Writing the Synopsis

How do I format the chapter by chapter synopsis? Is it single or double spaced? Is the chapter title centered or aligned left? If I have a chapter number and title are the number and title separated by a comma? Are the two or three descriptive sentences on the next line? Do I put the same header on it as on my manuscript pages. Do I title it with the name of my book and the word synopsis? And finally, how do I make it not sound so boring? It sounds so contrived to list off the plot developments. I’ve tried to include the MC arc, but the emotion can’t come through in a couple of lines. What is the most important part to convey in the chapter synopsis? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

The reason for a chapter synopsis (or outline, they’re similar) is to let the publisher know what happens in the book so that they don’t have to read the whole thing to determine if it fits their criteria.

As an LDS publisher, I asked for a synopsis to be included with fiction submissions. It saved me a lot of time in cases when the writing was good but the message didn’t fit my target readership.

For example, a YA coming of age novel. I need to know that it ends in a way that supports LDS doctrine and principles. I don’t want to read 350 pages of a good book only to find that the heroine decides to shack up with her boyfriend in the last chapter. No matter how good the writing is, that wouldn’t be a book that I’d accept for publication. It doesn’t match my criteria.

Your synopsis doesn’t have to be hugely entertaining and filled with emotion. Yes, you want it to be interesting. You don’t want to put the publisher to sleep. But it won’t have the same intensity of description and place and characterization as your query or manuscript. A good synopsis is short and concise, but contains the nuts and bolts of your story. I want to know the major plot points, the twists and turns, who does what, and how the story ends.

Write your synopsis in third person and present tense. You don’t need a final summary or to explain what I’m supposed to “learn” from the chapter. Don’t insert dialog.

If the publisher hasn’t posted guidelines on how to format the synopsis, go for readability. Make it as easy to read as possible. Use the same fonts and margins as with the manuscript. Single-spaced is fine, since it’s concise (1 to 3 pages).

Yes, put your info header on it like you do with the manuscript—your full name and contact info on the top left of the first page; then your last name, and title on the other pages.

You can either break it up by identifying the chapters (see below) or you can write it in simple narrative style. As long as it’s written well, polished, and succinct, it will be fine.

You can read a very good article about creating your synopsis HERE.

You can read some sample narrative style synopses HERE.

I couldn’t find a sample of the chapter by chapter style synopsis, so here’s one I just made up. Your’s will be a little more clever and catchy, but you get the idea.

Pawns Synopsis by LDS Publisher

1. The Crash
It’s Halloween night and Nancy, Tami, and Karen (college roommates) are planning to attend a party with their boyfriends, Marc, David and Jonathan—all dressed as pieces on a chess board. David is late. They receive the shocking news that David has been killed in a car accident.

2. Reunion
Ten years later, Karen is working as a research assistant for O.A. Williams, famed philanthropist. Olaf is setting up a new business for his wife, who designs specialty candies. In researching trade shows, Karen discovers that Jonathan, whom she hasn’t seen in ten years because they broke up the day after David’s car accident, will be introducing his “chocolate books” at the Denver trade show. Curious about Jonathan, Karen rents a booth for Olaf’s wife, Anna, at the show.

3. Whatever
Yada, yada, yada.

[Nobody steal this idea. I’ve actually got this book partially written. When it’s published, you’ll all know my true identity. Hah!]

Author: LDS Publisher

I am an anonymous blogger who works in the LDS publishing industry. I blog about topics that help authors seeking publication and about published fiction by LDS authors.

3 thoughts on “Writing the Synopsis”

  1. I'm just afraid that once I write the synopsis it doesn't portray the novel as well as I hope. I'm afraid that I'll somehow leave out the key character development. How can I go into these key character developments without boring the reader?

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