Okay, I’m going to admit upfront that I am not an expert on the synopsis.

In fact, like many writers I screw up my forehead, get a pain in my stomach and feel the beginnings of a migraine coming on at the very thought.

I mean let’s face it, is there anything harder than writing a synopsis? (Except filling out a grant application of course.)

What does a synopsis ask of you? It requires you to condense what is sometimes a very long book into a few succinct sentences that display your skills and experience as a writer, introduce your characters, tell what happens to them, show the resolution – and sell your story – all in about as many words as I have just used on this post.

Recently, I was asked by a couple of writer friends to help with their synopses.

They weren’t my submissions, so fortunately, I didn’t feel that same mind numbing panic – and could actually think straight. In fact I was able to breathe deeply and realise this:

Yes, the synopsis is hard – and yes, it can make or break your submission, but if you put the panic aside, strip the task back to the basics, it is manageable.

To write a killer synopsis, I think you need to put yourself in someone else’s shoes… or slush pile.

Imagine you are the publisher/editor picking up your twentieth synopsis for the day. What would you hope to find?

As I ruminated over what makes up a good synopsis, I thought to myself, what would I want to know about this book?
This is what I came up with – these are the things that I think would help sell your story.

  • Who is the main character?
  • What does he/she want?
  • What is the main obstacle/enemy that/who stops him/her getting what he/she wants?
  • Does your MC get what he/she wants in the end?
  • How does the experience change his/her life?
  • Who is the audience for your book?
  • What are your credentials as a writer?

(As I mentioned, I’m no expert, so I’d welcome any suggestions/additions to this list).

I hope you have found this post useful and that it’s helped take the fear out of writing your synopsis. When you think about it, a synopsis is just words on a page. (I’ll try to remember that myself next time I’m stricken with terror at the thought of writing one.)

Happy writing.