Thursday, May 1, 2008

Writing the Synopsis Part 2

I thought today that I would just post all the tips I've received through the years about how to write a synopsis. I hope you'll all add your own tips. I'll also share methods that have worked for me.

The basics:
1. Write it in 3rd person present tense (even if the manuscript is written in past tense and/or first person).

2. Add in your "voice" (or I guess you should say the voice of the POV characters). If it's a humorous story, you'll show a little of the humor, etc.

3. Tell everything, even the ending! Don't end with a teaser. The editor or agent wants to know exactly "whodunit." Also, make sure all plot threads are tied up.

4. Only name the main characters. This might include secondary characters, but only if they're important. Otherwise, just say "her best friend" or "his butler."

5. Length can really vary. Find out what the particular editor or agent prefers if you can. A rule of thumb that I've heard before is to have one page of synopsis for every 10,000 words of the manuscript. So a 50k word manuscript would have a 5 pager. Mine usually start out about 10-12 pages, so I try to cut them down to about 7 or so. I've also used a one- or two-pager for contests.

6. Include only what you need to to tell the story. Don't get bogged down in details. Just hit the main plot points and include the character growth arc.

I found a summary in Carolyn Greene's Prescription for Plotting notebook to be helpful. She shares how to write a shorter or longer synopsis.

I hope you'll share some tips with me!



  1. Missy,
    Great tips. I know you and I have talked about the snowflake method. I think that works great, too.

  2. One thing I noticed from most of the agents that accepted partial proposals is that their guidelines usually included a 3-5 page synopsis. So I always start out with a 3-pager so I can adjust the length as needed.

  3. Jenn, I've heard some authors say the shorter the better, especially when they're writing them to sell on proposal. That way they're not as tied down to the story since it may change as they actually write it.

    Lindi, I really do want to try Randy's Snowflake Method sometime! Maybe we can plan a weekend by your pool to do that. :)