The one-sentence synopsis

If writing an ordinary synopsis is hell, why know your one-sentence synopsis and why have one?

For me, it’s a summary of my theme and a brilliant place to begin a synopsis if the need arises. It gives me the essence of the book, which keeps me on-topic if I begin to ramble:

ITL?_new packshot Is This Love?‘ is about the different qualities of love.

Want to Know a Secret?‘ is about money and family, and who thinks which is most important.

DALD_v12.2 reviseDream a Little Dream‘ is about finding a new dream when the old dream crumbles.

A one-sentence synopsis can also form the first part of an elevator pitch to agents/editors. Then:

  • Add to the one sentence a category that sums it up: It’s a quest. It’s a reunion story.
  • Something about tone is useful, too: It’s lighthearted. It’s gritty.
  • If appropriate, mention the message: Be careful what you wish for.

Formulating a one-sentence synopsis is a handy habit to get into. It can even help you sum up your book up for journalists when you’re a bestselling author and they’re queuing on the phone for interviews!



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14 responses to “The one-sentence synopsis

  1. A really useful tool Sue – thanks. As always, your advice is sound.


  2. I am wondering and fretting slightly over synopsis now. My just published book has now gone defenceless out into the wide world and people have asked me what it is about. Summing it up in a couple of sentences seems vital in our impatient world, but I am still refining my description


    • Sympathy! I often think that if I could adequately summarise my book in a page, why would I bother writing the other 300 in the first place …? But it can be a vital selling tool. Good luck.


  3. Another good post, Sue, and one that makes sense. A couple of years ago, I went to a Louise Doughty workshop and she explained the difference between theme and plot very clearly. It was a light bulb moment for me – up to that point I hadn’t understood the difference.


    • The elements of a good story resonate differently with different writers, in my experience. My fiction workshop in the new Writers’ Forum is about that very subject. 🙂


  4. Thanks for this. It’s a very useful tool. Just what I needed.


  5. I found this really useful, Sue. Many thanks! Just to need work out the one line for my WIP.


  6. Bookmarked under ‘synopsis & covering letter’. This is a single piece of advice that makes the most sense. A USP for the author? Thanks Sue.


    • Hi Shirley,
      I see it more as the USP for the book. I really think that it’s a good idea that authors have a USP, also, to be part of their ‘brand’. Mine is the thing about irresistible heroes and dauntless heroines. I play with the sentence a bit to make it fit the purpose I require at the time, but those words are usually in there. 🙂


  7. Brilliant advice as always Sue. Thanks for sharing.


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