I do think, for the most part, that most writers make synopsis writing harder than it needs to be. So, with that in mind, it is time for a little bit of Synopsis Writing 101.
a short description of the contents of something such as a film or book
Editors and agents use that synopsis to get an over-all view of the story arc. Since there are many times when we only request a partial of a story to get a sense of your writing and your voice, the synopsis is used to see how you plot out the rest of your story. The goal is to see if what you said your story was about in the query letter or the pitch really matches up with the story you have written.
When you are working with an editor or agent, the synopsis is used for future planning, marketing and so forth.
As the definition states, it is short description of something. With that in mind, the synopsis is simply that. It is an overview of the plot of your book. That is it. This is not a chance for you to demonstrate your creative writing ability or to insert dialogue from the book. It is simply a snapshot of your storyline.
Think of it this way. What if I were to ask you to tell me the plot of your story? What would you include?
- You would highlight the setting.
- You would tell me who the character is (both biographically and as a "person).
- You would tell me what this person does in the story.
- You would mention the key elements of the plot.
- You would mention the conflict of the story and potentially the internal conflict of the characters if it is DIRECTLY connected to the main storyline.
There also needs to be a beginning, middle and an end. I understand that with your readers, you don't want to give away the ending, but this is not the case with editors and agents. They need to know what happens in the story.
I always recommend going back to that basic chart we have seen time and time again regarding the plot of the story.
The key to all of this is to keep it simple.
In my humble opinion, you can probably do this in 3-5 double spaced pages. If you have a synopsis exceeding this, the odds are you are including too much information.
WHAT ABOUT A CHAPTER BY CHAPTER SYNOPSIS?
There are very few agents or editors who need to see this type. You will also find that this synopsis really is over-kill and starts to include far too much information.
If you want a great simple article on this, check on this blog post of Jane Friedman on this. Really good! http://janefriedman.com/2011/10/25/novel-synopsis/