On Synop...si...siss? Summaries

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
First of all, you finished a book! Take a day to celebrate. As an unpublished writer, you're going to have to reward yourself for all your hard work. No one else has recognized your brilliance . . . yet.

Now go back and rewrite/edit/murder your MS. If this is your first book, you're going to be doing this A LOT. Take a hard look at it. Is it worth all those rewrites? If not, start a new story. My first MS, I bet I rewrote/edited 80 times (I'm much better/faster now). At one time, I had the whole first page memorized.

At some point in this process, you need to start thinking about writing a query letter and a synopsis. I suggest that you write your synopsis first, as it's actually a good editing tool, helping you spot plot holes like sagging plot, etc.

"But Amber, how do I write a synopsis?"

Well, let me tell you.

To write a synopsis, Condense your entire novel into two single spaced pages (with a hard return in between paragraphs).

I'll cringe in the corner while you scream in horror.


Alrighty then.

Capitalize the names the first time you use them. DO NOT leave out the ending of the story. This is not a hook. This is a plot summary. That includes the ending.


Synopsis of Daughter of Winter
Fantasy in 75,000 words
By Amber Argyle Smith

Seventeen-year old ILYENNA and her family find a neighboring ARGON near death on their border. They discover that his clan had been attacked. And theirs could be next. After mustering their warriors, the men leave the village. They return days later with what remains of the sacked Argon clan.

Ilyenna goes about caring for sick and injured Argons. While on a trip to gather supplies at a isolated home, she hears a band of Argons coming. She hides, but DARRIEN and his brother find her. While trying to take her captive, Ilyenna kills Darrien’s brother. In retribution, Darrien wounds her and leaves her for dead.

I don't claim to be an expert at writing a synopsis. In fact, I'm probably pretty bad at it, but you can get a general idea from my draft above. Don't be too hard on yourself about this. I've never read a synopsis that didn't make the story sound contrived. It sounds contrived because it is.

If you're really struggling, write a synopsis for each chapter and then weave those together. In order to keep it under two pages (some will want it shorter, some longer, but I've found that 2 pages is the norm), leave out minor characters and all but the most important subplots . In my synopsis, I only named eight characters/clans.

I know this sounds overwhelming. That's because it is. Taking ~80,000 word story and condensing it to 1,000 is HARD. I've been working on it for years, and I still struggle.

Q4U: Does anyone have any other synopsis tips they'd like to share?


  1. Great post! One thing to add is not to name everyone either. Remembering all those names is hard. Instead, use "her brother", "the butler", "the lazy librarian", etc...

    I have something for you on my blog.

    Lynnette Labelle

  1. Great ideas!

    Just a quick note to let you know I am moving my blog to www.rebeccairvine.blogspot.com

    To continue to follow me you will need switch over in your blog reader. Thanks!

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