How to write a strong one page synopsis

We read synopses every day and we feel your pain. While few love writing them, a strong one-page synopsis will enhance your submission and compel the reader to want to read the full. Here are the four elements we hope to find.

Starting with a one-line summary gets your synopsis off to a flying start. Your aim is to orientate and hook the reader from the off. Present your main character, the setting and central conflict in the simplest possible terms. Who, when, where, catalyst, resolution.

For example, here’s the one-liner from Abi Daré’s synopsis for her Bath Novel Award 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’.

Your aim here is to communicate your book’s beginning, middle and ending with clarity and brevity. Write three paragraphs setting out what happens in your book. Use simple, declarative sentences and write in the third person, present tense. Use bold when you introduce a main character by name. If you need to mention a minor character just say, ‘the vicar’, ‘his neighbour’ or ‘new classmate’.

Set out 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.

What gets in the way of what your main character is trying to achieve? How does this conflict affect your characters? It’s fine to skip subplots – we are looking for the major plot points and a sense of your main character’s narrative arc.

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. 

Last of all, title the page ‘Your Novel Title – Synopsis’. Your synopsis should be the last page of your submission document and fit onto one page, using an easy-to-read, size 12 font, lines single-spaced and normal size margins.

Follow this formula and you will have a strong one-page synopsis to showcase your novel, enhance your submission and compel readers to vote to read your full.