How to Write a Synopsis for Your Novel

We hate writing synopses for our novels, and we’re not the only ones. We regularly hear from writers who are stumped about the dreaded synopsis.

  • How do you write a synopsis for a novel?
  • What even is a synopsis?
  • How long should it be?

We answer viewers’ questions about synopses in this week’s video. Keep reading for an example synopsis for a famous novel.

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What happens if a literary agent asks for a synopsis? Don’t panic. Here’s a beginner’s guide to writing a synopsis.

0:23 Why is a synopsis important for querying and selling your book? Because it shows if your book has a plot and if you know how to pace a book.

1:00 What is a synopsis? It outlines the skeleton of your book, giving an overview of the plot for your entire novel, including the ending. A well-written synopsis shows that you can pace a novel to keep readers turning the page.

1:41 Arielle shares an example of how a synopsis revealed pacing mistakes in a novel.

2:12 How do you write a synopsis for a novel? Check out Arielle’s example below.

3:03 How do you start a synopsis? You start at the inciting incident.

3:49 How do you build a synopsis? You heighten stakes and show ebbs in pacing.

6:55 How long should a novel synopsis be? We recommend two to five pages long.

7:07 Include character development.

7:14 Do not be vague. Show action in concrete details. Reveal the events that drive the plot forward. Make us feel the stakes.

7:47 Show that you can write unexpected twists and turns that are satisfying for your reader and make sense. Reveal the characters’ motivations that drive these events.

8:15 To master the art of synopsis writing, try writing one for a book that’s similar to yours.

Example Synopsis

Jane Austen, grand master of plot, builds tension and unfolds events perfectly in Pride and Prejudice. Here’s what Arielle included in the editorial she spoke about in the video.

Darcy is heralded as one of the grandest people in England but is a minor jerk to Elizabeth, so she thinks he’s a snob. Then she finds out (falsely) that he’s a horrible person and robbed a young man of his fortune. Now she hates Darcy. The plot is then able to unfold against these two early impressions: Elizabeth is forced to spend several days with Darcy and gets to see both how annoying he is, but also that he is more than that. At this point, he falls in love with her without her having any idea of his love. Next he professes his love in a completely snobbish, annoying way. She rejects him violently, but is also suddenly kind of intrigued that this asshole likes her. Next she sees him in his natural setting and meets his sister who adores her brother and this makes Elizabeth even more intrigued. Then she finds out that the dude who said Darcy was the devil is actually the devil, himself. Darcy comes to the rescue of Elizabeth’s family and she falls for him fully. A few more roadblocks come about (like his horrible aunt saying Elizabeth has to refuse his hand because she is beneath him), but the deal is pretty much sealed.


Check out our other videos here, or click the links below.

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Book Titles & Subtitles: How to Title Your Book

How to Get a Blurb For Your Book

Query Letters: How to Write a Query Letter Subject Line

Public Speaking Tips for Authors

How to Write an Author Bio

How to Write an Elevator Pitch For Your Book