Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dos & Don'ts of Synopsis Writing

A strong synopsis showcases your characters and plot, and demonstrates your ability to structure a story. It shows a cohesive plot worthy of an agent or editor’s attention and time, and allows your agent, publisher, marketing department or overseas acquisitions editor to sell your story. 


1. If possible, write your synopsis before you start first draft.
2. Give an overview of the plot and primary characters.
3. Include brief description of each.
4. If you include subplots, make sure they relate to main plot, and show resolution.
5. Relate characters to goal of protagonist and how their goal supports or thwarts such.
6. Include major plot points that lead up to the "darkest hour."
7. Keep it short. (1-5 pages) You will need several lengths for various uses, so write 1,3, and 5-page versions.
8. Unless otherwise indicated, double space.
9. Times New Roman, or Courier New 12pt. with one-inch margins. 


1. Have too many proper names to keep up with.
2. Give too much detail. A synopsis is meant to show the structure—the plot.
3. Write in past tense or passive voice.
4. Fail to include the end of the story.
5. Fail to show transitions to indicate change of POV or time/place.
6. Fail to unfold the synopsis the same as the story.
7. Raise questions. (In a synopsis, we tell, not show.)
8. Include internal or external dialogue. 

Have questions? Be sure to leave them in the comments for the editors to answer.

Storycatcher Sylvia Dickey Smith authors the Sidra Smart mysteries. A series set in southeast Texas, the exotic land where oil refineres are king, where hurricanes often blow, and where the only thing that separates Texas from Louisisana is the mysterious, haunting Blue Elbow Swamp and the powerful Sabine River. Her books are Dance on His Grave and Deadly Sins Deadly Secrets. Watch for Book Three, coming out soon.


  1. Thanks! I hate writing a formal synopsis, and this information is very helpful. I copied it into a Word doc to keep handy.

  2. This was a very informative and helpful post! Thank you for sharing your wisdom.


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