“I’d rather write a 400-page novel than this synopsis!”
Sound familiar? I hear this constantly from writers whenever they’re trying to tackle the ins and outs of the perfect synopsis. Here are a few tips and tricks to understanding this document and ensure you’re following guidelines.
- The synopsis should be no more than 1 single spaced page or 2 double spaced pages. If you go over, it’s too long! This means two pages AFTER the double spacing has been applied, not before (otherwise, it would equal 4 double spaced pages).
- Write the synopsis in Times New Roman 12pt font, 1-inch normal margins, and third person present tense.
- DO NOT write the synopsis from the voice of your character.
- Place names in ALL CAPS when first introducing a new character; only do this on the first use, not throughout the synopsis.
- Avoid subplots or unnecessary details. Many times, these are better left to discover within the story itself. If it doesn’t have that “need to know” feel for understanding the plot as a whole, you most likely don’t need to waste space explaining it.
- The first paragraph of your synopsis should reflect the first paragraph of your book. Don’t start with an info dump on worldbuilding or backstory. If an agent reads your first scene in the synopsis, and then turns to page 1, they should mirror each other (not counting prologues, of course).
- Have dual or multi POV in your story? Find the character the story seems to focus most on or center around. There’s always one with either the strongest voice or strongest agency in the book. Sometimes, there are two, so target those and tell the synopsis from their eyes.
- The synopsis is NOT the query. Research it. Do not put “see query” or “synopsis included in query” when submitting.
- Remember, the synopsis is meant to be a spoiler document. This means giving us the beginning, middle, and end, and brief lines on how you have tied those pivotal moments together. The end should be revealed, not hinted at or chopped off. If the agent doesn’t want to know the ending, they won’t read it.
- It’s ok if the synopsis doesn’t contain an abundant use of voice. Again, it’s a spoiler document. It often comes across as dry and to the point. Just try to avoid step-by-step description (ex: the person did this. Then they did this. Then they flew here and this happened.).
At the end of the day, a synopsis is not what will make an agent pass on your work. Personally, my only synopsis pass is when I see something there that is a plot I don’t work with (rape, abuse, etc.) or if I feel the pacing seems to drag or the ending doesn’t fit the full story. Often, it will be the pages or pitch that helps an agent choose to request or pass. A synopsis is simply a tool to better help understand the story as a whole and determine if a writer has provided a streamlined concept and satisfactory ending (whether it goes on to a series or not).