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How to Write a Proper Synopsis

Updated on September 14, 2016
How to Write a Synopsis
How to Write a Synopsis | Source

What is a Synopsis?

There’s often confusion about the difference between the literary terms “outline” and “synopsis”. What exactly goes into each? If an agent, publisher or producer has asked you to submit a synopsis of your manuscript or screenplay, it is essential that you know exactly what’s being asked of you.

A synopsis, also called a summary, is a concise description of the entire story. Emphasis on “concise.” The industry rule is approximately 1 page per 10,000 words in your manuscript. 1-2 pages is usually sufficient. Anything more than 3 pages is too much. This can sometimes be challenge for writers and is a great exercise in getting your point across in fewer words.

The Layout

The layout for a synopsis is:


Type the title of your manuscript, screenplay or play.
If applicable, the sub-title goes one line below it.

[Leave 2 blank spaces.]

On the left side of page, put the author and contact information. On the right side of the page, list your pen name (if applicable), genre, length and era/setting of the story.

[Leave 2 blank spaces.]


This is where you give a brief overview of story. Introduce all the important characters, explain the subplot(s) and include any “surprise twists” so the agent, producer or publisher can make a fair judgement.

Proper synopsis format
Proper synopsis format | Source

Formatting Tips

Your synopsis will give the reader a better insight to your style and personality, so it is vital that you have a professional document.

  • Easy to read fonts, such as Times New Roman or Arial are best.
  • While it isn’t necessary to include a summary heading, it does help to break the page up a bit by adding white space which makes for easier reading.
  • Use black ink on quality 8.5 x 11 while paper.
  • Margins should be one inch on all sides and print only on one side of the page.

If you’ve been asked to submit an outline, you can learn how to properly format one from the article, How to Write a Story Outline.

© 2011 Rosa Marchisella


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    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 3 years ago from Canada

      You're very welcome! I find it amusing that writers are asked to be concise after using so many words to write the book! lol

    • S T Alvyn profile image

      S T Alvyn 3 years ago from New England

      Thank you, this so useful when trying to condense 100,000 words into 500! Edit, edit edit...

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      Cool! This topic tripped me up for the longest time when I was trying to get my first book accepted by a publisher, so I *HAD* to share it with other writers :-)

    • profile image

      Binaya.Ghimire 6 years ago

      Very useful tips. I have bookmarked for reference use.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 6 years ago from Canada

      I'm so glad it was of use, Stefan. I'll definitely check out your articles.

    • TheWhisper profile image

      TheWhisper 6 years ago from Macomb,MI

      Thank you for the very informational piece. I am writing a book at the moment and it is good for me to realize the difference between these two. I also write informative works on how to write. Please check some out when you can. :)

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