S … is for Synopsis

S[1] is for synopsis. In terms of writing, it is also for sex, suspense, style, senses, strength, support, spelling and of course story. In this post I’ll concentrate on synopsis, because I think it would be easy to write a post on each of the others too.

What is a synopsis?

It’s a brief summary, usually of a novel.

Are there any guidelines for writing a synopsis?

Yes, there are several, and I’ll list them here as best I can, but as I suggested in my post on resources, double-check out the topic elsewhere. What I aim to do here is give the novice, or unsuspecting novel writer an insight into a word that strikes terror into the heart of many writers.

1. It should be written in a similar style to your book: humorous, serious, or whatever.

2. It should be written in the third person point of view. i.e.: he, she, they. Not; I.

3. It should be written in the present tense.

i.e. ‘Karen is embarking on a voyage of sexual discovery.’

   Not, ‘Karen was embarking on a voyage of sexual discovery’,

   Not, ‘Karen will embark on a voyage of sexual discovery’.

4. It should introduce your main characters and their conflicts, but should not be a cast list.

5. It should give a clear idea of the plot: serial killer, kidnapper, sexual predator, etc.

6. It should flow logically so is easily understood by the recipient, (publisher, agent, editor).

7. It must show the conclusion to the story. No secrets, and no cliff-hangers. You cannot be ‘precious’ about the ending – it must be clear.

Is there a format for a synopsis?

Yes, wouldn’t you just know it. Unless advised to do it differently, a basic layout is formed in the top left corner of the first page. Single or double-spacing depends on the requirements of your recipient, and the length of the synopsis.

Synopsis of: Beyond The Law

Genre: Thriller

Word Count: 150,000

By: Tom Benson

Once again, I’ve tried to give a taste of what is a deep and detailed topic. The list I’ve given is not all-encompassing, but I hope for some of you guys at least, it has dispelled one of the myths surrounding the synopsis – like it is easy to write. lol

Thank you for reading, and I’ll be back tomorrow with ‘T’.



9 thoughts on “S … is for Synopsis

    1. Hi Chris. Yes, you read it right. Some writers might write a synopsis prior to completing, or possibly even commencing their novel. I leave mine until I’m well underway, although I have a simple skeleton structure to follow from the outset.
      Some writers don’t attempt writing a synopsis until the novel is complete, which is fine if that works for them. As long as the synopsis is not to be sent out to any ‘official’ reader, you can do as you please with it.
      If however, you intend to send your manuscript and synopsis to an editor, agent, or publisher – it must show the conclusion.
      These people do not want to embark on reading a novel unless they know the ending ‘works’.


  1. Thanks for summarising your views on a synopsis so succinctly. From what I’ve read elsewhere and the innumerable books and varying guidelines to be found, it’s a another of those topics I’ve sort of put to the back of my mind, much like book blurbs and a third person biog, until such time as I really need to tackle them head on, so any tips and hints beforehand are always much appreciated. Thanks…


    1. It’s a pleasure mate. A lot of folk don’t appreciate just how much goes into successful writing – even if you don’t go down the traditional route. Apart from paying about three editors and an agent, I try to follow the path as close as I can.
      I’m always here as you know, if anything sounds a bit too vague.


  2. W. K. Tucker

    I absolutely, positively, unequivocally–please excuse all the adverbs, Tom–abhor writing the dreaded synopsis. But it is a necessary evil, one nearly all literary agents and publishers insist upon, along with a query letter and sample pages of your manuscript. And like Stephanie wrote, it feels like a punishment of sorts. It’s hard to condense ones’ novel into a few pages and make it an interesting read, but if one intends on publishing a book, a synopsis is a “thing” (I shudder at the mere thought of it.) every aspiring novelist must learn to master.
    Lord, just thinking about it, I know I’m going to have nightmares tonight. 🙂


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