Celebrating East African Writing!

The Synopsis

So your novel is done and you need to send it to publishers for review and possible publishing. What now?

You have two options.

  1. Submit it in full to your chosen publisher.
  2. Submit a partial manuscript. This is especially if you feel a little uncomfortable about sending your entire manuscript to unknown recipients.

In either case, your manuscript should be sent along with a cover letter and synopsis.

The cover letter explains who you are, why you wrote what you wrote and what your hopes for it are.

The synopsis explains what your novel is about. So how do you write the synopsis? Here’s something that you might find useful.

Writing The Synopsis or Summary

A synopsis is usually between two and thirty pages long. A summary is a shorter version of a synopsis, about one to three pages. Publishers and Agents usually prefer a short summary or simply a short description of the characters and plot inside the query letter.

Storymoja prefers to see a one-page single-spaced summary, including the ending.

Tip: It is VERY important to include a detailed description of how your book BEGINS AND ENDS, especially if you are only sending a partial manuscript. The agent or editor that reads it will not know how to evaluate it without knowing how it ends.

Tip: Always follow the guidelines of that particular agent or editor.

Help your book to stand out.

A synopsis can help you market your book. It can help the agent and the editor to decide to read the book, if it conveys the meaning in an intriguing manner. And it can also help the editor write appropriate book cover material.

Many authors think writing the synopsis is harder than writing the book, so don’t feel bad if it seems like a really tough job.

In order to write a really great synopsis, you must pull back from the book and look at it from the agent’s or editor’s point of view. You can start by summarizing your book into one sentence, or if that’s too hard, into two sentences. You’ll have to do this anyway for the query letter, so it won’t be just an exercise.

Once you’ve gotten that overview perspective, you can begin your synopsis. You may start by introducing the main character and what the story is about, or you can just dive into the beginning of the book without a summary. If you include a summary, keep it very short, preferably one sentence. Stay in present tense, third person. Go into detail about the beginning of the book. Then skip immediately to the end of the book, and carefully choose what to tell about how your story concludes. One paragraph can often span more than one chapter. Last, choose the turning points from the rest of your book that take your characters from the beginning to the end. Insert those turning points (middle) between your carefully crafted beginning and end, and you’re finished!

If you’re more comfortable just writing it from beginning to end, that’s fine, too. Whatever works for you is what you should do.

Tip: Carefully spell- and grammar-check your synopsis. It will be a reflection of the quality of your book.

Tip: A synopsis should be done in the form of narrative summary in third person in the same tone or voice as the book.

Tip: A synopsis should always be written in PRESENT TENSE.

Writing a Synopsis – from

Here’s wishing you all the best with your publishing efforts.

And now to this week’s reading:

This week, we begin with something from just a little to the south of Africa, with Nixon Mateulah’s Borrowed Robes: ‘It is part of our tradition to kneel down before our masters, elders and someone above us in society,’ says Kachepa, still kneeling.

We then move on to something by a new writer on the Storymoja Community. Six Feet Asunder by Wanjeri Gakuru: The moment Helen died I swear I felt it. I was lying in bed working on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity…

We welcome someone who has deprived us of her writing for a while, but whom I am sure you will all be glad to welcome back. Bringing us a continuation of the Hearse by Millie Dok: As the hearse snaked along the slippery mud stretch that is the road from my village, a sense of part relief part guilt engulfed me, the stronger bit fought on, flashing images of….

We close this week’s readings with something from a favorite old timer. Oh well… by Mwangi Ichungwa: Sometimes they look at me, much in the same way you would a curious but harmless animal. Some shake their heads in wonder, or disgust, at my presence.

Thank you for your continued support. If you would like your story to feature here, please send in your work to Please refer to the blog submission guidelines here.

Join us here on Monday for the next batch of stories and be sure to vote for the next Story of the Week.

Have a happy and creative week!


One comment on “The Synopsis

  1. Festus Kang'alya
    March 29, 2010

    Thankyou ,this is some nice update.


Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on March 29, 2010 by in Writing.
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