Wednesday’s Challenge: The Synopsis

Are you up for today’s challenge?

No one really likes to read or write a synopsis, but it is a useful tool for editors. We refer back to them throughout the publishing process: when writing memos to recommend the stories to senior editors, when filling out the cover art forms, and when writing the back cover copy. We need an organized synopsis that summarizes the story.

We all have different opinions on how long a synopsis should be. Some like 1-2 pages single-spaced, some like 10 pages double-spaced. For our purposes, how about we compromise with 5 pages, double spaced, using 12-point size font? Sound good?

In the writing/submission process, you may have faced the blank page and thought, Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I just write the story and let the editor figure out the synopsis? Because it doesn’t work that way. Writing a synopsis guides us so that months after we read your book, we can refer to the synopsis instead of rereading the entire book. Remember how your parents told you to eat your vegetables? Writing a synopsis is a bit like that and will benefit you/us in the long run. It might even help you organize your story.

Here are a few tips for creating your synopsis:

Make a list of all the events that happen. Hero and heroine meet. They both have major issues. He takes her out to breakfast. They fight. She reveals secret baby. He stomps off, she thinks, because he doesn’t love her. He comes back and tells her he just started a trust fund for their child. They live happily ever after.

Those are the main points of the story. Now you can string these sentences together and fill out the main points with a fuller picture of the setting, the characters, and the conflict. While you don’t want to write: This happened, then this, then this, then this little thing, you can provide more minor details to add spice. Bear in mind that the editor wants the highlights. You can also pretend you’re telling an editor the story and just record your words on paper. Before you know it, you’ll be done with those five pages. In fact, it might be much easier than you thought.

One last item to consider: Make your synopsis readable. A synopsis can be dry. While it doesn’t have to be edge-of-your-seat gripping, you are allowed to write a synopsis we will enjoy reading. But mostly, make sure you include the highlights.

So, now that you’ve done some pondering, it’s time for you to send us your synopsis. Make us—the editors—excited about your story and the directions it takes. Take us on a journey—a succinct, well-written one you can tell in 5 pages (or approximately 1250 words).Please submit to us at by 5:00 p.m. EST, today, September 17, 2014. Be sure to include in the subject heading: SYTYCW Synopsis Assignment. We’ll randomly pick four to critique tomorrow morning by 10:00 a.m., September 18, 2014. Good luck!

14 replies on “Wednesday’s Challenge: The Synopsis”

Does it have to be 5 pages, would it be okay if 4 were submitted? Awesome opportunity once again for all us budding authors, thanks.

4 pages are okay! And I believe the results will be posted a little later than 10am tomorrow. It’s on the schedule. Best of luck, everyone! Keep those synopses coming.

My hero’s secret is what ultimately causes the conflict/betrayal. Do I divulge that in my synopsis (it ruins the surprise when actually reading the MS) but figured an editor would want the full picture of the story? Additionally, do editors want to know what happens in the end with the hero and heroine in a synopsis?

Thank you!

Great challenge! I’ll admit it, I wanted to stab myself in the face with a pen a few times, but I am glad I did this. I feel a lot more comfortable with the process now, and confident I can write a great synopsis for any submission!


Oh wow, that was QUITE the challenge! Way to push us outside our comfort zone though! I felt weird revealing my big twist ending, but it had to be done 🙂

Well, based on “synopsis” topics I read last night, I whittled my synopsis down from 3 pages to two last night. Since I’m running out of time I guess mine will be short and sweet. 😀
Thanks to Harlequin staff for reviewing!

Harlequin editors: Thank you so much for this opportunity!

My synopsis was 12 point font and 5 pages but somehow ended up being 1900 words. Sorry ’bout that! Hope it was okay to submit that way. It’s a Romantic Suspense manuscript so there were many plot twists. 😉

In reponse to Sarah Vanderhill’s question as to whether the editor wants to know the hero’s secret and how the h&h end up together in the synopsis: YES! The synopsis must reveal all to the editor. We are not reading it like a reader but as an editor and need to see/experience how the story concludes. Hope this helps!

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