers read hundreds of synopsis every day. Thus, it is important to highlight the unique elements of the story to make it stand out. Similarly, you can also use a different angle.

Keep in mind the following elements to grab the agent’s attention:

  • Does your story have an interesting and appealing point of view?
  • Does the work have a unique twist?
  • Does your story fulfill a certain niche in the market?
  • Have you used the correct word choice and sentence structure?

Follow the Correct Format

It is better to follow the correct formatting guidelines and word limit while writing a synopsis. Remember, every agent has different requirements for synopsis length. Thus, before starting writing, look up a few publishing houses and check out the instructions specified by them.

Develop a Synopsis Outline

The next important step is to develop a detailed outline and begin with writing your synopsis. It includes the following paragraphs.

  • Synopsis Introduction - It should Introduce the characters and the conflict and provide a general summary of the entire plot.
  • Synopsis Body Paragraphs - These paragraphs should explain the major plot twists that happen in your story. Also, include the obstacles that the character faced and discuss how they overcome them. However, do not go into excessive details about subplots and minor actions.
  • Synopsis Conclusion - Here, describe how the major conflicts are resolved and reveal the story’s climax. Nevertheless, do not introduce any new information about the writing piece in this paragraph.

Proofread the Synopsis

After finishing writing, the last step is to proofread your work. Carefully read the synopsis for typos, misspellings, grammatical mistakes, or missing words. Also, remove any unnecessary words, phrases, or clichés.

You can also ask someone from your friends or family to proofread and revise it for you. Furthermore, hiring a professional can give you suggestions that you need to change before submitting it to an agent.

By the time it’s finished, make sure your synopsis should read like a summary. This means clearly and concisely written and follows the right amount of emphasis on the critical moments.

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Easy Synopsis Writing Tips

Follow the given tips to produce a well-written synopsis.

  • Even if your book is written in the first person, always write the synopsis in the third person. It maintains professionalism and a narrative distance.
  • Keep it short and focus on the clarity of words.
  • Don’t include dialogue in the synopsis. Instead, just summarize what the characters said.
  • Always write in the present tense and use active voice.
  • It should present a unique point of view and creative writing.
  • Include the elements that set your story apart from others.
  • Use the emotions of the characters to advance your plot and story.
  • Always state your category. It may include literary fiction, romance, love, interests, science fiction, fantasy, satire, and more.
  • It must convey the narrative arc, problems, plot, characters’ motivations, actions, and the ending.

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Synopsis Examples

The following are some examples of synopsis for you to understand better.

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Book Synopsis
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Movie Synopsis
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Report Synopsis
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Article Synopsis
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Novel Synopsis
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Thesis Synopsis

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Common Pitfalls to Avoid While Writing a Synopsis

Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid while writing synopses:

  • Do not ignore the word count and other writing requirements specified by the agents.
  • Never go into detail about the setting of the event.
  • Discuss a character briefly instead of going into unnecessary details.
  • Skip subplots and other minor details in a 500-word synopsis.
  • Mention the plot twist clearly for the readers to understand.
  • Do not forget to put the character names in CAPS or bold.
  • Avoid mentioning excessive characters and events. Instead, limit it to four or five maximum.
  • Do not editorialize your novel or book as it will confuse the readers.
  • Mention the title of the literary work and your name at the top of the document.
  • Never use a vague filename.
  • Never use badly structured sentences.
  • Don’t go astray and write a hook to intrigue the audience to buy your book or novel.

If you are not making these errors, then your synopsis is good to go. However, if you still need help on getting your synopsis structure right, take professional help.

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