How to write a synopsis of a novel

A synopsis of a novel  is a short description of a piece from start to finish. Usually, its length does not exceed two or three pages, but in some cases the editor requires you to provide a detailed synopsis of 10-15 pages.

Who needs a synopsis?

Publishing staff: heads of departments, artists, designers, marketers, etc. They do not have the opportunity to read every manuscript (this is done by readers, editors and proofreaders, and even then, not always), so many important decisions regarding the fate of your book will be made on the basis of synopsis.

Equally important, if the synopsis is excellent, and the manuscript contains flaws, the editor can help the author to finalize the work. Again, if the synopsis is a failure, and the manuscript is brilliant, then it will never come to reading the manuscript.

What should the synopsis of a novel look like?

Synopsis is a sequential story that introduces the characters, the development of the plot and – necessarily! – a decoupling. This is a full-fledged story – a separate literary work with its own drama, language, jokes, etc. Pay attention to folk tales: many of them are very similar to synopsis.

Bringing the editor up to date

Firstly, determine the time and place of the action from the very beginning. If necessary, provide an introduction – to describe the historical background or the world you invented.

Furthermore, omit unnecessary details and focus on the most exciting plot twists. Even if the main merit of your work is reflections on the meaning of being, try to give the synopsis at least minimal dynamics.

As well, introductory phrases like should be avoided. They do not carry useful information despite taking up a lot of space, but.

Heroes in a synopsis of a novel

To make it easier for the editor to understand who is who, insert brief descriptions of the characters.

If the synopsis is short, try to mention only the main characters by name – a lot of names in the text leads to confusion. The rest of the characters can be called “brother”, “rival”, “king”, “investigator”, etc.

Story lines

If there are many plot lines in the novel, then for a short synopsis you will have to choose only one – the most important one. If this is not possible, talk about different stories using words such as “in the meantime,” “meanwhile,” “at this time.”

Additionally, if parallel plots are from different eras, indicate this from the beginning and move from one topic to another with small headings. For example, the first storyline might be titled “Moscow 1932”, the second storyline “Jerusalem, 33 AD”

Questions to be answered in the synopsis

  • What changed the hero’s life and made him act?
  • What is the hero’s goal?
  • What obstacles stand in the way of the hero?
  • What does the hero do to achieve the goal?
  • What character traits or past events affect the hero’s actions?
  • What does he achieve on the stages of the path to the Big Goal?
  • What is the crisis and what caused it?
  • Describe the culmination event.
  • How did the events in the novel change the character?

Slight plot distortion

Sometimes, to add clarity to the synopsis, you need to slightly distort the plot. If, apart from the novel itself, this or that turn of events seems illogical, it is better to modify it or even cut it out – there is nothing wrong with that.


Show the novel’s trump cards. These can be surprising facts, unexpected conclusions, curious scenery. It should be clear from the synopsis what makes the book unique.

Moreover, show that your characters are really interesting people. Highlight a bright, attractive character trait in each of them.

If you are counting on press reviews, write two synopses, one for publishers and one for journalists. Publishers like what is on sale, i.e. love, adventure, humor and scandalousness. Finally, journalists consider themselves to be literary snobs, so they need details, philosophy, history, etc. In each case, the emphasis must be placed differently.

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