The Page a Day Writers Group

Write a Synopsis — No Problem

Posted on: January 12, 2010

A flapper and her gangster.

After spending days, months, years writing a 90,000-word novel, I’m now faced with the task of boiling it down to a two-page, DOUBLE-SPACED synopsis. I’d have an easier time fitting my 2010 body into my 1986 Jordache jeans.

There’s no stress associated with this task. It’s not like these two pages will have any affect on persuading an agent or editor to take on my project and turn it into next summer’s best seller.

After I stopped hyperventilating, I started seeking help for this dauntless assignment. I dug through past issues of Writers’ Digest, perused novel-writing how to books. Of course I got my best information from the blanket of e-mails I sent to my writing friends asking for their advice.

The consensus of their suggestions follows:

1) Start with your logline (elevator pitch/one liner). After a series of grisly shark attacks, a sheriff struggles to protect his small beach community against the bloodthirsty monster, in spite of the greedy chamber of commerce. (Jaws)

2) Introduce your protagonist and her conflict with the antagonist. Your synopsis should tell the reader why she should care. A flapper, a gangster, a Southern belle, a killer whale.

3) Tell them where this is all taking place. Long Island’s North Shore, a plantation in pre-Civil War Atlanta, the New Jersey shore in the Roaring 20s.

4) Share the basic plot. Even if it hurts, write down the ending.

They also told me not to include detailed backstory, dialogue exchanges, minor characters and how much my husband (sister, writers’ group, best friend) loves the novel.

Leaving stuff out was easy. With only two pages, I barely fit in the ending.

Claire Yezbak Fadden


5 Responses to "Write a Synopsis — No Problem"

Cute Picture! I like the jeans metaphor, too. Ha!
This is an important subject, although I beg to differ on “It’s not like these to pages will have any effect on persuading and agent or editor …”
A strong synopsis distills the story for the author as well as gets a writer’s foot in the door with an agent. A compelling synopsis also helps an agent sell the story to a publisher.

Trish, I guess I shouldn’t go into comedy. I was speaking tongue-in-cheek. Too bad I missed the boat! See you at 4, Skyper!

I got your sarcasm, Claire (and even chuckled while saying ‘yeah right.’). Great post!


The query letter and synopsis are definitely the big nail biters! I found it easiest to work backwards. Start with a five page synopsis, then cull all the nonessential info and end with a three page synopsis. Repeat the process and finish with a one page synopsis. Remove what isn’t absolutely crucial from the big picture view and distill the synopsis down to its essence.

Thanks for sharing your synopsis journey, Claire. It’s amazing to be on this journey with you, since you were my first editor! You flapper, you.

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!


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