How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis

One thing writers hate doing but will inevitably have to do (one day or another, at least) is the Dreaded Synopsis. An agent may request it in his/her submission materials, or an editor might want it once your agent has you out on subs. My film agent needed it for shopping around Something Strange & Deadly, and I would imagine other rights-agents would want a short, simple synopsis for the same reason.

So in other words: you have to learn to do this. You need it before you’re published, and you’ll certainly need it afterwards. Specifically, you’ll need to be able to write the 1 or 2-page synopsis.

But Sooz, you say. It’s hard to boil my whole ingenious novel into a few key sentences.  To convey the depth, the emotion, the literary power of your novel in 500 words or less—impossible!

Ah, but is possible my friends.  It’s possible and can even be fun (if you enjoy mental torture like me).  To learn how to write a short synopsis, I took workshops, read books, and wrote a few drafts until I had a gleaming 1-page book summary.  And after all that practice, I realized I had my own method (built from the methods of my various teachers, of course), and I’m sharing that method with you here.

To use this worksheet, fill out the questions in sentence form. Though your story may not follow this exact format, try to find some critical event in the story that can be placed in that space.  You will likely notice that the worksheet is very similar to the Hero’s Journey (because most stories follow that format!), and I have filled out the questions using my All Time Favorite Movie as the example.

Once you have filled out the worksheet, rewrite them on a fresh sheet of paper and try to eliminate words, tighten sentences, and variate sentence structure. How many words do you have? You want to shoot for under 500, and you want to have some “space” left for inserting connective words (e.g. meanwhile, then, after, etc.). You also want to have extra space to add any events that are needed for explanation/flow.

Rule of thumb: You should only name three characters in a short synopsis—usually, the protagonist, antagonist, and possible love interest/side-kick/contagonist. All other characters should be referred to by their roles (e.g. the waitress, the mother, the basketball player).

Rule of thumb: You must tell the ending! The purpose of a synopsis is to show an editor/agent you can tell a story from beginning to end. You will not entice them into reading your whole MS if you don’t share the ending—you’ll just tick them off! 🙂

Rule of thumb: Do not include subplots unless you have extra space at the end!!!!!  Stick to the MAIN PLOT EVENTS.

Fill in the Blanks

1. Opening image

An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.

2. Protagonist Intro

Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.

Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland.

3. Inciting incident

What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.

When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it—a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

4. Plot point 1

What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.

Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vader – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.

5. Conflicts & character encounters

Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.

To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vader’s home and the Empire’s main base.

6. Midpoint

What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 180 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.

Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.

7. Winning seems imminent, but…

What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.

After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vader kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship.

8. Black moment

The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?

Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vader and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.

9. Climax

What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?

The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.

10. Resolution

Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?

With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism.

11. Final image

What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?

Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.

Putting It All Together

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.

Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland. When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it—a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vader—the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.

To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vader’s home and the Empire’s main base. Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.

After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vader kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship. Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vader and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.

The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.

With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism. Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.

FINAL WORD COUNT: 452

I hope this helps you all!  I know I use it as a general guide every time I write a synopsis.  Sometimes, I even use it before writing a novel to help me get an idea of the general plot I want to follow.

What about you? How do you write a synopsis? Or do you have any questions about this method?

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168 Responses to How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis

  1. Meredith Apr 17 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Oh, the dreaded one page synopsis! I’ve had to do this twice now. Both times I basically typed up a detailed outline of my book, then whittled it down and whittled it down and whittled it down until only the most important stuff remained. Your method sounds way easier. 😉

    • Sooz Apr 17 2012 at 9:27 am #

      Haha, that sounds like my old method. Thing is, now I’m no good at writing a longer synopsis!

      • tom Nov 6 2013 at 4:48 pm #

        Thank you so much, Very helpful!

    • McKenna Apr 26 2016 at 8:57 pm #

      You’ve had to do that twice. WOW I’ve had to do this 8 times SO FAR. My teacher makes the class. This article is so helpful I use it for an outline.

  2. Jen Apr 17 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Great post! I HATE writing the synopsis: it’s the one thing that I still don’t feel comfortable with. I either include too much information, or not enough. Thanks for breaking it down in such a clear way!

    • Sooz Apr 17 2012 at 9:28 am #

      You’re welcome! I really hope it helps! 😀

  3. Amber Apr 17 2012 at 8:38 am #

    This was VERY helpful! I always go to rambling even on a short one but I really like how you broke it all down. Thanks!!

    • Sooz Apr 17 2012 at 9:28 am #

      Yay! I’m glad it’s useful to you, Amber!! Good luck writing it now. 😉

  4. Gwen Cole Apr 17 2012 at 9:19 am #

    You’re amazing, Susan.

    • Sooz Apr 17 2012 at 9:28 am #

      Haha! I certainly like hearing THAT, Gwen. 😉

  5. Erica O'Rourke Apr 17 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Sooz, if you were here right now I would kiss you on the lips. BRILLIANT.

