The Story Synopsis

I don’t know why I dread writing a synopsis of my books so much. It’s sort of funny, because a lot of writers I follow through blogs and on Twitter also express their distate for the dreaded “s” word. It seems to be right up there with the query letter. *Cringes*

One agent in an article read a few years back said that she finds it amazing how people that can write a 60-100K manuscript struggle so much with writing a synopsis about it. I could almost hear her laughing at us. lol.

Truth is, it is harder to sum up a whole novel into a few paragraphs than it might seem. It isn’t just compressing the key parts of the story, you also have to know which parts to include and word it in such a way that will hook a potential reader. It can be a little stressful. Of course there are far worse things in life, but the summary on the back of your book cover or on your book’s Amazon page can literally make or break sales.

What I find helps is looking at the backs of other books in a simliar genre to get a feel of what others are writing. Plus, it’s kind of an inspiration for me to also write something as catching as something in a book store. Also try to ask yourself: If I was out shopping for a book, what would make me want to buy it rather than put it back on the shelf?

It is time to write a catchy summary of my second book. Literally after this blog post, that is what I will be working on. I find that this one might be especially tricky, because I have four main characters (oops) and there is a huge plot switch in the middle where it almost switches genres (Still under the horror umbrella, but just with a different setting). A complicated story, to say the least.

Let me know if you have any helpful tips or insights regarding writing a great summary.


  1. Hi, Sara. A ‘synopsis’ by its very nature inspires fear in writers. What’s the reason? Every writer knows that agents & publishers demand short, concise synopses; folks in their position have little time to waste, and reading a wordy ‘synopsis’ just plain ticks them off.

    Writers want as much space as possible because they know their synopsis will make or break the deal and and they dearly want to ‘make it’. The thought of compressing their moving, warm/exciting adventure/romance/historical fiction whatever to captivate the reader, and words are their only way to do that. But a synopsis takes the advantage of their facility with words away from them. It’s sort of like committing suicide by word processor. The synopsis drains all of the excitement right out of their tale.

    Writers who favor short stories are at a great advantage when it comes to a synopsis. Short story writers do not have the luxury of a gazzillion words. They’ve got maybe 4 or 5 thousand. Brevity is king in that field.

    I have a special place in the depths of my heart for chapter-by-chapter synopses. There, you have to kill yourself over and over in each chapter of your manuscript…

    It just takes all of the fun right out of being a novelist.

  2. When you said, “It’s sort of like committing suicide by word processor. The synopsis drains all of the excitement right out of their tale.” it really hit home with me. So true!

  3. Ooooh. Your book sounds intriguing. Love to catch ip with that one too–(still haven’t read the “Sword” boook of yours on my Kindle) So bad, I know–been busy, with revisions, and any extra time is on research. But love the genre switch–sounds coool. I once read for a Synopsis, read through each chapter, writing down the main tidbits from each, then sting them all together–viola! Ha! I did try this, wether mine is good, I haven’t heard. But it does simplify. I like simplified. 🙂
    Best of luck, and sweat.

  4. Sorry, typos abound in my last post. Must get in habit of checking over what my caffeine fingers put out. Arg.

  5. Hi, Sara. Interesting read. I haven’t gotten this far in my career yet, so this is new to me. Are you really expected to write the synopsis for the back of your book? Seems like a marketing person would be better at this sort of thing, not the author. That sounds strange to me.

    • I was almost thinking of doing a search for affordable book cover writers but I am just so cheap right now. It might be worth it though if I get stuck.

      If you go with a publisher, then they would have a marketing person do that for you, but a self-publisher usually does this to cut costs.

  6. I completely agree with the horror of perfecting a synopsis. It’s a totally seperate skill and I’d pay someone good money to come up for a killer one for me. Hmmm, imagine if that was possible?

  7. I have attempted to write a synopsis, twice for my novel…..and both times I’ve screwed it up and thrown it in the bin. I want my synopsis to be exciting, make the reader go “oooooo, that’s interesting” but I just don’t seem to be able to write it lol

    Good luck hon xx

    • I know exactly how you feel. I did a draft yesterday and then let it sit. I am going to take this thing one one day at a time.

      All the best with your own synopsis. xx

  8. What makes writing a synopsis even harder is the varying lengths. Some agents want 1 page, some don’t specify. I’ve been told that synopses are in the present tense, even if the novel is past. That seems to help for some odd reason.

    • I know it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what each agent is looking for if they don’t specify. Thanks for the tip about writing in present tense. It probably makes the synopsis sound more active.

  9. Just wanted to say –I totally understand! Synopsis writing is hard. How to write a quick summary of an entire novel, without sounding like middle school book report, and still have it be in your own “voice?” No clue. Still trying to figure it out myself. 🙂

    Best of luck!

Comments are closed.