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I have to write a synopsis to submit to an agent. Are there any guidelines for writing a good synopsis?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Most important part is, reducing the story to the core plot. Some say you should only need three pages to summarize your story, some say one page should be enough. But if you can reduce its core to three sentences, then you are on the right track.

Impossible? Only three sentences? Imagine a friend asks you to summarize the Lord of the Rings for him. He never read one of the books or saw one of the movies. Do you really need three pages/one page to do it? Or can you do it with only three sentences? See, and LotR are three volumes, so you can condense your story, too.

Look at it from the agent's perspective. He gets 30 synopsis a day. He must flip through them and decide, which one is worth it. He cannot delay it, because tomorrow he'll get another 30 synopsis. Look at what you have written and ask yourself: Would I choose this, if I were an agent?

If the answer is yes, put your three sentences summary into the cover letter and your one page summary into the synopsis ;)

BTW: Randomman159's link says that the editors usually read your sample chapters first. That's not true. They read your cover letter first. Better make it good. And short.

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I'm very interested in synopsis of LOtR in three sentences. Can you please provide one? – Daniel Excinsky Nov 25 '10 at 6:02
@Daniel: A dwarf-like man and his fellows must bash their way through to the only place where a magical ring can be destroyed. Otherwise the original ring owner will devastate the world using this ring. - Oops, only two sentences, sorry :) – John Smithers Nov 25 '10 at 9:09
How about this: "A young man must make a dangerous journey across the land to destroy a magical ring, if we wants to stop an evil wizard from destroying all he holds dear." Just one sentence :) – Shantnu Tiwari Jun 27 '11 at 12:38
a bit late to the party: a TV guide summarized an airing with "creatures must work together to destroy a ring and defeat a lord" – Travis Christian Nov 12 '13 at 17:54

A really useful website you might want to look at is


Sorry i can't really summarise :P

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One thing that helped me was to look at each chapter and write down the big plot elements that happened in that chapter. I don't outline before I write so it was kind of after-the-fact to do this, but it helped me so I could just flesh out a little bit when writing my synopsis.

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