Writing a Synopsis: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

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Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

Condensing a novel into a short synopsis is not an easy task. A synopsis is an overview of your novel that gives an agent or publisher a sense of its story and setting. It needs to give them a reason to read the full novel and convince them that you have a beginning, middle, and end, that it is an engaging story, and most importantly, one that is commercially viable. It is also a useful way to see if your story works and if there are any plot holes. Sometimes writing a synopsis as a way of planning your story can help too. I have put together some articles and podcasts with tips and guidelines to consider when writing your synopsis.

  1. How To Write A Book Synopsis | Incl. Examples | Book Beaver

This article from Book Beaver tells us that synopsis writing is generally much drier and less creative than novel writing. A synopsis is important even if you’re self-publishing. Your synopsis allows you to see problems with your plot and characters. It should include 5 key elements. These include the premise, a main plot and subplot overview, your main characters, and an implicit outline of the appeal of your book. This useful article covers the format of a synopsis, length, and tense, and shares tips and common mistakes to avoid.

  1. Read How to Write a Synopsis – Simple Steps & Examples (myperfectwords.com)

The thought of summarising your detailed story into a short synopsis can seem overwhelming. The purpose of writing a synopsis is to provide a concise and informative overview. It’s important to focus on four key things. These include making sure the information is easy to understand, getting people interested, presenting it professionally., and meeting specific submission guidelines. Your synopsis should consist of three parts: characters, conflict, and narrative arc. This article breaks down the necessary steps in writing a synopsis effectively, and how to format it. It also shares a synopsis example of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

  1. What Is a Novel Synopsis? 2 Examples of Novel Synopses – 2024 – MasterClass

Familiarising yourself with synopsis examples can make the process of writing one a lot easier. Masterclass shares 5 tips for effectively writing a synopsis. These include writing in the third person, keeping it short and writing in the present tense, stating the genre, revealing it all, and conveying your voice. It moves on to share a one-paragraph synopsis of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Beloved by Toni Morrison.

  1. Learn How to Write a Synopsis, Quick & Easy Format Tips & Examples – Writer’s Digest (writersdigest.com)

Writer’s Digest shares 5 tips on how to write a synopsis like a pro. A synopsis conveys the narrative are, an explanation of the plot, the characters, and how the novel ends. It summarises what happens and who changes from the beginning to the end of the story. This article explains how to tackle each of these. It moves on to discuss what to avoid when writing a synopsis. These include mentioning too many characters or events, including too much detail about plot twists and turns, unnecessary detail, description, or explanation, editorialising your novel, and writing back cover copy instead of a synopsis.

  1. How To Write A Novel Synopsis (With An Example) – Jericho Writers

This article covers the format of a great synopsis and recommends the ingredients required including the length, language, presentation, and character names. It breaks the synopsis down into status quo, inciting incident, rising action/ developments, crisis, and resolution. After you have done this, you must layer in information about who your characters are and how the story impacts them. Examples are given to highlight the points made.

  1. Learn How to Write a Synopsis | Scribendi

Your synopsis is the lynchpin of your query package. But don’t be overwhelmed, this podcast from Scribendi outlines how to write a synopsis.

  1. The Creative Writer Podcast – 23 Nail Your Book’s Synopsis (google.com)

In this podcast from The Creative Writer, Senja shares a format that she uses that you can alter to fit with the mood and theme of your novel.


A senior editor from Harper Collins talks about writing your synopsis, including some dos and don’ts.

Kat Clay shares some top tips on how to write a compelling synopsis and get it down to just one or two pages.

Writing your synopsis takes practice and lots of honing. It is a great tool to see if our story is working. Take your time to get it right before sending it out into the world. I hope this week’s column has been helpful. As always please get in touch if there are any topics you want me to cover.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel, The Lies Beneath – to be published by Poolbeg in April 2024.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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