Formatting a Synopsis
You do not need a title page for the synopsis, your contact details go in the covering letter, and the novel’s details go on the same page as the synopsis. Start by putting the following information in the top left-hand corner of the page.
Or, if writing for children, put: Genre and age group:
You can write the synopsis either before you write your novel or after, but, as you should never submit fiction to an agent until the entire novel is written, this section will deal with writing a synopsis for a completed work.
Layout and formatting
Use single line spacing and try to condense the synopsis to a single page. Block the first paragraph to the left and indent all subsequent paragraphs. Write only in the present tense, using the third person. Each time you introduce a new character, put their name in capitals, but revert to lower case thereafter.
Write the synopsis in the same style as the novel. If humorous, use humour in the synopsis. If the book is a rollercoaster thriller, then so should the synopsis be. Open with a hook which will grab the reader.
You do not have to mention every character in the book, but you must include all the important ones. Similarly, you do not need to detail every twist and turn of the plot, but you must show clearly what the book is about, the highs and lows of the story, what is at stake for the main characters, and how the heroes deal with the plot shifts. Do make sure the storyline follows a logical sequence and comes to a satisfactory conclusion. Always give the ending of the novel. Apart from anything else, this shows the agent you have worked through the plotline and ironed out any hitches.
Make the synopsis come alive by writing with feeling. This is a condensed account of your novel, and you need to lavish as much care on it as you did on the full length version.
- Use present tense
- Open with a hook
- Clearly define main characters and conflicts
- Make your characters sympathetic, so that the reader will care about them
- Include the ending
- Check for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors
This article is taken from The Writer's ABC Checklist, co-written by Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam. The guidebook is written with all budding writers in mind, to help them present works that end up in the shortlist, not the shredder. Information is presented in a concise A - Z format, and unfamiliar terms are explained, taking the novice through each step in the submission process.