Writing a synopsis

I’m often asked how to write a synopsis. I usually recommend creating the following to my students (because each will be useful when you come to pitch to an agent and help you think about your novel):

  • a tagline (sometimes used as the enticement on the front of a book): max 25 words summarising the novel e.g. A girl meets a boy… then another boy… then another. Which one should she choose?
  • an elevator pitch: The same as above but max 100 words. It’s so called because if you happened to share an elevator (we have lifts here in the UK) with an agent or publisher, you’d only have a certain number of floors to sell your book idea to them. The last thing they will want to hear – especially after a long day at a festival – is, “Well, there’s this girl who works in a bookshop and a customer comes in, and she likes his t-shirt so they get talking. Then they arrange to go out on a date and they go to a little coffee shop near where she lives, which is a couple of roads away from the bookshop, and they get on really well but then she also fancies the waiter so she’s torn whom to choose, but then when she’s waiting for the bus after she’s said goodbye to the t-shirt guy, she gets chatting to an old schoolfriend who she always fancied but…” Ping at 101 words. The lift doors open and the agent scurries out before you’ve had time to give him / her your details. Keep it short. Keep it interesting. Leave time for questions and the swapping of business cards. You do have business cards, don’t you? 🙂
  • chapter summaries: a tagline for each of your chapters. You can then use this as the basis of your synopsis, removing any tagline that doesn’t fit, although they should all be valid because every chapter should be an important part of your novel. Synopses for agents / publishers should include the ending.

I also have some tips on pitching to an agent.

Do email me if you have any queries and / or leave a comment below with any tips you may have or your experiences of writing / submitting a synopsis.

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