author, creative writing, writing

Synopsis Writing: A Step By Step Method

Morning writers, I hope you’ve had a lovely week.

A couple of weeks ago I started writing a synopsis based on the early draft of my second novel. Like many writers, I find synopsis writing tedious, difficult and frustrating. However, they are a necessary evil, published or unpublished.

The method I ended up using this time round actually made the process much easier, and I did it in steps. Please note this is by no means a tried and tested method, with no guarantee that it’ll work for you. But it worked well for me, so I thought I’d share. If you have any synopsis writing tips of your own please pop them in the comments below, as I’m always keen on new ideas and advice.

1. Write a bullet list of key points
In this first step it’s important not to think too hard. Write a list of the key points in your story, but don’t worry about what you’re including. Use the first points that come into your head. Chances are that if they stand out, they’re important.
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2. Revise the list, with more thought
Now look back over your list. Delete any points that aren’t essential, and add any that you’ve forgotten. Remember, a synopsis should not include every plot point, sub-plot or character. It is supposed to be an outline of the story and only major plot points and key players need to be mentioned. Adding too much will make your synopsis too lengthy, and many agents/publishers are looking for short and snappy.
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3. Write a paragraph for each point
Look back over your bullet points and write a paragraph on each point. What you’re doing here is taking the plot point, and turning one line into a full paragraph. Write as much as you need to at this stage. The next step involves editing.
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4. Whittle down the paragraphs
Time to cut those paragraphs down. As mentioned above, a synopsis is not supposed to be too long. Take out unnecessary descriptive words, small details that don’t really matter, and mentions of characters that don’t really carve the basic outline of your story.
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5. Link the paragraphs
More editing. You now need to get these paragraphs to link. While they should still be standalone paragraphs, make sure they flow into one another in a way that is natural to read, and fits in the correct chronological order.
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6. Check for spoilers
9 times out of 10 your synopsis should include spoilers. Who committed the crime, who takes the throne, who saves the day…whatever your major plot twist or reveal, it should be included. That said, make sure you do your research. I attended a writing event, and found out an agent I wanted to pitch to hated spoilers in the synopsis. In this incident, you should save a version of the synopsis with no spoilers, or warn the agent that spoilers are present.
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7. Save different versions
Different agents/publishers will have different preferences when it comes to a synopsis. When submitting to agents, always check what they’re after. As mentioned above, some want spoilers, others don’t. Some want 500 words, others 1,000. It is worth having various versions saved, to suit different needs. However, be prepared to adjust your synopsis where needed, to suit the agent you are sending to.
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What do you think? is this a method you’re going to try? Remember, this worked for me, but may not work for everybody. And it’s also worth noting that you will likely need to tweak your synopsis as you make submissions, especially if you’re not getting any interest.

Share your tips below, as I am super keen to learn more about this process,

Until then,
Keep writing,

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48 thoughts on “Synopsis Writing: A Step By Step Method”

  1. Such great tips, M! I could have used this a few weeks ago when crafting my synopsis, and will definitely save it for future use. Using the bullet points and crossing out what’s not necessary is genius! Totally agree with you about having different versions and tailoring for each submission. How interesting that you came across an agent who didn’t like spoilers. Most want them and it breaks my writer’s heart to include them. I’d rather they find out the twists by reading the MS, but what can you do 🤷🏻‍♀️.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, lovely! Hope it helps when you next need to write one ❤
      Yes, the agent said she prefers to unravel the story as she reads it, which I thought was lovely. So worth doing your research, as every other agent I've looked at so far has asked for spoilers. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. M.L., your process rings true with the process I’ve followed. You’re better organized, your first three steps have been one step in my hands. You broke it down to emphasizing just one thing at a time, I shall be better next time. In my view, the key element is tailoring each submission to the agent you want to read it. After sending to ten or twelve agents, you’ll find you have one already tailored to what the next agent says they want. It’s the same principle as sending a tailored resume with a job application: give them what they want to read.
    I can’t speak from experience on what works, I still have zero successes to reports. On the other hand, I’m only half-way through writing the four novels (on average) necessary before one sells, so I claim to be performing to plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are all such fantastic tips! Thank you for sharing. 🙂 I use the snowflake method to outline, and it really helps me when I go back to the earlier steps when my story is just a few sentences. Also, saving different versions is SUCH a good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OMG, I had no idea some agents hate spoilers. I assumed revealing the plot was alway necessary.
    I’ll be sure to pay closer attention to each agents preferences.
    I use the same system as you, which makes the whole process much easier. That being said, it’s still a skill I’m mastering. Writing a synopsis is tricky business. Thanks for the insightful post. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found a second one on Friday who didn’t want to know all the twists and turns! But I would say 95% of those I’ve researched ask for spoilers.
      Glad you enjoyed the post ❤ I'm a long way off mastering the synopsis, but this system helps me get it done bit by bit 😀 x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is actually rather reminiscent of how I write summaries and critiques for stories I review. The major difference is I often try to segment my bullet list by when in the story it occurs, and progressively use more and more vague language as my references approach the last segment, to try and prevent spoilers.
    There’s definitely something to be said for starting with a list, evolving each “piece” until it’s a solid statement all on its own, and then finding ways to connect them together.

    Liked by 1 person

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