Writing a Synopsis: The secret to nailing your final draft

What if I told you there was a writing tool that could help you nail your final draft, slash time and effort off the front of the editing process, and set up your novel for acceptance by an agent or publisher? Such a beast really does exist, and it’s something you already know you’ll need to write: your synopsis.

I see that suspicious look on your face. Isn’t a synopsis the outline-y thing you send along with a cover letter to agents and publishers? Why should you work on that so early in the game? Maybe you’ll be self-publishing and don’t plan to pitch your book anywhere. You won’t even need a synopsis!

Except that you do need a synopsis—and you need it right now, while you’re still wrapping up your final draft. Every author agonizes over the final draft, wondering if it they’ve managed to hit all the right notes. It’s so subjective—and the longer you stare at your manuscript, the murkier it becomes. The solution is so simple: your synopsis.

A synopsis is a road map of your book that reveals whether you’ve woven a coherent, cohesive story. It’s the objective, high-level overview that will let you spot holes in your manuscript like a hawk spotting a rabbit dashing across the snow. Your synopsis can save you from wasting time and money moving forward with a manuscript containing big-picture issues neither you nor your beta readers spotted.

Get everything working together

So many authors come to me for editing still unable to articulate what’s really going on in their books. How does one thing lead to the next?

If you’ve conscientiously slogged through multiple revisions, you’ve spent lots of time isolating and tinkering with parts and pieces of your book: the dialogue, the pacing, the story arc, and so on. How do you know when you’ve gotten them right? Your synopsis hands you the answer.

It all starts with the turning points of your plot—the opening hook, the inciting event, problems, choices, reversals, and so on. If you’re a plotter who works from outlines, you’re probably already familiar with these conventions of fiction. But even pantsers can get a handle on their book once it’s written by using those points to write a synopsis. Look at this step-by-step method from Janice Hardy’s Fiction University for writing a synopsis that will help you pitch and sell your novel. Bonus: It’ll show you if you’ve built a solid book in the first place, too.

Does your badass hero spend more time waiting for things to happen than pushing the plot forward? Do plot threads peter out without resolution? Do the sidekick and the antagonist show more agency than the hapless protagonist? When you boil entire sections of your book down to two or three sentences, you’re forced to confront what’s actually made it from your head onto the page. It may not turn out to be exactly what you’d imagined.

Read more: 12 reasons to learn how to write a brilliant synopsis

Lighten your editing load

Not only does a synopsis help you identify remaining big-picture problems, but it will save you time and money when it’s time for editing. A synopsis helps your editor determine if your manuscript needs content editing or if it’s ready to move into line editing or copyediting. If you’re getting a content edit, it helps your editor quickly identify weak areas and places where your intentions didn’t quite make it onto the page. Less time evaluating your manuscript and deciding on a plan of attack means more time spent on editing—and that means time and money saved.

When you make writing your synopsis the final step of your writing and revision process, you can assure yourself, your editor, and potential agents and publishers that all the parts and pieces of your novel are in place and in fine working order.



Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis

The Sum of the Parts: Writing a Synopsis


Accelerate your synopsis

When you run Plot Accelerator coaching with me, your synopsis will emerge naturally as we analyze the plot and major turning points of your story. Not only will you finish your coaching time knowing what makes your story fly and how to make it go faster and farther than ever, but you’ll also have a head start writing a synopsis that will make agents, publishers, and readers want to buy your book.

Ready to accelerate your process? Let’s talk about your book.

Lisa PoissoLooking for an editor for your novel? That editor could be me! Take a look at the ways I can help you with your book, and let’s talk about working together on your upcoming novel.



Featured image: Tall Chris