Many agree that the synopsis is one of the hardest parts of the writing process. After penning a 300 page story, authors often are daunted by the task of composing a three page synopsis. Carol’s goal for all WIFYR attendees is to get published, and mastering the synopsis is a must.

There is no real agreement on what a synopsis entails. While the query letter has a set format, the synopsis, other than to reveal all important plot points of a book, has none. Opinions vary on length, anywhere from one to four pages. Everybody has a different idea what it should look like and, according to Nathan Bransford, there is no one way to write a synopsis.

The general consensus is that a synopsis should tell all, leaving no questions as to how the book ends. The query letter is the place to hook the agent/editor with the mystery and intrigue of the story. With a synopsis, they want to see how each story and character arc plays out.

YA novelist Marissa Meyers loathed the process. Rather than remain intimidated by it, she decided to embrace the synopsis writing challenge and figure out a method to creating one. The New York Times best-selling author of The Lunar Chronicles shares, in six steps, what she came up with. The full article can be found here. Allow me to summarize them.

Step 0 – Meyers says first you must write the book. Otherwise you would be writing its outline.

Step 1 – Skim through the manuscript and note the important events, boiling down each chapter to one or two sentences. Show each plot and subplot arc.

Step 2 – Embellish the beginning and give the reader a foundation to stand on. Give the same set-up as the first chapter provides, supplying the setting, protagonist, and their problem.

Step 3 – String together the short chapter summaries, using standard synopsis format, which is: written in 3rd person, present tense, with first mention of each character’s names in all-caps.

Step 4 – Read through the notes with a focus on plot. This self-discovery process can allow the author to see plot holes and insure a natural progression of events.

Step 5 – Read through again, this time with a focus on character arc. Insure that your MC evolves as a result of events in the story. Look for those big moments that change their attitudes and goals and show how they effect the protagonist emotionally.

Step 6 – Trim and edit. Like the novel itself, remove excess words and phrases that don’t help tell he story and choose descriptive words carefully.

Piece of cake, right?

What do you find the hardest part about a synopsis is?

(This article also posted at

(This article also posted at

This Post Has One Comment

  1. beccabirkin

    Not a piece of cake, but that’s definitely the best set of instructions I’ve seen Thanks!

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