Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 9, 2011

How to Synopsis

Now that you have started to refine your pitch for the conference using the tips from the other week, you should also think about refining your synopsis. You won’t have time to get any editor or agent to read your manuscript at the conference, but if you have a successful pitch you might get someone to look at your synopsis. So take a little time to go over what you have. Even if no one looks at it you are still a head of the game by revising it and making it better.

Let’s start with how to format your synopsis.

Use a one inch margins on the top, bottom and sides. Justify text at the left margin only. Use Times New Roman 12 pt. font. Type your name, address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address, each on a separate line single-spaced at the top left margin on the first page of your synopsis.

If you can fit your synopsis on one page, then you can single space the text with a space between paragraphs . If it goes over one page, then double space your text. Editors generally want one or two pages, but if you must go longer than you must – just keep it tight. You should always check a publisher’s submission guidelines, just to make sure you are following their rules before submitting.

Here are some things to help guide you through the synopsis writing process:

You want to briefly tell what happens. This is one place you can ignore Show, Don’t Tell.
Your goal should be to give an escalating series of turning points, a strong central crisis, a dramatic climax and a satisfying resolution.
Introduce your main character first. Type a character’s name in all caps the first time you use it in the synopsis. Why? It helps the editor remember or find your character names.
• Remember your synopsis should showcase your unique voice.
• The synopsis should reflect your story. If it is humorous, be funny, etc.
• Start with a hook.
Use present tense. This gives the story immediacy.
Write the high points of your story in chronological order. Keep these paragraphs tight.
Always answer basic who, what, where, when, why–early in the synopsis.
Don’t waste words or time describing settings, unless crucial. Sometimes it’s enough just to put the date and place at the top, then start your synopsis.
• Omit unimportant details.
Only include backstory if it is necessary to give the editor the information they need about the character’s motives.
Always resolve the external plot question before you resolve the internal and/or relationship question.
If it’s not a turning point, it doesn’t belong in the synopsis.
Don’t use secondary characters in your synopsis, unless they are absolutely critical to the emotional turning points of the relationship. Even then, try to get by with the using the secondary’s relationship to the major characters (sister, teacher, boss.) They are too hard to keep up with and only add clutter. Only name them when necessary.
• Clearly convey the central question of the story, and what the resolution looks like. And resolve it at the end — don’t leave the editor guessing. They hate that, so spell out the story, including the ending.
Rewrite your synopsis until each sentence is polished to the point of perfection. Use strong adjectives and verbs. Make every word count.

Synopsis Checklist:

1. Does the opening paragraph have a hook to keep the editor or agent reading?

2. Are your main characters’ conflicts clearly defined?

3. Have you hit on the major scenes, the major plot points of your book?

4. Do you keep the interest level up throughout the synopsis?

5. Have you avoided all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes?

Hope this helps.



  1. Ok, how should I describe my reaction to this article?
    I have made a little section in my journal with you tips.



  2. Kathy, The Amazingy Multi-Tasker! How you do all you do AND put up a blog every day, is more astounding than leaping tall buildings in a single bound!

    Great stuff, Kathy 🙂 Printing it out as we “speak”… Thank you 😀


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