Writing a Synopsis of a Novel

Knowing how to write a plot summary is often necessary when submitting a novel to publishers. Often just a page long, the story synopsis can take agonising hours to wrte. But what are the guidelines to writing a good synopsis?

Writing a Novel Summary

The definition of a synopsis is a plot brief to a story. Most publishers and literary agents demand that one is sent with the submission package. Often, the synopsis is read before the novel, so it is essential to get the synopsis word perfect.
Fiction Synopsis Writing
If the synopsis is not well written, regardless of how good the novel is, the novel will probably be passed on. The following guidelines might help the author in getting it right.
  • For the publishers’ benefit, state at the head of the synopsis page that it is a "synopsis", and include the title of the novel, the genre and its word count. At the foot of the page, give the author’s contact details.
  • Consider the synopsis as a mini novel, and start at the beginning, continue to the middle and end at the end.
  • At the beginning, inform on the time and the place where the novel is set.
  • As the characters enter the story, give a brief outline of each.
  • Pay special attention to important scenes and climaxes
  • Don’t try to tease with cliffhangers. Reveal the ending so that the agent can be assured that the story leads to a satisfactory resolution.
  • State the theme of the novel in a logical place, which might be at the beginning or near the end - ie, what is the underlying message of the novel?
The Story Summary

Often, the synopsis is 250 words long, but this might vary depending upon the submission guidelines

Times New Roman is the usual request, unless otherwise stated

  • Use single line spacing with standard margins
  • Impart the novel in the present tense
  • Dialogue should not be included.
  • Try to retain a formal style whilst telling the story
  • Watch out for typos and grammatical errors
  • The page must be pristine. Print a fresh copy if it becomes dog-eared

Guidelines to Writing a Synopsis

With such limited word count, every word has more significance. The thesaurus is invaluable at finding one word instead of two. Requesting the feedback of a trusted party might reveal hidden flaws and whether the synopsis is a compelling read. The following feedback might come in useful.

  • Does it engage the reader?
  • Does it portray the novel accurately?
  • Does the narrative flow?

If doubts persist, it might be best to put it away for the time being before reading it with a fresh eye.

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