How to Write a Novel Synopsis

Written by A Guest Author

by Wendy S. Delmater

There’s been a lot written on the subject of writing a synopsis, and I may suggest doing certain things a little differently, but the experts all agree on one thing: finish the book first.

So. Are we done writing the book? Good. Now how do you boil down from 70K to 300K words into a page or two? It’s a little time consuming, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. As long as you know who your main character or characters are, and what the main conflict in the book is, you’re good.

Even if you are an organic writer, not an outliner, the best way to write a synopsis might be to “sort of outline it” after it’s done. I call this a bullet-point outline, or a “this happens, then that happens” outline and it’s really easy to do. And it’s essential if you want to cut out all the events in your book that are not necessary to a synopsis.

Here’s how to write a bullet-point outline. Make a new copy of your finished manuscript in an word processing program and rename it (NOVEL NAME) OUTLINE Then boil each scene down into what happened, in one sentence. Oh, and make sure you mention the characters in the scene. Then delete the full scene and leave the one sentence as a bullet point. Next, do the same for each scene in the whole book (I told you this was time consuming!)

When you’re done, you should be able to see which scenes have the main character(s) and are related to the central conflict. It will really jump out at you this way! Save it, then save again as (NOVEL NAME) SYNOPSIS.  In this SYNOPSIS file you will delete the scenes that are not central to the plot. Be ruthless. If you take too much out, you always can go back to your OUTLINE file and put something back in.

Then do a search and replace on all the character names—there should probably be only two or three—and put them in ALL CAPS. That’s standard in a synopsis.

The most important part of your synopsis comes last. You have to boil down the central conflict as it relates to your main character(s) in the opening lines. This is the final step since it’ll be much easier to do this once you’ve pared down the plot to its central characters and plot arc.  It’ll take some time to make this line or two at the opening intrigue an editor.  But you can run your synopsis past others who are familiar with the book, like your beta readers, and take their suggestions.

Congratulations! You’ve now not only finished a book, you’ve written a synopsis for it. Now you have a great tool to share with potential publishers. Just make sure you follow each publisher’s submissions guidelines to the letter. Good luck!


Wendy S. Delmater is the author of Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer, and the Better Dating Through Engineering series. She has been editor of the Hugo-nominated magazine, Abyss & Apex, since 2006. She is also the editor of The Best of Abyss & Apex, Volumes 1 and 2. Wendy’s recent publication credits include short stories and poetry in The Singularity magazine, Gathering Storm Magazine, Little Blue Marble, Star*Line, Illumen, and Silver Blade Magazine. You can visit her Amazon Author page, which contains her blog, or follow her on Twitter where she’s known as @safewrite.