Reading you under the table since 2012

How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis

by

Susan Dennard

SusanDennard

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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Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. As a marine biologist, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor. She lives in the Midwestern US with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog,newsletterTwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

 Her Something Strange and Deadly series is now available from HarperTeen, and the Truthwitch series will launch from Tor in fall 2015.

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144 Comments

  1. Posted April 17, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    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. ;)

    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

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

      • tom
        Posted November 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        Thank you so much, Very helpful!

  2. Posted April 17, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    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!

    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      You’re welcome! I really hope it helps! :D

  3. Posted April 17, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    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!!

    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

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

  4. Gwen Cole
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    You’re amazing, Susan.

    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Haha! I certainly like hearing THAT, Gwen. ;)

  5. Posted April 17, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

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

    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

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

  6. Ellen
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    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. :)

    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      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. Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    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!!!

    • Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

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

  8. Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    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. Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

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

  10. Cassie
    Posted April 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    *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. Posted April 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

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

  12. Posted April 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

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

  13. Posted April 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted April 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted April 29, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    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!

    • Posted May 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

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

  17. Posted June 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted July 31, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    my gawwd…

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

  19. Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

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

    MaryAnn (JAustenwannabe)

  21. Posted August 30, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Nicely done.

  22. Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    Very helpful! Thank you for sharing this!

  23. Christie D.
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted September 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    You are smoking hot, Sooz.

  26. Posted October 1, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

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

  27. Fernando
    Posted October 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

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

  28. Jessica
    Posted October 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

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

  29. Fred Talbot
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

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

  30. Rachel
    Posted November 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

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

    • Posted December 15, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      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
        Posted December 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        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
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    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?

    • Posted December 15, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      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
        Posted December 15, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        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?

        • Posted December 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

          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
            Posted December 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

            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. Posted December 16, 2012 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    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. Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted February 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

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

  38. Gwen Cole
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted March 16, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted March 29, 2013 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted March 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted April 1, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted April 4, 2013 at 2:15 am | Permalink

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

  45. Posted April 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

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

  46. darlene
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Thank you …this really help me

  47. Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    This advice is o helpful – thank you.

  50. Posted May 2, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

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

  51. srishti kumar
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

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

  52. Fred Jac0bs
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    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. Posted May 11, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

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

  54. C Valero
    Posted May 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    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. Posted May 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    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
    Posted May 27, 2013 at 2:46 am | Permalink

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

  58. Posted May 31, 2013 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    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. Posted June 1, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

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

  60. Posted June 13, 2013 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    You are BRILLIANT!

  61. Katarina
    Posted June 27, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    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. Posted July 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious know-how about unexpected emotions.

  63. Jo
    Posted July 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    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

  64. Cindy
    Posted July 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    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. ;)

  65. Posted July 13, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

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

  66. Pellinore
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    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.

  67. Mike
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Marry me.

  68. Posted July 27, 2013 at 4:18 am | Permalink

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

  69. Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always helpful to read content from other writers and practice a little something from their websites.

  70. Mychat Posts
    Posted July 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Someone should make a movie of this synopsis.

  71. Visnu Nagarajan
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 4:11 am | Permalink

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

  72. Posted August 9, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    you’re truly a just right webmaster. The website loading pace is amazing. It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. In addition, The contents are masterwork. you have done a great process on this topic!

    • Posted August 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

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

  73. Posted August 21, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    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.

  74. Posted August 23, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    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.

  75. Chris
    Posted September 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    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. :)

  76. Posted September 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    So helpful! Thanks for posting!!!!

  77. Steven Amick
    Posted September 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    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.

  78. Zee
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

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

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  80. Ray Croke
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

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

  81. Posted September 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

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

  82. kimberly
    Posted September 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Thank you!

  83. Abhishek pawar
    Posted October 6, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you it really helps me…..

  84. Wendy
    Posted November 4, 2013 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    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.

  85. Victoria Kay
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    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.

  86. Posted November 13, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    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!!!

  87. Posted November 20, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

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

  88. Amin
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

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

  89. Posted December 17, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    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!

  90. Vinay
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    this is vinay from india.. i’m associate director in the movie industry.. i liked the way you gave solution for writing synopsis.. good keep it up.

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  92. Nicole
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    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.

  93. Posted January 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    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 :)!

  94. Posted January 18, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    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/

  95. Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    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!

  96. Posted February 27, 2014 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    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.

  97. Okorie Matthew
    Posted February 28, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    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.

  98. Posted March 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    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.

  99. Amponash-Oware
    Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much.

  100. rashid baloch
    Posted April 24, 2014 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    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.

