Wednesday, June 6, 2012

To Make a Long Story Short: Writing a Synopsis That Sells

I recently completed my first middle grade novel and am writing my submission documents (query letter, outline, synopsis). So I was delighted to attend the panel on writing a synopsis presented last Thursday, May 31, at the Children’s Museum by James River Writers, hosted by Bill Blume. Panelists were Michelle Brower, agent with the Folio Agency and Stacy Hawkins Adams, author and columnist. It was well worth my time. My post today summarizes their presentation. Both Brower and Adams agreed that a synopsis is a professional document rather than a creative one and should show the movement of your book without a lot of detail. This means your synopsis should be no more than three pages long, should use a professional font (e.g., Times New Roman, 12 pt.) and should be double-spaced. The synopsis is a longer version of the text you envision on the back cover of your book and should be written in third person, even if you write your book in first person. Use your writer’s voice and proceed as if you are writing a short story, with a beginning, middle and end. Yes, include the ending! An agent reads your synopsis to find out what happens in your book. If your book has humor, suspense or other story-building elements, be sure to include those, too. Focus on your main character, hooking the reader with the first sentence and include how this main character changes from the beginning to the end of your book. Don’t recycle sentences from your book or from your query in your synopsis. Each document should be unique. A particularly useful idea is that the synopsis should be written before you write your first chapter because it then serves as an outline for writing the book. This may not fit with your writing style but if it is, give it a try. I’m going to keep that last point in mind in writing my next novel. I will use the tips and instructions I learned from this presentation in writing the synopsis for my current novel. I am confident their advice will give me a strong, ready-to-go synopsis when I send out my queries. Keep these points in mind and you will have ‘a synopsis that sells,’ too!


  1. Author Elana Johnson has written a fantastic FREE ebook called From the Query to the Call- I haven't even finished my book yet and I've been using it just to focus my writing a little more. She has a great step-by-step worksheet that will take your story down to its barest bones and give you a killer hook. Here's the website:!query-to-the-call

    Sounds like you got some great info! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Hazel. Wish I could have been there. Kasey, I've read Elana Johnson's blog and she definitely knows what she's talking about! Good stuff!

  3. Hazel, just found your blog post on this "Writing Show." I'm glad to see it was helpful. This was such a fun topic to moderate. Best of luck!