The Selling Synopsis

I used the word selling for a reason.  First of all, as writers, we're familiar with the phrase, show don't tell.  With a synopsis, we have to keep up the same adage.  Agents don't want to know how your story develops in a rhyming off of and then...

Three key things stand out to me when I've researched writing a synopsis.
1) Develop a pitch line
2) Keep true to the voice and style of the novel.
3) Tell it in third person POV

Sounds easy, right?  Not exactly.  As writers, we have the task of condensing a full-length novel down to the length of a 1000 words or less.  (Personally, I find about 800 words, single-spaced fits on a page and qualifies when agents ask for a 1 page synopsis.)  Recently, I've gotten on a kick of going back and assigning one for each novel I've written.  And to be honest, it hurts to tear apart a novel that took months to write.  Not to mention the fact, all of the POVs and sub-plots that get lost in the transmission to a short synopsis.

Here's my strategy (I wish I could find the link where I got the advice to share, but it was a while ago now.) 
1) In a new document, start with a pitch line.
2) Write a stellar line to describe the way your story ends - remember the main plot
3) Now fill in the blanks.

Personally, I just let the novel points flow out of me.  I allow the flourish and extra smooth transitions for the first draft.  Once I have a first draft of a synopsis, it's time to print and rip it apart - again, that's how I do it.  I repeat the process a few times until I've whittled it down to the bones of the story, while still leaving a voice in there.  And of course, the synopsis can't be stagnant with boring composition or no agent will ever want to read the novel.  I also suggest stepping away for a day or two and going back over it to look for any loopholes, plot points that may have been cut that are needed.  And there you have it, how to quickly write a synopsis.  Also, a bonus, if an agent asks for an expanded synopsis, you've already got a solid basis.

Here's some links I've found:

If anyone has useful links to on this subject, or have a method to share with the rest of us, please leave a comment.  Best of luck everyone!


  1. Carolyn, thanks for this post! I find synopses INCREDIBLY difficult to write, and I know many other writers do too... Next time I'm going to try your strategy :)
    ~ Charlotte


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