What you need to know to write a 1-page synopsis

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A synopsis, or pitch, summarizes your story. Describing the story concisely and intriguingly gives the reader a good idea of what the story is about. It should also convey the story’s tone and style.

The summary should be a quick, straightforward, and easy way to show editors and agents what your book is about and why they should care. It should capture their attention and entice them to read further. A practical summary should also discuss the story’s main characters and stakes.

The pitch helps them assess your writing, storytelling, and character development skills. Doing so helps them understand the genre you’re writing about and what story you’re trying to tell. The pitch should also illustrate how you will make the story compelling and engaging.

In the NaNoWriMo community, there are planners and pantsers, meaning writers who write by the seat of their pants.

I’ve found that I’m a bit of both. In my stories requiring significant world-building, I have found that the first draft is much easier if I plan the story upfront.

Creating a compelling one-page synopsis can be broken down into three paragraphs.

First paragraph

The bare-bones, who-what-where-when-why questions are what you’ll answer here. So challenge yourself to respond to them in one sentence. Answering these questions clearly and in one sentence will help you communicate your ideas more effectively.

  1. Introduce the protagonist and antagonist.
  2. What’s the inciting incident, i.e., what started their story?
  3. Where are they?
  4. When is this happening?
  5. What are they doing in response to the inciting incident?

Second paragraph

Here you get into the meaty part of your outline. This is where you will write the most detail, including specific examples that support your main points. You can also include any research or information that you have gathered. This is your chance to dive deep and ensure that your argument is well-supported.

  1. What are the protagonist’s plans?
  2. What are the antagonist’s plans?
  3. Choose three plot points in the middle.
  4. Where are they going to do it?
  5. When are they?
  6. Why are they?
  7. Mention any critical characters if you can’t mention their presence and effect on the narrative in a prior sentence.

Third paragraph

This section is your last chance to razzle-dazzle the person reading your synopsis; lay it on thick! Make it clear why your story is worth reading. Show off your best writing style and ensure the conclusion grabs the reader’s attention. Leave them wanting more!

  1. How does the story end?
  2. Are you able to tie the ending back to the inciting incident?

In summary, a one-page synopsis is helpful for the writer, the editor, and the agent.

  • The writer can use it to determine if they can delete or rework scenes so that the story remains focused and moves quickly.
  • The editor can see where they could cut the story down.
  • The agent can decide whether a particular author is a good fit.

Challenge yourself to write a synopsis for your current manuscript if you don’t usually do so.

An even more compact synopsis could be your elevator pitch, describing your story in one or two sentences. This condensed version of a synopsis should be concise and compelling. The window of opportunity to grab potential readers’ attention is limited. Your elevator pitch should be memorable and communicate the story concisely and meaningfully.

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