    • Sooz Apr 17 2012 at 11:27 am #

      Ooh, the lips. This must mean I’m very special, indeed. 😉

  6. Ellen Apr 17 2012 at 11:23 am #

    I’m going to have to do one of these soon for when I start querying. Just one quick question? I take it these are–like your example–single-spaced with spaces between paragraphs? If I’m horribly off base, please let me know.

    Other than that, this is brilliant. It’s my constant referral tool for working on my own. 🙂

    • Sooz Apr 17 2012 at 11:31 am #

      You know, I’ve seen it done single-spaced with line breaks between OR double-spaced with 0.5 indent. I think either way works–no one will reject you because of that. I do my short synopses with single-spaced + line breaks, but my longer synopses are double-spaced. Maybe someone else on here will know…?

  7. vanessa shields Apr 17 2012 at 11:25 am #

    OMG. THIS IS HEAVENSENT. Thank you so much, Susan!!! This is so very timely for me as it’s on my UBER DREAM LIST 2012 – to get an agent…get published…I need me a rocking’ synopsis. Thanks for the guidance!!!

    • Sooz Apr 17 2012 at 11:31 am #

      Well, GOOD LUCK!! And yay! I’m so glad the timing worked out. 😀

  8. Claire M. Caterer Apr 17 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Susan, this is a fantastic and useful post. This is one of the hardest tasks we have as writers trying to pitch our work, and you’ve broken it down step by step. Thanks so much!

  9. Peggy Eddleman Apr 17 2012 at 11:52 am #

    This is incredible! I love you, Sooz. I’ve bookmarked this, and I know I’ll be referring to it forever.

  10. Cassie Apr 17 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    *flails* Susan, this is spectacular and awesome. Just like you. I’m trying NOT to be an obsessive planner with my current WIP (because it only gives time for that fresh “new” novel idea to spoil). I think writing a synopsis like this will be extremely helpful when planning out the basics of a novel. I definitely plan to refer to this!

  11. Jae Apr 17 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    You’ve provided us with an easy to follow outline with all the points we need. Wonderful! Thanks!

  12. Priscilla Shay Apr 17 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    I’m a little in love with you for reposting this lol Thanks!!

  13. Ghenet Myrthil Apr 18 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Thanks for posting this! I have to write a synopsis for the first time in the next couple of weeks so I’m going to bookmark this post. 🙂

  14. DB Graves Apr 21 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Awesome post Sooz! Yes, I hate the synopsis and have been avoiding it thus far. Heh. I am looking forward to taking your method for a test drive, though. So far I have not developed my own method. *blush*

  15. Jason Runnels Apr 29 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    I started my novel with an outline, so my synopsis pretty much ready before I started. It only needed to be tweaked slightly after the draft was written.

    Great worksheet though! Good to make sure each important plot point is there. Thanks for the post!

  16. Angela (ang writes) May 10 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    This post is a lifesaver. I am positive you are made of sunshine and lollypops!
    Thank you for this awesome guideline.

    I do have a question:
    How do you format the top? For example, I know manuscript form and how to format a query letter, but is there a specially way to format a synopsis? Name? Address? Page numbers? Or is it left blank?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Angela (ang writes) May 10 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      Ya know what!? I found something on Agent Query that will help. Thanks again for the great post.

  17. Di Eats the Elephant Jun 20 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Fabulous post. I have one question I hope you can help me with on this. I wrote one following your guidelines, got it down to about 500 words, and was told by others that they thought it needed to be double-spaced, which would put me back at a 2-page synopsis. Is the one-page synopsis single- or double-spaced? Thanks!!

  18. Tonio Jul 31 2012 at 8:22 am #

    my gawwd…

    Sooz is a genius.
    this is so helpful.
    godbless you woman!

  19. Valerie Lawson Jul 31 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    excellent! this will make writing the dreaded synopsis so much easier. i’m afraid i was also an outline whittler – drove me mad! now i will be insane no longer! i love this and will be sharing with others.

  20. MaryAnn Aug 28 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Hi Susan! Great post. Hope you’ve been well.

    MaryAnn (JAustenwannabe)

  21. jaced Aug 30 2012 at 5:58 am #

    Nicely done.

  22. Candace S. Sep 15 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Very helpful! Thank you for sharing this!

  23. Christie D. Sep 15 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Thank you for this post. It was very helpful. I just submitted my first and I fear it was lacking. This post was very helpful.

  24. Steve Sep 25 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    This is wonderful. I had a 2K synopsis without any real structure. I’ve shared this with many friends and have had only strong, positive feedback. I’ve gotten requests for this link to the point I’ve bookmarked it. Thank you for this post!

  25. Fred Talbot Sep 26 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    You are smoking hot, Sooz.

  26. Alisha Oct 1 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    Awesome! Its actually awesome article, I have got much clear idea about from this paragraph.

  27. Fernando Oct 12 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    I really really enjoy your article!! Thank you very much!

  28. Jessica Oct 16 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Thank for the break down it will help me so much.

  29. Fred Talbot Nov 17 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Upon further review, I just wanted to reassert that you are, indeed, smoking hot, Sooz.

