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Tips on Synopsis Writing

It felt like just recently I received the following question about synopsis writing, but when I looked closer it was actually dated December 2014. Ouch.

I find writing a romance synopsis easier than a cozy synopsis. The emotional arc for a romance is first and foremost, while in a cozy the murder is the primary arc. Yes, the protagonist does go through an emotional journey, but it’s different to a romance. Would love any tips!! Thanks.

I know that writing a synopsis is probably one of the most dreaded tasks a writer has to take on. Every author I have bemoans it. In fact, I might be able to honestly say that some fear it. Recently a client and I spent a few weeks on nothing but the synopsis. When we were done he had to go back and rewrite the book. I think it was a great experience. Of course, you should probably talk to him before quoting me on that.

The toughest part of a synopsis is trying to break down a 400-page plot into 3-5 pages. I get it. It’s not always easy for us either. That being said, it will likely be required, time and time again, so it’s something you might want to learn how to do.

I tend to think there are two key elements to focus on in your synopsis:

1. How the elements of your genre play out. Whether it’s romance, mystery, fantasy, suspense, or science fiction you need to show the elements that make it fit that genre. In other words, while we don’t need to see the discovery of every single clue Nancy Drew finds, we do need a sense of how she goes about solving the mystery. The same holds true for world-building and even the level of sensuality in a romance. We need to see how those elements reveal themselves, or will reveal themselves.

2. How the elements of your hook play out. Every book in every genre has a hook. It’s that thing that makes your book stand on its own from others in the genre. You need to show how the hook plays out. How does the Scottish Bookstore play into the book or how do the Travelers play into the community you’re writing about?

Obviously other things will need to go into the synopsis, but if you focus on these two tips I think you’ll have a good start.

Category: Blog



  1. Great post! Thanks for the tips Jessica. I was stalking the blog this morning waiting for the update.

  2. Perfect timing! I’m in the middle of writing a synopsis for an editor. Thank you Jessica!

  3. Synopsis writing isn’t fun, but I think it helps to write it before the book. At least, it does for me. Mind you, I’m a plotter so I find it satisfying when it’s finished and I have direction for my ms.

    Not sure that my (hmmm, what is the plural of synopsis?) are brilliantly written, but I hope they convey the important parts of the story clearly. I assume when an agent is reading a synopsis they also have at least a partial of the ms and are therefore looking more at the book storyline then a well written synopsis?

  4. These are great tips. I never thought of a synopsis this way. I always just try to boil the plot down to a couple of pages. I can see how these two tips will help focus the overall picture.

    (AJ– the plural of synopsis is synopses.) 🙂

    1. I think that depends on how you work. If you like having a synopsis as your guide it might be easier to draft now.

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