Create your synopsis for Submission


Writing the synopsis is the curse of most writers’ existence. Even though we can write articulate, imaginative prose, we fall down when it comes to writing a simple proposal and synopsis. The synopsis is a brief, general overview of your novel. It will let the agent or editor know that you have professional writing skills and give him or her a good picture of what the story is about.

You will get varied advice about how to construct a synopsis. There aren’t many rules and they can be different for different markets. No one definition of what the synopsis is, how long it should be, or how much to include.

Solid rules you can count on:

  • Should      be in third person, even if the novel is in first person.
  • Should      be told in present tense.
  • No      dialogue
  • Only      focus on the essential parts of the novel.
  • Include      beginning and ending. DO NOT end with a cliffhanger to entice the      agent or editor.

 Flexible rules to use:

  • Length      – 1 or 2 single spaced pages to      5 double spaced pages. No longer than 1 d/s synopsis page for every 25      pages of manuscript (i.e., 250 page ms COULD have a 10 page synopsis.) But      always check the submission guidelines.
  • Write      a summary, not a complete outline of the book.
  • For      a romance, you can create the synopsis from the viewpoint of the      protagonist with the most at stake and entwine the romance elements within      this structure. For other genres, you can create a summary for each main      character. Just make sure that summaries mesh.


(Combine or adjust each step as necessary for your book)

What to do

Points to cover

Always start with who, where, when,   and the central story question or goal. The central question will be explored   throughout the novel and resolved in the end.

Do this for the main story   protagonist(s). Keep it down to 2 or 3 people.


Who is your hero? Who is your   heroine?

What does the character think he wants?

What does the character need (whether he knows what this is or   not)?

When & where does the book take   place?

Give the inciting incident. What   propels the protagonist out of their safe niche? Their life is upset and they   must deal with it.

For a romance, describe their first   meeting which may be different from the inciting incident.


Make the incident clear and concise.

How does the protagonist define the   problem/goal?

Who or what is in conflict with the   protagonist’s goals?


Character must try to solve his problem,   using old methods. But he seems to only get tangled more deeply. In your   novel, there will most likely be several incidents, more than one chapter. In   your synopsis, write a brief narrative summary.


Show the character’s loyalty   displaced.

Make character question himself or   values or goals.

In a romance, what keeps them apart? What   are their conflicts, both internal & external?


Protagonist will realize old methods   are useless. Recognizes need for fundamental change.

Maybe the bad guys or opposition win   one or two clashes.


Things seem to fall apart and the protagonist   stumbles.

Protagonist will doubt the successful   outcome.

What event gives him a chance at a   goal he didn’t even know he had, something he needed all along, while until   now he has been going after something else.


Character must recommit to change   despite setbacks.

The inner and outer goals may have   changed from what he thought they were at the beginning of the story.

Explain what the protagonist has   learned so far.


Character recommits to change.

For a romance, do they realize they   are in love at this point?


The protagonist hits bottom. It looks   as if all is lost, and there’s even a scene where the character is just about   to give up.

Character must get kicked in the   teeth for doing something for change.

This is also known as the Black   Moment.


Faces scariest opponent, or maybe fate,   or his own fatal flaw.

In Hero’s Journey terms: the hero endures the supreme ordeal.

For a romance, do they realize they   are in love at this point?


A resurrection of character to new   and better person.

Despite Black Moment, protagonist   reaffirms and makes a deeper commitment to his story goal.


Character must decide changing is   worth getting kicked in the teeth for and recommit to goal. She must show   fear and courage too.


The protagonist fights back and   starts to overcome enemies or opponents.

The protagonist proves himself in a   crisis.

In   Hero’s Journey terms, the character will seize the sword or the elixir.


The protagonist risks all to attain   goal.

Bonds are made or admitted to. For a   romance, do they acknowledge they are in love at the point?


How are the obstacles/enemies   overcome? Character has epiphany/self-realization; must realize he/she has   changed.

The ending is very important. Tie up   all loose threads.

What does the protagonist get?

Release of tension, sense of   completion, wisdom gained, enemies defeated.

The central story question answered. This   may or may not be explicitly stated in your synopsis.

Did protagonist find love/grow   up/attain confidence?

Satisfy the reader’s questions:   “whatever’s gonna work out, works out. And what isn’t gonna work out, is   acceptable.”

World is back in balance.

I’d like to thank the following individuals for providing copies of their successful synopses as examples for my workshop. Please check out their sites and their books.


Kayelle Allen At the Mercy of Her Pleasure

Lisbet Sarai Exposure

Lisbet Sarai   Ruby’s Rules

Naomi Bellina  Out of the Ordinary

Elyssa Hendricks Star Crash

Lynne Connolly The Mood

P.J. Sharon Savage Cinderella

P.J. Sharon Wilderness Child

Karen Y. Bynum Witch Way to Turn


Your feedback:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s