  30. Rachel Nov 26 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    The words ‘one page synopsis’ send shivers down my spine! Thanks for making it so much easier to understand.
    NOTE: MAKE SURE that the publisher/agent you’re looking at doesn’t specify single- or double-spaced. I finally boiled my novel down to a page, only to realize I had to half it again! Cutting a 46,000-word book down to 350 wasn’t easy, but it was possible with this technique.

  31. Jake Dec 15 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    This is awesome, and thanks for the post! My ONE complaint: Darth Vader, not Vadar. ;]

    • Sooz Dec 15 2012 at 6:46 pm #

      Ha! Gold star to Jake for being the first person in 2 years to catch my spelling mistake!!! I am so *ashamed* to have gotten that wrong. 😉

      • Jake Dec 15 2012 at 6:52 pm #

        Yay, I got a star! And maybe a high five? :]

        Don’t beat yourself up about it too much, but rather, do so just enough. Haha

  32. Jake Dec 15 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    I have an actual question, and it could help me out with my homework if you answer. Should the synopsis be presented in a strictly linear fashion? If I were wanting my actual story to have numerous flashbacks, would that be permitted, or something that would be put in place later?

    • Sooz Dec 15 2012 at 8:41 pm #

      In that situation–if it’s REALLY critical to the plot that you mention the flashback in the synopsis–I would mention it WHEN it happens in the story.

      For example, “When John walks into the kitchen for the meeting with his mother, he catches sight of a refrigerator magnet of his family that sends him spiraling into a flashback–a flashback of the day his mother killed his father. Realizing he has walked into a trap, John texts his girlfriend to call the police.”

      Does that help?

      • Jake Dec 15 2012 at 9:54 pm #

        It does! And I appreciate the haste of your reply! I think my question could be rearranged as so: if you feel the narrative is best served in a non-linear way, do you show that via your synopsis? For example, the main conflict is presented the most, but then the story cuts back further and further to reveal the events that led to the main conflict. Would you write this in your synopsis to reflect how you want to tell the story?

        • Sooz Dec 16 2012 at 9:24 pm #

          I think you have to decide if your “flashbacks” are typical reveals or a bigger piece of the story structure (e.g. MOMENTO). ALL books have Big Reveal points–areas where the MC/reader learns special backstory or about something happening offstage. My own book, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is all about Eleanor figuring out what the heck her brother was doing–and as she uncovers clues, it triggers memories that lead to more clues. In my one page synopsis, though, I never mention those memories (there isn’t space) but rather the consequence of the memory.

          For example: “She escapes from the opera that night, and she and Daniel break into the dynamite factory. Daniel is caught, but Eleanor manages to save him. When they return to the Spirit-Hunters’ lab, they find it was destroyed while they were gone.”

          During that passage, there are actually two massive flashback/memory reveals that give Eleanor all the pieces she needs to solve several mysteries at once. BUT, because I don’t have the space to say all that, I just relay the actions she takes that drive the main plot.

          Now, all that said, if your story is a different structure than chronological–e.g. MOMENTO–then I would order your synopsis according to the story order (not according to the chronological passage of events).

          Does that help at all?

          • Jake Dec 17 2012 at 2:22 pm #

            This really helped out quite a bit! My treatment ended up being something like Memento, where it was progressively going forwards and backwards at the same time. I really appreciate your help! I’ll be on the lookout for more posts by you. :]

  33. Finn Dec 16 2012 at 3:39 am #

    Hi Susan,

    I don’t normally post, but I wanted to thank you for your one-page synopsis guidelines – they’re the most helpful I’ve ever found. I’ve also discovered that they work really well for longer ones too, just by expanding the information but keeping to the same format. Thank you so much.

    Finn

  34. Jason David Raya Dec 21 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    Thank you for this information. Even the movie you used as your example reiterated why I must write and produce my first, full-length, feature film. Thanks for the inspiration. God bless you!

    Sincerely,
    Jason David Raya
    San Diego, CA.

  35. sooper Dec 23 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    what about a synopsis for a multiple POV novel? I stuck to only one character for the query but I feel like I’d be misrepresenting my novel if I relegate the other four main characters to titles or pronouns. Any advice?

  36. Larry Winfield Dec 31 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    Thank you very much Susan! This nuts-and-bolts step-by-step approach helped me break through the impasse I was suffering with my novel. The tale is, in fact, a multiple POV story with co-protagonists and co-antagonists, but concentrating on one protagonist allowed me to revise the first third of the novel and streamline the plot. The synopsis itself is now flowing after months of struggle!

    sooper: what I’m doing is only touching on subplots if the co-protagonists or co-antagonists are involved. It’s not a perfect solution, but I expect a 1-page result…

  37. Christy Feb 18 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Thank you so much for this method. I can’t wait to try it.

  38. Gwen Cole Mar 4 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    So I’m about to try this out finally, because last year when I wrote a synopsis it was…well, it was bad. So here’s to hoping this will work!! (which I really think it will 🙂 )

  39. Jeff Garvin Mar 16 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    Thanks for compiling and sharing this, and for using SW as your story template. This will help me attack the dreaded Synopsis Beast!

  40. bolor from Mongolia Mar 18 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    thank you so much. I’m not a writer, but everytime I read a book, I want to write synopsis to it to improve my writing and language skills. Now I will follow your suggestion and write myself synopsis.

