The purpose of the synopsis is to give the editor or agent a big picture of the overall narrative arc of your book, an introduction to your major characters, a taste of the setting, and a sense of your writing style. If they like what they see, they’ll read more of your manuscript. If the synopsis doesn’t grab them, they’ll move on. It’s a tool that editors and agents take very seriously, so you want your synopsis to be the best it can be.
Ideally, a novel for adults, young adults, and middle-grade readers needs a synopsis of around 500 words. If you’re writing for young children, a picture book synopsis should be two to four sentences. Easy reader synopses should be about the same length. Early chapter books can have synopses of one paragraph.
The synopsis covers:
- The broad narrative arc of the story
- The main character, the antagonist and the most significant secondary characters
- The primary problem or conflict of the plot
- How the book ends
Start by crafting your synopsis in three paragraphs. Each of these paragraphs will represent your book’s beginning, middle and end. Once you have your rough draft down, you may need to break up the middle paragraph into two or three smaller paragraphs, depending on the complexity of your plot. Once it’s polished and revised, a novel synopsis will be anywhere from three to five paragraphs long.
Write your synopsis in present tense, third person, with an active voice. Spend time making it perfect. This is a very important step in selling your work, so make it shine.
For more detailed tips on writing a synopsis, watch Laura Backes’ video.
Laura Backes is the publisher of Children’s Book Insider, The Children’s Writing Monthly, and co-creator of WriteForKids. She’s worked in the publishing industry for 28 years as an editor, writer, speaker and teacher. Find out more at www.writeforkids.org.