Writing

My top 4 tips on how to write a synopsis for your novel

So you’ve written your novel, you’re ready to submit it to agents/publishers and now you have to write a synopsis. Good luck! If you haven’t done this yet and you thought it was hard writing your book, wait until you try to squeeze the plot, themes and approach into a few hundred words, or less. To summarise the process in three words: It isn’t easy.

So, what advice can I offer if you are finding it difficult creating a synopsis which does justice to your work?

I’m going to assume you know the basics of what a synopsis is, and why you need to write one, and I would also encourage you to review carefully exactly what each agent/publisher wants to see from your synopsis, in particular the length of your précis; don’t give them a three page synopsis if they only want 300 words. But if you’ve done that, then what can you do next?

  • When I was writing my synopsis for The Kosher Delhi, I read all sorts of articles about how to do it and what to include, but the best ‘how to’ advice I found by a long chalk was this excellent approach from Glen C Strathy: How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel. I couldn’t believe how much better my synopsis was after following his advice. That is because Glen breaks down the approach into bite-size chunks which you then collate together at the end. Excellent.
  • Give your friends, family and early/beta readers (those who read your novel) your synopsis and ask them to review it in the same way that they gave you feedback on your manuscript. I was quite shocked when one or two people critiqued my first attempt at a synopsis quite harshly – I thought it was quite good! – but they were right.
  • Read this article by publishers Curtis Brown: How to write a synopsis for a novel. It is the most useful article which I have found written by a publisher, and goes into great detail.
  • You could take a short course on writing synopsis. For example:
    * The London Writers Club One day Masterclass, one-to-one advice, run by Jacq Burns (I did this and Jacq’s advice was eye-opening and extremely helpful);
    * Curtis Brown’s Edit and Pitch Your Novel;
    * CityLit’s How to write a novel synopsis.
    And there are many more you can find online. It is money well spent.

Good luck – creating a good synopsis is an exercise and an art in its own right. As for a final three words of advice: listen, re-read, refine.

One Comment

  • KC Maher

    Thank you, Ian! I have few friends & my family is supportive but prefers not to read what I write—they’ve had quite enough of my imagination, thank you! I have discovered, however, that while my synopses tend either to the glib or so earnest, they could seem sarcastic, I’m very good at writing synopsis for others! & long as this is, given a word count, I’ll bring it in either to the exact letter, or to be safe, a bit less! Next time, I’ll suggest swapping the chore! No copyright for elevator pitches are there?

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