  41. Bill Moore Mar 29 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    I ran across this, looking for help writing a short synopsis for a query package. Best tips and formula I’ve ever seen, and nicely presented. I’m at 600 words and editing, Thank you Susan Dennard.

  42. Dawn Mar 31 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    I do believe this is the best synopsis template floating around in cyberspace. I prefer the showing approach rather than telling me how to write a synopsis. I’m an aspiring Screenwriter so this will come in handy.

  43. Sari Apr 1 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I was asked to write a synopsis for a film producer for the script that I am STILL working on, you can imagine the hassle I’m in, I basically stopped writing the script, and did not write the synopsis either :S This should really help considering the story is there with all the details. This will be very useful! Thanks!

  44. Genea Apr 4 2013 at 2:15 am #

    Thank you for writing this. It has really helped me.

  45. T.J. Apr 5 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Thank you. OMG, thank you. I actually managed to write a bloody synopsis without losing ALL of my hair 🙂

  46. darlene Apr 7 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Thank you …this really help me

  47. Austin Hackney Apr 10 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Sooz, I don’t know how to thank you – you have taken away all the fear!

    This little tool is just what I have been searching for. It’s also one of those simple devices that remains entirely elusive until someone else points it out and then you think “Aha! Of course!” So, thank you for leading me to the ‘eureka’ moment.

    The odd thing is that I have been a great fan of the writings of Joseph Campbell (who was also a great fan of Star Wars) since my teens and so I am very familiar with The Hero’s Journey – but using it in this way never occurred to me before. My novel structure is based on it, so this is just ideal.

    Thank you – I’ll be coming back to explore your site further and recommending to my friends. 🙂

  48. A. D. Phillips Apr 13 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    Thanks for putting up this article. It really helped me shorten my Synopsis and focus on the “meat” of my story. Hopefully my new synopsis will snag an agent. 🙂 If you ever have time, please check out my web series “Chrome Justice”, my novella “Gemini Error”, and “The Brain Room” on my website. Thanks again, your method is great!

  49. Bridie Costello Apr 17 2013 at 9:49 am #

    This advice is o helpful – thank you.

  50. Jennifer May 2 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    OMG Thank you. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  51. srishti kumar May 3 2013 at 1:08 am #

    what a marvelous shot!! Productive, to the point.. n cut tool !! thnx 🙂

  52. Fred Jac0bs May 9 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Hi Sooz thank you so much. This will really help me as it is the first time that I have to submit a synopsis. You are brilliant THANKS

  53. 24/7 in France May 11 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Thank you so much for your synopsis tips – timely and fantastic.

  54. C Valero May 11 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Wow, thank you so much. This saved me. I just wrote my shortest and most to-the-point synopsis yet! Thank you!

  55. bob kiely May 18 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Great post. I came across it when I googled “Is it redundant or bad form to reiterate description or action in the logline in the synopsis. Part of me says, “You’ve already told them that!,” but another part says “But it’s critical in logically plotting out the story.”
    Would welcome your comments.

  56. Kathleen May 23 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    This has been really useful for me, Susan! Because it doesn’t take into account subplots it’s also fabulous for locking down the outline of short stories when I have a solid idea of the bits I’d like to have happen, and no time to finish a draft.

  57. Jo May 27 2013 at 2:46 am #

    I had no idea where to start but your breakdown was brilliant. Thank you so much 🙂

  58. Punshil Kumar May 31 2013 at 12:36 am #

    I have written five novels, out of which two have come out and three are still in the pipeline. I was required to submit a short synopsis for a film producer and was in a fix to know what to do. Your sample synopsis has give me a timely help for which I am highly obliged to you.
    Thanks,
    Punshil Kumar

  59. Pollyanna Darling Jun 1 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Brilliant thank you. I’m writing my first synopsis and it ain’t pretty. The worksheet is a god send!!!

  60. Maggie Mata Jun 13 2013 at 4:12 am #

    You are BRILLIANT!

  61. Katarina Jun 27 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Thank you dear Sussan for sharing this piece of gathered information, knowldge and experiences! I found it very useful! Best wishes and greetings from LJubljana, SLOvenia.

  62. Jo Jul 8 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    This is brilliant! I’m on a time-limit with the publisher so this has helped so much! Really easy to put together my synopsis, much better than my first draft! :L

  63. Cindy Jul 11 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Thanks so much for this post. It makes perfect sense. I can’t wait to try it. Wait….. that might be a little strong, but I’m sure that it will make it much less painful. 😉

  64. Sharon Bayliss Jul 13 2013 at 11:49 am #

    I used this post for my first book and I’ve tracked it down again! Love it!!!

  65. Pellinore Jul 17 2013 at 3:38 am #

    Thanks Susan, I am entering my screenplay into a Film Festival competition (my first one), the winner gets to be produced. It really is important I get the synopsis right, your advice will be a great help. The Screen Australia definition of a synopsis is pretty dry compared to yours. It helps being a Star Wars kid to.

