Recipe for a Short Synopsis

Posted at Mar 2, 2014 7:23 pm

There’s nothing worse than writing a synopsis…is there?  I haven’t found it.  My first piece of advice on writing a synopsis is…get someone else to do it :-).  Seriously, as a writer, we love too much of our book to ever boil it down to its key elements.  My other bit of advice is to write it before you write the book…that way, you don’t know what you don’t know yet :-).  Of course, that’s not always possible…either way, however, I have found a quick recipe for writing a short synopsis.  I hope it helps some of you.  It sure helped me.

The way things are going in the marketplace, most selling synopses are 5 pages or less, no matter what the length of the book.  Here’s how I do it.  That being said, there are as many ways to write as there are writers, so take what you want and leave the rest.


  1. Paragraph about the protagonist including their character grid (from Discovering Story Magic) information through their flaw (their identity, goals, motivation and internal conflict), and ending with why the antagonist will stop them from getting what they want.  This is not just plot…this is about the emotions.
  2. Similar paragraph including how the antagonist complicates the protagonist’s life.
  3. Optional Villain paragraph (if the villain is not the antagonist) with the same information as above.
  4. Inciting incident.
  5. Transition to the first turning point, and include the first turning point along with the emotional response of that.
  6. Transition to the second turning point, and include the second turning point along with the emotional response of that.
  7. Depending on the length, transition to the third turning point, and include the third turning point along with the emotional response of that.
  8. Transition through the climax to the black moment and the realization, including the emotional impact.

This will tell the editor everything they want to know.  Especially if you use the major turning points that define the genre.  For example, if you’re writing a romance, use the romance turning points; if you’re writing a mystery, use ‘mystery-focused’ turning points that still impact the character.  This lets the editor know you understand the genre, that you’ve got drama, you know your characters and you know the structure of the story and it escalates in a dramatic way!   How cool is that.  I hope you find it helpful.  Do you have great tricks for writing synopses?  I’m always trying to add to my repertoire, so I’d LOVE to know what you do.

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