How to Write a Synopsis for your Novel

Hi, I’m Nicola. I’m a senior editor here at HarperCollins and I’d like to give you my top tips for writing a synopsis for your novel. Writing a 500-word synopsis is difficult. No one wants to cut their 80,000 words of lovingly developed prose to a single page. But sometimes it’s necessary – for publishers, or for agents – or, as in this case, because you are planning to enter your manuscript for an award. So, a few pointers. A synopsis is not a pitch, and nor is it a back cover blurb. Your aim is not to sell your idea or your story, but to give a full outline. And that means “spoilers”. You need to tell us the ending, because we want to know where the story is going. We want to know whether your story has a unique twist or point of view that will make it stand out. We want to know that the story makes sense. We want to know that there are no gaping plot holes or too-convenient fixes. We want to know that it’s a story that will reward the reader for spending their precious time with your characters – and their hard-earned money on your book. Your synopsis needn’t be a work of art. We’re looking for clarity of expression and ideas, not proof of your ability to turn a phrase. For once, we want you to tell, not show – rather than the other way around. But that doesn’t mean your synopsis can’t or shouldn’t be engaging How to be engaging? scratch all of these, unless they are relevant to your core story. No one said it would be easy. Good luck, and we’re looking forward to reading your work.

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