How to Write a One-Page Synopsis

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A synopsis, or pitch, is a summary of your story. It’s a quick, straightforward, and easy way to show editors and agents what your book is about and why they should care. It helps them assess your writing, storytelling, and character development skills. Finally, it’s an excellent way to get a meaningful look at an unpublished work.

An even more compact version of a synopsis could be the elevator pitch, describing your story in one or two sentences.

In the NaNoWriMo community, there are planners, and there are pantsers, meaning writers who write by the seat of their pants. I’ve found that I’m a bit of both. My goal as your writing concierge is to gently remind you that you can’t call yourself a writer until you get the words on the page, period.

In my stories that require significant world-building, I have found that the first draft comes much easier if I plan the story upfront. My process starts with creating a robust one-page outline. Then, use it as a guide to help you focus on the details of your story.

There are several steps you should think about following to create a compelling one-page synopsis. First, you should treat it like your manuscript: it should be well-written, interesting, engaging, and – most importantly – succinct.

First Paragraph

The barebones, who-what-where-when-why questions are what you’re going to be answering here. So challenge yourself to answer them in one sentence.

  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.

  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 important characters if you’re unable to mention their presence and affect 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!

  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. Finally, the agent can decide whether a particular author is a good fit.

If you’re not someone who writes a synopsis, challenge yourself to do one for your current manuscript. Maybe you’ll find something new.

I’ll tell you why revision is the best part of writing in your complimentary 15-minute consultation.

Guilliean Pacheco, your friendly neighborhood creativity concierge

Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a writer and editor of Filipino heritage and the host of the City of Writers podcast. Her work has appeared in TechTarget, Nevada Humanities, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco and is an Anaphora Arts poetry fellow. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally, if one could call living there normal, on Southern Paiute land. Follow her on Twitter.

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