The Essential One Page Synopsis

During our longlisting stages readers vote for the manuscripts they would most love to read in full. While votes are primarily cast for novel extracts a strong synopsis showcasing your storytelling skills can play an important supporting role. Here are four key elements we hope to find.

One – your novel in one line.

Starting with a one line summary will get your synopsis off to a flying start.

Your aim here is to orientate and hook your readers fast. Say clearly and simply what your novel is about. Present your main character and setting then state your central conflict.

For example, here’s the one liner from Abi Daré’s Bath Novel Award 2018 winning manuscript The Girl with the Louding Voice: 14-year-old Lagos housemaid refuses to accept her fate – she wants an education and to get a ‘louding voice’.

Next, your novel in three paragraphs

After your one line summary, write three paragraphs setting out what happens in your plot. Write in the third person, present tense, using simple, declarative sentences. Your key aim here is to communicate your beginning, middle and ending with clarity and brevity. 

Readers are focussed on extrapolating storyline development and character arcs rather than stylistic aspects. 

First paragraph: how does your story open?

State how your story starts – what your main character is trying to achieve and what happens as a result. Include your inciting incident in this paragraph.

Second paragraph: how does your plot unfold? 

What gets in the way of what your main character is trying to achieve? How does this conflict affect your characters?

Third paragraph: how does your novel end?

How does your character try to solve the conflict? Say what happens in the climax of your book and how your story ends including any plot twists. 

While it’s not essential that your one page synopsis follows this exact format we hope it’s helpful to know the four key elements we hope to find. 

The BATH NOVEL AWARDS were established in 2013 to celebrate emerging novelists. Judged by literary agents, our prizes are open to unpublished and independently published authors worldwide. 

The BATH NOVEL AWARD is a £3,000 prize for adult fiction, with submissions invited from December to May.

The BATH CHILDREN’S NOVEL AWARD is a £3,000 prize for children’s fiction, with submissions invited from June to November.