  101. Posted April 27, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

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

    Thank you!

  102. Francesca
    Posted May 1, 2014 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    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#(#%)@

  103. Godfred Eyison
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I really like your writing, i get your email address

  104. Posted May 12, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    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.

  105. Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    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.

  106. Joey Ledford
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

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

  107. Carolyn
    Posted June 5, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    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.

    • Posted June 5, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      “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.

  108. Posted June 6, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    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.

  109. Dr. Sheelwant Patel
    Posted June 20, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

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

  110. Laura
    Posted July 1, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

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

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  112. Posted July 8, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

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

  113. Posted July 20, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    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?

  114. paulski
    Posted July 25, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

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

    Don’t you mean a 180 degree change?

  115. Posted July 25, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    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.

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  120. Larry Woldenberg
    Posted September 18, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    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!

  121. Ian
    Posted October 7, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    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!

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  125. Posted November 12, 2014 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Will you come over and tutor me on writing a synopsis your are gorgeous great work!

    • Burke Hicks
      Posted November 18, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      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.

54 Trackbacks

  1. […] This post has been UPDATED and reposted on Pub(lishing) Crawl! […]

  2. […] Journey, and the layout detailed by Susan Dennard in this fantastic Pub(lishing) Crawl post titled How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis. My personal beat sheet has evolved to look something like […]

  3. […] How to write a 1 page synopsis. […]

  4. By Show versus Tell: Macro-, Micro-, and When to Use It on September 25, 2012 at 7:34 am

    […] I were to just read a synopsis of Star Wars: A New Hope, I wouldn’t feel the weight of these big story twists. All I would know is that someone told […]

  5. […] from scratch and compare it with the one I wrote two years ago. Friedman recommended this model, “How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis” by Susan Denard. Following this pattern, on my first draft, I ended up with 804 words. By the end […]

  6. By Lifting the Lid: Summing It Up « Vilu Nilenad on October 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

    […] I came upon this very helpful article over at Pub(lishing) Crawl, and it fell as it had been scales from my eyes, to coin a phrase. The […]

  7. By Query Letters & All That Jazz « everwalker on October 10, 2012 at 5:56 am

    […] pages and articles, but there were three that actually helped: one for the log-line, one for the synopsis and one for the query letter. I hope you find them useful too. Here’s what I ended up with […]

  8. […] Re: Synopsis help I hate these things. OK — I guess the thing you need is the conflicts of the characters you want us to care about. So Isha-Redd's is in there but what's Tual-Tuc's? And Carl wants to be rescued — which is a bit passive maybe? This sort of stuff makes my head hurt and my eyes glaze over, but it might be useful if you have the sort of brain that works on patterns like this (I wish I did): http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/…page-synopsis/ […]

  9. By How to Write a Scary Scene « Let The Words Flow on November 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

    […] and re-posted on […]

  10. By The Best of Pub Crawl 2012 on December 14, 2012 at 9:46 am

    […] How to Write a 1-page synopsis […]

  11. […] First one is this piece on novel summarizing on Publishing Crawl: http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/04/17/how-to-write-a-1-page-synopsis/ […]

  12. By The Dreaded Synopsis | Rebecca McKeown Writes on February 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    […] I found this excellent article on writing a synopsis. Susan Dennard is a genius and I love her. I didn’t follow her advice […]

  13. By Hello! | Rebecca McKeown Writes on February 21, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    […] I found this excellent article on writing a synopsis. Susan Dennard is a genius and I love her. I didn’t follow her advice […]

  14. By How To Write A One-Page Synopsis | Writers Write on April 12, 2013 at 7:30 am

    […] Find out how to put it all together in 452 words by following this link […]

  15. […] before. I searched around for the best advice and description of what a synopsis is and is not and Publishing Crawl walked me through the process. Beautifully written, so thank you, Susan Dennard for this great […]

  16. By Weekly Mashup and Joss Whedon | Hope Cook on May 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    […] How to write a one page synopsis.  Yeah. I was doing that this week. *feels sorry for myself* […]

  17. […] dreaded synopsis. We all face it. To get us through, Susan Dennard tells us how to write a 1 page synopsis, and Chuck Sambuchino has 5 tips for writing a novel […]

  18. By Pedal to the metal | Maximum Z on June 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    […] it comes from publishing, this may be a huge help for those also struggling with the […]

  19. […] to 1-3 sentences for a shorter synopsis. Longer synopses can have 1-3 paragraphs per bullet point. (Susan Dennard shared a great example of this basic recipe with a one-page synopsis for Star […]

