The Path to Publication, Part II: The Synopsis

Writer’s Resources


In my last post I mentioned a course I took during my MFA that taught me a fair amount about the road to getting published and the publishing industry. Unfortunately, one thing I was not taught was how to write a synopsis. I didn’t even know what a synopsis was until I started querying agents.

Let me say this: My first synopsis was not good, and I hate that it wasn’t good because I sent that synopsis off to a few agents, and I’m kicking myself for that. After doing a lot more reading beyond the fair amount I had already done, I revised that synopsis several times (maybe eight, ten, twelve times) to get it to where it’s currently at. I’m not going to tell you how to write a synopsis. Instead, I’m going to go over the resources I’ve used to get to the point where I’m at.

A Very Basic Definition of a Synopsis

Just to give this post and the resources mentioned some relevance, the broad definition of a synopsis is a document sent to an agent that describes what happens in your book from beginning to end, spoilers and all. This definition is very broad. You should read the articles I introduce below to really understand what a synopsis is.

The synopsis’s length is up to the agent you’re querying.

You should have your synopsis written before you begin querying agents.

Synopsis-writing Articles You Need to Read

Jane Friedman: How to Write a Novel Synopsis

  • Whenever I research the publishing industry, I first go to Jane Friedman. I was introduced to her during my MFA, and she has been a fantastic help for a great many things.
  • Relevant to the synopsis, you should start here. She gives a great overview of what a synopsis is and what it contains.
  • Most of the articles I summarize below are linked at the bottom of her post.

Christine Fonseca: The Anatomy of a SHORT Synopsis

  • This is the next article you should read. It’s short and to the point (go figure considering the article’s title).
  • This lays a good foundation for the rest of the articles mentioned below. And, like the last two articles mentioned in this post, it follows a pattern similar to the Three Act, Eight Sequence structure I’ve gone over before in several posts.

Writer’s Digest: Learn How to Write a Synopsis Like a Pro

  • This quickly reinforces what Friedman stated in the article linked above.
  • It’s mostly a dos and don’t article, but I like that it’s compact.
  • Reading this article is a great way to build confidence in that you know the basics of what a synopsis is.

Susan Dennard: How to Write a 1-page Synopsis

  • This article is fantastic: If you read any of these articles, read this one.
  • This was the last article I read before I began writing what became my final draft.
  • Why is this article fantastic?
    • The writing is clear yet quirky, and it uses clear examples.
    • And it follows the Three Act, Eight Sequence structure I use and have detailed in several of my own blog posts. So, it’ll be a piece of cake translating your novel into a synopsis using Dennard’s method.

Glen C. Strathy: How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel

  • If you prefer detail, this article has it.
  • In addition, this article mentions details that may fit your writing style and novel structure.
  • This method of writing a synopsis is quite involved. You’ll need 24 index cards on which you write key information and then organize them into four acts. That being said, if you’ve used the Three Act, Eight Sequence structure I’ve gone over in previous posts, you’ll have most of this work done already.

My Next Post

I’ll continue compiling and offering synopses of all the articles and content that have helped me on my path to publication.

Author: Chuck Lang

Chuck Lang is a writer of science fiction and horror. Influenced by his years as a carpenter, four years serving in the US Navy, and his fifteen years teaching literature, he holds an MFA in Writing (Fiction) from Lindenwood University. After completing his first manuscript, the supernatural horror novel DEAD GODS, in 2019, he has begun work on its two sequels, DEAD GODS: INHERITANCE and DEAD GODS: RESOLUTION. He is currently developing two additional projects, an urban fantasy horror novel and a military science fiction novel. He lives and writes near the frequently flooded Red River in Fargo, ND with his wife and two redhead sons.

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