Monday, February 22, 2010

Manuscript Formatting Part 3: The Synopsis

In the writing industry, where there are plenty of rules to follow (or ignore), there are even guidelines for formatting a synopsis. Shall we take a look?

-Word Count: This varies depending on the agent/editor, but the norm is 500-1000 words.

-Spacing: This is tricky because there are different “rules” depending on the length of the synopsis. A one pager is single-spaced with spaces between paragraphs and one-inch margins. Two pages or more requires double-space, no extra spaces between paragraphs, and also one-inch margins.

-Tone: This should always be in third person point-of-view, present tense. Yes, this is the “rule” regardless of the tone or style used in your novel.

-Voice: Even though you may have to change from first person to third, or past tense to present when writing your synopsis, the reader should still get a sense for your voice. Don’t summarize the story in a boring book report format.

-Font: Times New Roman, 12-point font (Courier is also an option)

-Page Numbers: should be listed in the upper right hand corner.

-Header: Place your last name and book title in the upper left hand corner. Ex. King/The Stand

-Content: Describe the MAIN conflicts in your plot as they occur throughout the book. Only name the main characters in the plot. Everyone else should be referred to as their title. Ex. Katherine’s sister. Joe’s boss. The old man. Too many names can confuse the reader when they don’t have the benefit of following and getting to know them in the story. Using titles is like giving the reader a cheat sheet. She won’t have to look back to see Amy is Katherine’s sister. Also, when first naming the main characters, write their names in capital letters so the reader can recognize this is the first time they’re appearing in the story. Ex. DANNY PARK

-Relationships: Make sure to show how each relationship grows or dissolves.

-Ending: This isn’t a teaser. Include the end of your story in the synopsis. Some agents/editors won’t read it, but most will to ensure you’re able to tie up loose ends.

Next, we’ll take a look at manuscript formatting.

Do you have any suggestions to add when formatting a synopsis? Did you learn anything new?


  1. Very nice and informative post. For me, writing the synopsis is almost harder than writing the novel itself. >.<

  2. Great post! I think the hardest part of synop writing is keeping the tone fresh and in sync with the novel.

  3. I'm learning a ton of things from your blog-and am SO grateful for it. Thanks so much!

  4. Well I certainly learned from this post! Something I've never *thought* about, and initially was surprised at all the rules for a synopsis!

    As I've said before on other writers' blogs, it's one of the reasons I enjoy them; it gives me a look at the process and what goes on before a book gets to me (either to edit or to read)!

  5. Good description. This is the part I hate the most about the process. It's so difficult sometimes to summarize yet keep your voice clear.

  6. Great post. With your help, I'll be ready to tackle this when I get this far.

  7. Thanks for the hard work on these posts. It really helps. I like you so much, you get an award. It's on my blog. Thanks again!