Five Things: How to write a synopsis you will love

Five Things: How to write a synopsis you will love by Nicola Morgan
Category: Writing

Most writers hate writing synopses. Summarising your entire novel in such a small word count can seem virtually impossible and it's always hard to get enough distance from your work in order to do it well. But there’s no need to dread the prospect of writing one. Here’s how to love them:


1. Have a terrible memory

I have an innate advantage here but I discovered the beauty of it as a tool when I had to write a synopsis for a book I’d written ages before and was too lazy to read again. I wrote the synopsis using what I could remember, which was only important stuff – which is all a synopsis should contain. So, forget details and order and just write roughly what happens and why and how it ends.


2. Realise that your synopsis is exceptionally unlikely to lose you a book deal

It’s the least important part of a submission and is only there to show agent or editor that your beautiful sample chapters probably do not descend into inappropriate drivel. The only way a synopsis would lose you the deal is if your book is weak and the synopsis can’t disguise the fact. But if the synopsis does disguise a weak book, you won’t get the deal anyway.


3. Size is not a problem

Make it whatever length an agent or publisher asks for in the submission guidelines; if there are none, make it under two pages (single-spaced). Really, this isn’t hard. Even Anna Karenina can be summed up in that space – by leaving out the farming details. Always leave out farming details.


4. Remember that a synopsis can be a very useful tool

A synposis can be very useful for you (rather than agent or publisher) before or during the writing process: it can help focus your book on the road, like a map. It can help you see where you’re going and where you’ve gone wrong. And then when you have to write it for your editor, you’re halfway there.


5. Accept that it won't do your book justice

The reason your synopsis doesn’t do justice to your fabulous book is that your book is fabulous and your synopsis is necessarily just a shadow of it. If your synopsis is better than your book, I am worried about your book.

Now just do it! It’s a LOT easier than writing a book!


Writers! Find out more about writing a synopsis, and lots of advice on how to get published, in our Advice and Resources section. 

Nicola Morgan

Nicola Morgan writes fiction and non-fiction and advises writers about how to become and stay published. She’s the author of Write a Great Synopsis, amongst other things. She also writes and speaks about adolescence, teenage stress, the reading brain and the science behind reading for pleasure.