  66. Mike Jul 23 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Marry me.

  67. Suzanne Furness Jul 27 2013 at 4:18 am #

    This is great, really useful tips and advice. Thinking about reworking my synopsis so will refer to this again. Thank you.

  68. Visnu Nagarajan Aug 7 2013 at 4:11 am #

    It’s Wonderful.Thank You so much.Now, I will write my Script with much confidence. Visnu Nagarajan

  69. Judith van Praag Aug 9 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Great breakdown Sooz, I’ll share this with my Greater Seattle Women Who Write Meetup. But shouldn’t the protagonist make a 180º?

  70. csorensenwrite Aug 21 2013 at 7:06 am #

    Sooz – I have been searching for 3 days for the best synopsis ‘how-to’. You win! Thanks for taking the time…the ‘Star Wars’ analogy is a perfect guideline.

  71. Garfield Ellis Aug 23 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    You are my savior. I had no clue how to write as synopsis and less than two weeks to do it. This is like a road map. Thanks.

  72. Chris Sep 4 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Wow. This has been the most helpful synopsis writing method I’ve come across. It’s really helped me condense my 10-15 page attempts into a neat and tidy 1 1/2 pages. Awesome! Thanks. 🙂

  73. Carol Sep 5 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    So helpful! Thanks for posting!!!!

  74. Steven Amick Sep 6 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Just lovely. Thank you. The tangible examples really helped give your “steps” context. By the way, gold star for me, too. It’s MEMENTO, not MOMENTO.

  75. Zee Sep 9 2013 at 7:19 am #

    I am struggling to write synopsis and Treatment for my feature film….am so stressed

  76. Ray Croke Sep 20 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Really great advice. Takes all the mystery out of how to write a good synopsis. Thank you, thank you!

  77. Deirde Sep 20 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    You should get some kind of award or a prize for this- free chocolate for life, or whatever gets you through editing. Thank you!

  78. kimberly Sep 29 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Thank you!

  79. Abhishek pawar Oct 6 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    Thank you it really helps me…..

  80. Wendy Nov 4 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    This is brilliant!

    I do have a question though – I have just completed the first book in a trilogy. The ending is of course, in the third book – how do I then do the synopsis? Do I need to mention it’s a trilogy? Do I only mention what happens in the first book?

    Many thanks.

  81. Victoria Kay Nov 7 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Would you possibly have something like this for a picture book. I’ve written and illustrated a story and having a very hard time getting through the synopses part.

  82. Liz Blocker (@lizblo Nov 13 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    I’m reading this WAY after you posted it, but it just helped me bang out a synopsis with a lot less hair-pulling and teeth-grinding than I thought 🙂 Thank you so much!!!

  83. Marilyn Mitchell Nov 20 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Thank you for a very understandable guide on the short synopsis. They are such a devilish thing to deal with but oh, so necessary.

  84. Amin Dec 6 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    I’ve got 2 words for you Susan: Life Saver.

  85. Bryan Dumas Dec 17 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Please don’t tell my wife, but I owe you a huge hug! Thank you for your work putting this together. It is the most insightful, clear, and concise description of a synopsis I’ve found. You’ll be the third to hear if all works out for me!

  86. Nicole Jan 11 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Thanks for the wonderful tip. I’ll soon have to write a synopsis for the first time and it’s good to know how to get started.

  87. Scott Jan 14 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    Thank you so much for this invaluable template! It helped me tremendously improve my synopsis.
    The fact that you had an example, and one from a very famous movie, made it that much easier to follow!

    I’m in your debt :)!

  88. Marc Vun Kannon Jan 18 2014 at 9:54 am #

    I just pushed through my own very first ever synopsis (four novels, one synopsis), thanks in large measure to this post, but I should point out that the technique you suggest here is not necessarily 100% successful. My stories are very much more character-driven than plot-driven, so focusing on the plot elements as the turning points of the synopsis can occasionally be unhelpful. I’ve been blogging about some of these points on my own site.
    http://authorguy.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/plot-point-one/

  89. Charlotte Johnson Jo Feb 5 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Agent Michelle L. Johnson shared this on Facebook . . . and thank goodness. You’ve given me hope that I can actually boil my book down. Great post!

  90. Carley Feb 27 2014 at 7:40 am #

    I love this but your use of the word “variate” distracts and detracts from your message. I think you mean “vary your sentence structure.” Variate is a mathematical term for “random,” I believe. Thanks for listening.

  91. Okorie Matthew Feb 28 2014 at 6:19 am #

    This is like love at first sight. I call this hitting the bull’s eye. I have a request from a popular Hollywood film agent to send a one to seven page synopsis for my allegorical fantasy story. Just one click after I googled for synopsis. I got ‘Miss Right’ waiting for me. I pray I get through the hurdles and get my story into film you are part of my success story.

  92. Tom Julian Mar 15 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Hi – this is brilliant and thanks so much for sharing. Feel like a cloud has been lifted! Thanks from a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend.

  93. Amponash-Oware Apr 15 2014 at 11:44 am #

    Thank you very much.

  94. rashid baloch Apr 24 2014 at 6:01 am #

    This has been really useful for me, Susan.The contents are masterwork. you have done a great process on this topic.What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious know-how about unexpected emotions.