  20. […] a super hard, yet extremely important skill and I found an incredible post to help! Make sure you bookmark this post, if synopsis writing (synopsizing?) is in your future! Shout out to superhero Susan Dennard for […]

  21. […] How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis by Susan Dennard via Publishing Crawl […]

  22. […] Last time, we talked about why to use a plot point outline. Now I’m going to share the one I use, which is heavily influenced by this one. […]

  23. […] retreat group if they had any tips or resources for synopsis writing. Tess Sharpe posted a link to this fabulous article, which completely saved my […]

  24. By To Indie, or not to Indie... | A. Michael Marsh on August 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    […] how awesome her book is and why it should be published.  Next, she’ll need to create a one or two page synopsis of the novel.  Some agents will ask for an author bio, including any previous publishing […]

  25. By Writing a 1-Page Synopsis | Marie LeMark on August 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    […] Writing a 1-Page Synopsis […]

  26. […] Re: Tips for writing a synopsis I found the word count easy, to be honest, but I'm not a wordy person. But… just write about the main plot, you don't need subplots in the synopsis. You don't need minor characters either. Main character, main plot. Maybe try writing it in bullet points first, then fleshing it out? See if this helps: How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis […]

  27. […] a link if you want to check it out. There are many like it, but this one’s pretty darn […]

  28. By 2013 in review | Time Writing Lady on December 21, 2013 at 2:28 am
  29. By Inciting Incidents | Authorguy's Blog on January 5, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    […] recommended a one-page approach, and that was a good deal trickier, even though I was pointed to a very nice little blog post on the subject. But even with a model to follow it still took me two days to get something I […]

  30. […] also wrote a synopsis with the help of this post by Susan Dennard. It was relatively painless. I don’t understand why so many people are […]

  31. By Encapsulating Epic Fantasy… | afantasycometrue on February 19, 2014 at 12:56 pm
  32. By The lost weekend | J E Nice on March 4, 2014 at 11:54 am

    […] bad the original synopsis was. So I turned to Google again (what would I do without it) and found this amazing post with a surefire way of writing that 500 word […]

  33. By Format, synopsis, save! | J E Nice on March 7, 2014 at 6:23 am

    […] bad the original synopsis was. So I turned to Google again (what would I do without it) and found this amazing post with a surefire way of writing that 500 word […]

  34. By Writing a Synopsis | Portland RiverWriters on March 13, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    […] How to Write A 1-page Synopsis […]

  35. […] Susan Dennard, do blog Pub(lishing) Crawl, fez um passo a passo bem simples e interessantíssimo sobre como escrever sinopses para apresentação do livro para editores (post em inglês). Vale a pena ler! […]

  36. […] great post from Susan Dennard on Pub(lishing) Crawl is technically about writing a one-page synopsis while you’re on submission. But I went […]

  37. […] post by Susan Dennard on the Pub(lishing) Crawl blog made the process so simple. The questions she poses make it so easy to start and if you follow […]

  38. […] published. The one I found the most helpful was written by Susan Dennard. Just head on over to her How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis and see for […]

  39. […] How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis […]

  40. By My Writing Process! | Margarita Gakis on April 21, 2014 at 8:19 am

    […] I think of things – scenes, snippets of dialogue, that sort of thing. Then I actually found a 10 step outline that I really like and lately, I’ve been trying to stick to it! The outline is actually how […]

  41. […] the link. The creator’s name is Susan Dennard, and she has a new book coming out in July. I liked her […]

  42. By The Synopsis | Ipuna Black on May 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    […] I found a synopsis template on PUB (lishing) Crawl. […]

  43. By Untitled. | Monkey See, Monkey Say on May 15, 2014 at 11:52 am

    […] reads better, but is a page and a half—too long for some publishers. The other (compiled using a worksheet shared by Susan Dennard) fits neatly into a page but reads too much like a plot summation and […]

  44. By synopsis writing | Marie's Journal on May 19, 2014 at 5:54 am

    […] Fortunately for me I came upon this one. […]

  45. […] I stumbled upon Susan Dennard‘s excellent synopsis worksheet, and between Lori (did I mention her patience?), Beth, and Susan, I whittled my synopsis down to […]

  46. […] It can be tricky to squeeze your novel into just a few pages. Susan Dennard has you covered again, over here. Have I mentioned before how helpful Sooze is? Cause she’s just the best. I have a synopsis […]

  47. By (Belated) July Round-Up | Tori Centanni on August 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    […] the book itself, as this is something one often as to do as a professional novelist, and b) at all. I used Susan Dennard’s guide, and like all of her posts on writing craft, it basically saved m…So if you need to write a synopsis, I highly recommend […]

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