Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Writing A Synopsis

Those three words are some of my most dreaded. A synopsis, as it applies to romance writing, is a summary of your book that includes the ending. Different publishers and agents have different guidelines for how long they’d like the synopsis to be. In general, most synopses are between two and five pages, but some can be as long as eight to ten or as short at one.

The different guidelines are one of the reasons why I hate writing them. The other is that I find it very difficult to show my writing voice when I’m summarizing my story. However, I attended a class a long time ago that gave me an exercise to do when I write a synopsis. I found it to be very helpful, so I thought I’d share them here:

  1. Start out with identifying and describing your main characters. You can never know your characters too well!
  2. Write a one-sentence description of your book. We’re talking beyond bare bones here!
  3. Write a one sentence beginning of your book. How would you summarize your opening scene?
  4. Write a one sentence ending of your book. How would you summarize your ending scene?
  5. Write a one paragraph description of your book. This will also help you with your query letters.
  6. Write a one page description of your book. Expand that paragraph.
  7. Write a three page description of your book. Expand that page.

I find this exercise helpful because it gets me thinking critically about what elements to include or leave out of a synopsis. It also builds upon itself—if I can manage to write a paragraph, I can probably write a page. Would it work for you? How do you tackle your synopses?


  1. Jen,

    This is a great checklist. I use the handout from a program at my RWA chapter to write my synopsis. It's called "Seven Steps to a Practically Perfect Synopsis" and it works like a charm. Step by step it generates about a two page synopsis. For a submission I did to Harlequin, I did have to expand on it a bit, but it's perfect for an original query.

  2. What a great list, thank you, Jennifer. I always try to start with as few sentences as possible then expand just enough to give the necessary ingredients!

  3. Debra, that sounds like a great resource!

    Rosemary, I'm glad you find it helpful. It's definitely a process, regardless of what method you use.

  4. Good list - I'm checking it off in my mind as I think about my current WIP which is nearly ready for submission.