Image of a complex pattern of connected dots and lines with caption: Hmm, might need to simplify my outline a bit more...

Crunch time. The course is almost over. (Meep!) By now you should have attempted at least a first draft of your synopsis. Maybe you’ve got an outline, or a bullet point list, or some crazy brainstorming spider diagrams, or twenty pages of fluff that need to be hard-edited down to something more manageable.

Hopefully ALSO you’ve popped your head round the forum door to ask for feedback on your synopsis. That’s what we’re here for, after all.

And after all that, armed with ALLLL the advice from this mini-course, you are READY, young padawan. Write this sucker, you can. Smug, you will feel, when it is done. Fucking about, stop – start writing, do.



1. Writers dislike synopses because wah wahh stop whining and start doing.

2. Research is useful. Reading lots of different types and styles of synopses can help you get to grips with how you’re going to tell YOUR story. So do lots of that.

3. Start with the skeleton of your story and build it up bit by bit rather than trying to squeeze the whole manuscript into a tiny page or two.

4. You don’t have to copy the ACTUAL structure of your novel – use your artistic license and find the simplest, clearest way to set down your plot.

5. Take your time. Experiment. Read it aloud. Get feedback. No writer is an island etc etc.


1: Chapter by chapter summaries – start with a sentence or two for each, then expand and link together as required.

2: Hit the plot points – highlight all the major turning points of your story, then find a way to connect ‘em.

3: Three act structure – split your story into three and summarise your beginning, middle and end.

4: Character arc – pinpoint every important step in your protagonist’s journey.

5: Short story – forget the technicalities and go for prose with a super short version of your novel.


1. Write in third person, present tense. Capitalise or bold the first mention of character names. Stay under 1000 words. Add your name, your book’s title, rounded word count and genre at the top and in headers. Don’t forget page numbers.

2. Stay in the flow. Smooth over those transitions like a smooth thing with smooth bits. Keep it concise. Make character descriptions snappy and unique. Don’t waffle about with long tangents on setting or description. Don’t step out of the story and give us a lecture on the literary themes of your book.

3. Cut the dead weight. If you need a whole paragraph to explain a subplot, leave it out. How quickly can you get to the bare bones of your book? How succinctly can you describe your story – as if you’re re-telling the plot of your favourite film to a friend?

4. Try to focus on character and emotion – not just a blow by blow of the action a la: ‘this happened, then this happened, and then…’ Show us how your character develops and changes and is forced to react to the situations you plonk them into. Make us CARE about your story.

5. Avoid cliches and lazy sentences. Try to give a sense of your writing style and the atmosphere of your book – if you’ve written a thriller, make us bite our nails as we read your synopsis. If you’ve written a romance, make us desperate for your protags to get together at the end. If your novel is funny as shit, make the agent laugh as they read your synopsis.


This is your last call. Take whatever version of a synopsis you have at this point and have another go at it. And then another. Rewrite and restructure and experiment with different approaches and techniques until you find one that works. AND ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Give yourself TIME to gain some perspective. Sleep on it. Pass it to a friendly writer for feedback. Print it out and scribble notes all over it. Leave it alone and work on the rest of your submissions package for a while. Then come back and try again with fresh eyes.

And when you’ve got something you’re happy(ish) with, post it up on the forum for gold-standard feedback and we’ll help you NAIL THAT SUCKER.

And finally….

You, Sir/Madam/Glorious-Non-Binary-Entity, have reached the end of your synopsis journey. BUT THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN GOODBYE! If you need a little extra hand-holding during the query-writing process, or want to know how to find The Perfect Agent and what the whole publishing process is really all about, check out our other Publishing 101 courses and let us help you smash every part of the manuscript submissions shebang.

So long, farewell, and…

Gif of Bernie Sanders saying GOOD LUCK!

Want to be a better writer?

Or just to laugh at bum jokes? Either way, you need the famous Writers’ HQ newsletter. You know what to do – put your thing in the thing.