  95. richturgeon@gmail.co Apr 27 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Great post, it really provided a great roadmap. It doesn’t hurt that Star Wars is also my favorite movie. : )

    Thank you!

  96. Francesca May 1 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    I hate having to write a synopsis! And if I thought a one page synopsis was bad, I am required for a class project to condense the summary of a long book down into half a page! Howwwww…?!/1\???E#(#%)@

  97. Jonathan D. Nichols May 12 2014 at 11:52 pm #

    Just found this site, and your outline is awesome! I got my 9-year-old son into Star Wars, and found this site while he happened to be watching the movie in the other room. Easy plotline to relate to, and this setup you have takes a lot of the struggle out of trying to create a decent synopsis. Thanks.

  98. Mary Ann Bella May 17 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Thank you, Susan. How generous of you to share this information! I think one of the greatest advantages of writing a synopsis is to clarify thinking about the story or script or any other form of writing. This is an opportunity to find inconsistencies, learn if your story really is compelling, identify needed changes and much more. All by writing a synopsis.

  99. Joey Ledford Jun 2 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Albert Einstein is to relativity as you are to synopses. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you!!

  100. Carolyn Jun 5 2014 at 8:02 am #

    Hi…thanks so much for the ‘how to.’ I am not a writer, by no means, but am having to write a synopsis in order to possibly have a human interest story told.

    The reason for this post is that I would encourage you to look into the meaning of ‘rule of thumb.’ I refrain from ever using it after learning its origin.

    It is also an interesting fact. Have an awesome day.

    • Marc Vun Kannon Jun 5 2014 at 9:10 am #

      “It was legal for men to beat their wives, as long as they used a stick no bigger than their thumb.” At least that’s the Boondock Saints version. I tend to associate the saying with the image of painters holding up their thumbs to judge whatever it is painters judge with their thumbs.

    • L.E. Oct 27 2015 at 10:19 pm #

      Actually, the wife-beating origin is not true. The thumb was a measurement used in several applications. Yes, wife-beating was–and continues to be, in some cultures–legal, but we may use “rule of thumb” without pain.

  101. Alaric Longward Jun 6 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Hi, this is great stuff. I’m using this and love it, and it does remind me of the Save the Cat book, and the basic breakdown for movie script. That one is also brilliant, and so are you. Thanks for saving me a ton of trouble.

  102. Dr. Sheelwant Patel Jun 20 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    Hi Susan, you distilled a complex issue. Synopsis writers couldn’t have come across a better guideline. Thanks. Keep it up.

  103. Laura Jul 1 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    This is and incredibly useful tool. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  104. Suzanne Jul 8 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    This is AMAZING! Thank you so much. You were right – I even had fun while writing my synopsis because this format is so helpful.

  105. Emily Moore Jul 20 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I don’t mind the synopsis, when its more than 2 pages! haha. This is really helpful, and I might try to use it for my WIP before its finished…. so much for being a pantser!

    My question: I’ve heard that in synopsis, names are supposed to be in capital letters. True or false? And when minor characters are referred to as THE WAITRESS, are they also capitalized?

  106. paulski Jul 25 2014 at 12:31 am #

    From the “Midpoint” section:
    “…causes the MC to make a 360 degree change…”

    Don’t you mean a 180 degree change?

  107. GodGirlGoth Jul 25 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Thanks so much for this example. I used it to revise my memoir’s movie synopsis to make it the story I want to show. One step flowed into the next, into the next. Now I have a coherent story that I want to watch/read.

  108. Larry Woldenberg Sep 18 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    Very helpful information. In fact, you could start with a synopsis after writing an outline to begin a project. Also, in writing a synopsis it helps clarify a project and can show where holes exist and changes need to be made. Thanks for the posting!

  109. Ian Oct 7 2014 at 6:41 pm #

    Really enjoyed your post as I’m trying to to write a novel synopsis now.
    I also write screenplays, and realised your template is from a screenplay writer called Blake Snyder and his book ‘Save the Cat’, what a great read. It demystifies screen writing, but has 15 steps instead of your 8. Well done for simplifying the beat sheet even further!

  110. Burke Hicks Nov 18 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Thanks Sooz. I was able to pass high school English by luck, Classic Comics and B.S. Writing now, as an old man, the synopsis business had me baffled.I wish I had you for a teacher back in the 50s. If a 72 year old high school drop out can grasp it you have done your job well.

  111. Jenny Bee Nov 24 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    I owe you my LIFE FOR THIS. *_* THANK YOU.

  112. Angus Nov 25 2014 at 7:42 am #

    So simple. I had to write a 300 word synopsis for a silent film – not an easy task – this helped me understand exactly what needed to be said, which I found difficult given that my film has no character names or any written/spoken language.

    🙂

  113. Nigel Nessling Dec 20 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Hi Sooz, I’m just wondering, is there a rule of thumb re word count for a synopsis? Only our book is a little diferent from most, as there are two, concurrent, stories running at the same time. One character is in the present, the other in the past, and our chapters alternate until they meet. In fact, then there is a third story, as the hero brings his damsel-in-distress back to the present day! With three sub-synopsies, (Is that even a word?!) we’ll be lucky to get it under 900 words, though still on two pages. Advice?

