In my last post, I mentioned that I gave my query letter, the first pages of my manuscript and a synopsis to an agent as part of a Writer’s Digest Boot Camp. Of the three, my synopsis was the most successful. The agent had zero comments and she said it was the best she read in the Boot Camp!

How did I do it? By getting tips from blogs like The Write Practice (it’s true!).

How to Write a Successful Synopsis

What is a Synopsis?*

A synopsis is a summary of your manuscript. That’s it. You get a chance to answer the question “what’s your novel about?” in one single-spaced page in an omniscient narrative voice. Usually it is required in the query process (along with a query letter and sample pages).

One tip that took off a lot of pressure for me is that the function of a synopsis is primarily practical. The synopsis is not about voice and beautifully-crafted prose—its purpose is to let the agent know what happens.

Use the Snowflake Method to Write Your Synopsis

Of all the steps in the writing/query process, I felt the most prepared to write a synopsis. Why?

Because I used the Snowflake Method.

There are many ways to organize your novel, but I used the Snowflake Method, where you start by describing your novel in one sentence, then expand it to a paragraph, then to a page. The final step before sitting down and writing is creating a scene list.

This approach gave me a clear view of the big picture throughout the entire writing and editing process. I first wrote those sentences and paragraphs years ago and they still sum up my novel. While the page/synopsis isn’t quite as accurate, the major plot points are certainly there.

If you’re still in the writing phase of your novel, I definitely suggest taking a break to write a draft synopsis—I think it’ll make the writing and pitching process a lot easier down the line.

Tell Your Story (Out Loud)

Tell your story and record it. Imagine you’re explaining it to a friend who’s willing to listen for more than two minutes.

My guess is that you’re going to do the following: 1) focus on what’s most important 2) omit flowery language and 3) share the plot with enthusiasm.

This is all you have to do to write a good synopsis! Just make sure you remember to reveal the end.

*Synopses are relevant to many different writing projects, but this post is focused on fiction.
Have you written a synopsis? What tips helped you? Let us know in the comments section.

PRACTICE

What’s your novel (or other writing project) about? Take fifteen minutes to tell us in one paragraph (i.e. write a synopsis!).

When your synopsis is complete, share it in the comments section for feedback.

Happy writing!

Monica M. Clark
Monica M. Clark

Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).