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How To Do An Essay Synopsis

Our editors offer an example of a synopsis

Writers hate writing synopses. Some find the idea of a synopsis daunting because they have spent the last two years writing a book. Others find the idea distasteful because it is less about the art of writing and more about the business of writing.

Well, it's time for some tough love. Whatever reason you may have for disliking synopses, it's irrelevant; if you're going to be a writer, you just need to write them.

The synopsis is written with the express purpose of enticing a potential agent/editor to accept your manuscript for representation or publication. For your synopsis to be effective, your writing needs to be concise, clearly organized, and evocative of both your target genre and your own unique voice.

You are not only selling your manuscript but also selling yourself as a writer, so it's important that your synopsis be free from grammatical and spelling errors. Let our manuscript document editors help your synopsis land in the right hands.

Here's a sample of a synopsis:

A Prairie Home Zombie

A Synopsis

"You might be the undead queen of an army of damned putrid souls, but you sure as shoot can get shot just like everybody else."

—Hope Riverwild

Schoolmaster Chance McPrudence is content with his quiet life. He lives with his sister in a small farmhouse on the outskirts of the fledging eighteenth century community of Riverside, New Mexico. He is well respected in the community and enjoys his work, as well as weaving on his loom, and riding horses across the open plains. But when he finds a mysterious stranger near death in his barn, his quiet life is turned upside down. He cares and nurses this stranger back to health only to find that she is, in fact, the notorious outlaw Hope Riverwild.

Hope Riverwild is wanted in six states for armed bank robbery, moonshine running, and general shenanigan causing. Armed with a shotgun, two six shooters, and a tomahawk, she is clearly not a woman to be trifled with. It is rumored that the notorious Billy the Kid once got into a barroom brawl with her that left him with only nine toes. As Hope regains her strength, she finds herself strangely drawn to the kind and caring Chance, but she must be careful. Surely he could never love her. He is just too handsome, too kind, too settled. Things are just too perfect.

Hope is puzzled by Chance's nature. He seems compelled to care. He dotes over his sickly sister, Lilith, who never fully recovered from a childhood rattlesnake attack and is now homebound with prolonged bouts of Cotard’s syndrome, an illness where sufferers actually believe that they are dead. Hope suspects that Chance sees her just as fragile and in need of protection as Lilith. Eventually, care turns to love and Chance proposes marriage. For Hope, who has been a hired gun since she was 10, this is intolerable. Hope steals Chance’s favorite horse and returns to her rebel life on the lam.

Driven mad by this betrayal, Chance's veneer of perfection dissolves and his true nature is revealed. Underneath his quiet school teacher life, Chance is actually a brujo, a witchdoctor. His sister, Lilith, does not really suffer from Cotard's syndrome and did not actually survive the rattlesnake attack. In actuality, Lilith is a zombie queen and general of a vast army of the undead compelled by her brother's dark magic to do his nefarious bidding. Chance sends Lilith and her horde out to find and destroy Hope Riverwild.

They find Hope in a saloon playing poker and drowning her sorrows. Soon after, a tremendous battle ensues. Hope survives and flees into the wilderness but the army that pursues her is seemingly never-ending. Over weeks, Hope realizes that she will never be free until she deals with Chance. After much planning and with some help from her friends, Hope wages an epic battle against him. While Hope is just fighting for freedom, little does she realize that the ramifications of her fight will be felt forever.


Image source: Beatriz Perez/Unsplash.com

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 Back to Advice and Articles

Once you have finished writing your novel or book, it’s time to prepare your work for the submission process. While each literary agent has their own specific guidelines, it’s useful to know how to write a synopsis. Presented by Jane Friedman, publisher and editorial director for Writer’s Digest, this OnDemand Webinar, The Dreaded Synopsis, takes you through the steps of writing a synopsis, gives helpful tips on what to include, and synopsis examples.

5 Tips on How to Write a Synopsis

Before sending your book proposal out to potential literary agents, here are some suggested elements you should include while writing a synopsis:

  • Narrative Arc. A synopsis conveys the narrative arc, an explanation of the problem or plot, the characters, and how the book or novel ends. It ensures character actions and motivations are realistic and make sense. It summarizes what happens and who changes from beginning to end of the story. It gives agents a good and reliable preview of your writing skills.
  • Active Voice. Agents look for good writing skills. Let yours shine in your synopsis by using active voice and third person.
  • Unique Point of View. An agent is usually looking for an idea of fresh or unique elements. Is your plot cliche or predictable? Have elements that set your story apart from other things they have seen.
  • Story Advancement. A synopsis should include the characters’ feelings and emotions. Use these elements to advance your plot and story.
  • Write Clearly. Focus on clarity in your writing and avoid wordiness. Remember, less is more.

What to Avoid When Writing a Synopsis

While there is no universal standard for the length of a book or novel synopsis, agents usually favor one to two pages, single-spaced. Sometimes an agent might ask for a chapter outline instead, which is a synopsis of each chapter. Here are some tips on what to avoid when writing a synopsis:

  • Mentioning too many characters or events.
  • Including too much detail about plot twists and turns. You don’t want to tell the entire story. What you want to do is write a book summary with enough detail about the plot to intrigue the reader or agent.
  • Unnecessary detail, description, or explanation. Make each word in your synopsis count.
  • Editorializing your novel or book. Don’t use “…in a flashback,” or “…in a poignant scene.” If you have a confusing series of events and character interactions, not only will your reader be confused, but a potential agent will be too.
  • Writing back cover copy instead of a synopsis. Don’t go astray and write a hook to intrigue a reader to buy a book or an agent to request a manuscript. Focus on summarizing your novel or book.

The Synopsis Format

Friedman gives some of the best tips for formatting a synopsis. She recommends beginning with a strong paragraph identifying your protagonist, problem or conflict, and setting. The next paragraph should convey any major plot turns or conflicts necessary and any characters that should be mentioned in order for your book summary to make sense to whomever is reading it. Lastly, she recommends indicating how major conflicts are resolved in the last paragraph. This ensures a clear presentation of your book or novel and doesn’t leave the reader confused.

Download The Dreaded Synopsis today and see synopsis examples for paranormal suspense, international thriller, fantasy, and mystery novels. Be sure to read more about writing and their favorite products from the WD Editors.

Want to get your synopsis critiqued? Use our writing critique service and get personalized feedback on your own synopsis!

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