  114. Liam Reece Tolken Jan 6 2015 at 7:04 am #

    Hello, I’d just like to ask you what I should do if my book has three main characters whose POV’s come up the most.
    I have two protagonists and one antagonists as my MCs.
    They are all going about their own lives and do not meet until much later in the book.

    Please advise me on how to write a synopsis on such?

    • Marc Vun Kannon Jan 6 2015 at 8:31 am #

      I have exactly the same problem, can’t wait to get tips on this. The modern query structure seems to skew the market towards the more linear stories, it seems to me.

      • Liam Reece Tolken Jan 6 2015 at 8:48 am #

        I agree. I cannot find an article anywhere relating to our problem

        • Marc Vun Kannon Jan 6 2015 at 9:04 am #

          Maybe there’s a query structure for literary fiction that would work better for us. Something that works with multiple characters and their individual plot threads driving the story.

          • John Jan 21 2015 at 11:42 am #

            Please post if you find something. I have the same issue.

          • John Jan 21 2015 at 12:07 pm #

            I found this which might help: http://www.annemini.com/?cat=1965

            It looks like “Sooz” doesn’t respond to this post anymore.

  115. Sebastian Jan 14 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Thank you Sooz,

    You made it a lot easier. I love the examples.

  116. Ashley Jan 17 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    This was actually super helpful. I don’t know how many synopsis drafts I’ve made for my current piece, but just starting with those first few “fill in the blanks” actually cut out a lot of my useless intro filler and it made all of the other points fall together easily. No joke, my “I think this is as good as it’s going to get” version was 4 pages of the 2-5 page option. I’ve now got 1.5 pages of key plot and a surprisingly large amount of character drama. Once I get it properly formatted with all of the necessary contact info and sequel outline, I should be sitting pretty with a 3 page max!
    So thank you for your help! So glad you shared!

  117. Tanya Spencer Jan 19 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    Thank you so much for this. It was exactly what I was looking for right now. I was told to check out your blog for information like this from my trusted CP, and you did not disappoint. Thank you again!

  118. Michelle Jan 20 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    Thank you! I had course material–that I paid for–telling me, “Don’t leave anything out!” But try turning a 400 page multi point-of-view epic into one page without leaving something out! I was angsting over every word, but still knew it was hopeless. This formula was a tremendous help. You saved me pulling my hair out!

  119. maureen st.clair Feb 6 2015 at 11:11 am #

    just wanted to let you know the phrase “rule of thumb” comes from way back when men were not allowed to beat a woman with a stick not thicker then there thumb. just thought you should know as you use this a lot in your post…..

  120. Nathalie Bagadey Mar 22 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    Thank you so much for this very helpful worksheet !!!
    I was dreading the exercise, but not so much now… Can’t wait to start of my syno, but first I wanted to say thank you. 🙂

  121. Jules Davis Mar 26 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    I’m writing one with a 250 word limit.
    It’s for the first of a four book series.
    I can’t find any info about writing this.
    Do four book arcs get put in?
    Couldn’t show resolution.
    Did I mention how hard it is having a 250 word limit?
    Grr. Arg.

  122. Brad Podowski Apr 3 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Sooz, thank you very much for sharing this invaluable information. It’s also nice to see how many other writers, like myself, dread the synopsis. Your concise explanation made it so much less painful.

    Appreciatively yours,
    Frustrated synopsis writer 🙂

  123. M.D. May 1 2015 at 7:27 am #

    This helped me a lot actually! As an aspiring writer, the synopsis and the query are the two things that frighten me the most. I’ve just written the first draft of the synopsis of my manuscript.

    Thank you for this handy guide!

  124. Natalya May 6 2015 at 3:46 am #

    Thank’s so much for useful information. For me ( I’m russian author) this article is smth fantastic! But I have also one question.. may be two))
    1). Who can tell me where I must put acount of author’s sheets in synopsis, and must I do this ??
    2). in what format font and fields must be written synopsis?
    I need to send 3 chapters and a synopsis to British agent.
    Help me please, people))))

  125. Thea May 25 2015 at 1:45 am #

    This article completely saved me. I’ve been struggling for weeks to write a 750-word synopsis for my WIP novel, and kept coming up with 2,000-word ramblings. With this format, I was able to write something concise, clean, and engaging in 749 words.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t say it enough: THANK YOU!

  126. Udbhav Seth Jun 10 2015 at 3:35 am #

    my god, i’m just about to start and must say this is the BEST synopsis guide in the WHOLE of the internet..im a 15 year old student and have written a sci-fi book(coincidences, much?) and this site gave me a literal WORKSHEET to fill out…thank you susan!

  127. Leo Jun 18 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    The objection, of course, being that most films are short-story or novella length. It would be much more impressive if you pulled this off with “Dune” or “American Gods.” Most books I have read say “one page per 25,000 words.” For most novels, this would be two to three pages formatted as follows…. A) double-spaced, B) 1″ margin, 3) using 12-point Times New Roman as the font. This gives you about 950 words.

