How do you write a KILLER Synopsis?

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I can't promise this is killer, but it got me an agent, who then used it pretty much unchanged for submissions.

Take a sentence or two to summarize what happens in each chapter or scene. Write them on sticky notes, index cards, or--best of all--on a dry erase board. Now pick the half dozen or so key events you absolutely have to mention and circle them. From there, remove scene that don't directly move you from one to the next. Subplots and character development can go; you're writing a synopsis of the story. Period. 

Then write up the description to include only what you have left and see how close you get it to the prescribed length. If it's close, then ruthless editing may be enough. If it's way long, at least you'll have an idea of how many more scenes you'll have to skip.

The voice of the synopsis can also be important. Too dry and the story may seem dry, but too much the other way will sound contrived out of the context of the rest of the book. Try to capture the feel of the voice you used in the synopsis by hinting at it. This is tricky, and I'm not qualified to say with any credibility how to make it work, but I have had synopses well received in this manner. (There are those who disagree with me on this, for reasons at least as good as mine.)

Writing the synopsis is my least favorite part of the whole process. Good luck.


Thanks very much for your detailed answer. Much appreciated :)) I'm fine-tuning that synopsis today ... Karen :))

There was a great scene in the movie The Player that sums up the pitch. You are trying to explain to someone why they would want to read your book in as few words as possible. If it takes more than two sentences then you have to question what you are trying to say. A great way to think of it is explaining the book to a friend as quickly and simply as possible at a party (because they aren't really interested and you are trying to convince them to let you tell them more before they get bored).


Or of course you could just use a buzz words generator and name drop some popular books. lol.

Thanks Tim,

Fabulous insight into the elevator pitch.


Much appreciated :))

Present tense, strong action verbs, not necessarily in chronological order ("meanwhile, x, y, z"), and conflict, conflict, conflict. A synopsis needs to lay out clearly and succinctly what's at stake for the protagonist and antagonist in the most gripping way possible.


Be sure to include key details, such as where the story takes place, the general age of the protagonist, what they want, and their emotional state (conflict is all about emotion), but don't get bogged down in secondary detail. It's also perfectly fine to exaggerate if it makes for a better story. No one who reads the synopsis is going to remember it in detail when they read the book.


You can bring in subplots if you can tie them directly to your pro- or antagonist, but it's perfectly fine to leave them out if their relation to the main plot can't be explained in a few choice words. The synopsis tells what happens, but it's more important to get across the flavor of the book, than its entire substance.


Good luck with it!

Thanks Karen,

 For your fabulous ideas in writing a synopsis. I agree with everything you said.

I've actually written a BLOG titled "How to write a KILLER Synopsis"


You may like to check it out for accuracy.


Let me know what you think :))



I like both Dana's and Karen's answers. Dana is particularly helpful in telling you how to approach the thing. Most of us hate writing synopses or blurbs.

The length of a synopsis is generally specified.  If not, keep it short.  Many people just want one page.

Thanks IJ, for your feedback.

The publisher specified they wanted 3 to 4 pages.


You may like to check out my BLOG titled "How to write a KILLER Synopsis" for accuracy.

If you can find a copy, I highly recommend this book:

Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon

Every time I need to write a synopsis, I pull it out to use as a guide.

Thanks Beth, for that recommendation.

I've just sent my latest synopsis with my manuscript, SAYONARA to the publishers now.

But that book will come in handy for future reference ...Thanks, Karen :))


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