Tips for writing a novel synopsis

A synopsis is a narrative summary of your novel. If you are submitting the first few chapters of your novel to an agent or publisher, they will normally also want to see a synopsis so that they know how the story develops and ends. Synopses are generally only a few pages long but it’s best to check individual agents’ and publishers’ guidelines.

Remember that a synopsis is just as valuable a sample of your writing as a novel extract. Make sure it is well written and tightly crafted. Check it over for spelling and grammar mistakes before sending it off.  

The following general guidelines are meant to help you to write your synopsis but don’t forget to check the websites of individual agencies and publishers for more specific instructions.

The synopsis should be written in the present tense and in the same style as the novel e.g. humorous, suspense filled. Please bear in mind though that the tone should remain professional and not come across as gimmicky.

The opening paragraph should hook the reader and subsequent paragraphs should flow in a logical order. Feel free to include dialogue or quotes from the novel to give a sense of tone or emotion.

Include the following information:

  • The title of the book, even if it is a working title.
  • Where and when the novel is set and what themes are explored.
  • Who the main characters are, what their goals are and what stands in their way. The first time a character appears in the synopsis, their name should be written in capitals.
  • What major events and conflicts occur in the novel and how these are resolved.
  • How the novel ends. This is particularly important because agents and publishers want to see that you know how to conclude your novel. Even if there is a twist ending to your novel, you should still mention it in the synopsis. Don’t worry about spoiling the surprise.

Distilling the contents of your novel into a short summary is likely to be hard work but it is a very useful exercise. Writing a synopsis of your novel will enable you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your plot and characterisation and will help you to stay focused if you have to do any rewriting or redrafting.