    • Marc Vun Kannon Jun 18 2015 at 3:11 pm #

      I think my synopsis for my 84K word novel ended up being about 750 words, so this sounds more realistic to me.

  128. Sarah Jul 6 2015 at 2:19 am #

    thanks a lot! thanks for your effort! God bless!

  129. Wendy Louise Jul 23 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    Hi Sooz!

    Thanks so much for this article! I’m a Dutch writer, longing to improve my synopses.
    Whilst Googling, I didn’t find anything useful in Dutch. Then I found this page!
    My synopsis is ready now, next week I will send it together with the first 50 pages of the MS to the publishers!
    I have never had such a great synopsis, I’ve followed all your steps and made it exactly like you describe. I’m confident I will finally score a great publisher!
    I’ll keep you posted.
    Thanks again, this article RULES!

  130. chris Aug 6 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Perfect! This is why your the writer and the rest of us are the readers!

    ~chris

  131. Thom Aug 9 2015 at 1:57 am #

    Just found this and thought it to be very useful and reassuring.

    I’m submitting the first three chapters and synopsis in the coming week (for Hodderscape’s open author call), and haven’t written a fiction synopsis before. Some practice writing abstracts for academic articles and project proposals though, that might have made this easier for me than for others.

    As it is, I wrote a two page synopsis (1014 words) yesterday for what will hopefully be a ca. 80-90k novel (murder mystery fantasy themed). Then thought it would be good to actually check what was needed in a synopsis. Turns out I hit most of the points instinctively.

    Only thing where i strayed from the rules of thumb, was that I have named five main characters instead of just three. Narrator/falsely accused, her fiance/Victim, the Investigator, the actual Villain and a recurring character for (if it turns into) a series and who will be the narrator for a later book.

    I wrote Times New Roman fonts size 11, with 1.5 line-spacing and indented paragraphs. Margins are about 1.5 inches each, and the page doesn’t look to crowded.

    Thanks for the suggestions here. Again, they have proved very useful to cross-check against.

  132. Cez Sep 10 2015 at 5:57 am #

    If I could put this article in a box I’d send it as a Christmas present to every querying writer on the planet. I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot of synopsis advice, do’s and don’t’s. This is by far the best article I’ve come across.
    I wrote my synopsis before I read this and it was almost creepy to read your questions and see the answers pop up in my own work, as if I’d unconsciously followed your advice.
    Lots of thanks.

  133. Lynn Oct 19 2015 at 7:03 am #

    So, since you made the synopsis this easy, any chance you’ve written a how-to on writing a query? I was able to write my first draft of a synopsis in one sitting thanks to this handy-dandy instruction sheets. I’ve been banging my head against the wall to the point the wall (not my head anymore lol) is bleeding. It’s three weeks later, and I still can’t do it well.

    • The PubCrawl Crew
      The PubCrawl Crew Oct 19 2015 at 8:36 am #

      Hi Lynn!

      We have a lot of resources on querying and writing queries at PubCrawl. Check the tag Query Tips, or this post by Erin Bowman (Querying: The Dos and Don’ts and a Worksheet), or this post by S. Jae-Jones (The Art of Writing Copy).

      Best,
      The PubCrawl Crew

  134. Angela Noelle Oct 22 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    You’re a sensation.

    Best post on this in all the webiverse.

  135. Laurie Germaine Jan 14 2016 at 1:10 am #

    Thank you for an amazing article. It helped me streamline my 318-pg novel into a one-page synopsis–in one day! You can imagine my excitement in completing something so arduous for writers. It would also make a great exercise when first creating a plot line. Thanks again. You shrunk a mountain down to a molehill. 🙂

  136. Suzy Krause Feb 3 2016 at 8:36 am #

    Thank you for this, from the bottom and top and middle of my heart.

  137. Rebecca Mar 27 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed AND the example was perfect.

  138. Mary Malhotra Apr 1 2016 at 3:27 am #

    Thank you so much! This just helped me write a one-page synopsis earlier in my project than I’ve ever managed before. And now it will be an awesome guide pulling me back to my writing desk. 🙂

  139. Walder Frey May 13 2016 at 12:28 am #

    But then how would you write a Watchmen synopsis without making it look like too nonsense or really stupid? There is an infinity of odd main characters and they all serve a great purpose to the plot. If you’re going to name only three people who would stay out? Dr. Manhattan? The Comedian? Nite Owl? Silk Spectre? Rorschach? Ozymandias? The story structure would pretty much fall apart if you pull any of them out.

    • Marc Vun Kannon May 13 2016 at 6:06 am #

      True. This is a very specialized case, with one MC, one conflict, one villain. It doesn’t help with multiples in any parameter, or none.

  140. Lizzy May 21 2016 at 4:20 am #

    Thank you so much! 🙂
    I have attempted to write a synopsis for my novel so many times but I keep putting in too much information and treating it like a story in it’s own right.
    I have been looking for a page like this for a long time, hoping someone would use a story I know well as an example of how a synopsis should be structured. YAY!
    You are a gem!

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