Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon



Synopses are evil little demons. To sum up an entire novel in one page seems both wrong and somehow disloyal to the book. But it’s a skill every working novelist needs. I’ve taught myself how to write clear, compelling synopses and I teach others how to do it. But I’ve never learned to like them.

Oh, how I wish I’d read WRITING THE FICTION SYNOPSIS early in my career. McCutcheon has a remarkable way of deconstructing the synopsis that makes the process nearly painless. She shows what to put in, what to leave out, and how to stay true to the novel while summarizing it in a short space. She includes helpful worksheets showing characters and their motivations, plots and their turning points, and even the target market. If a writer faithfully fills out the worksheets, the synopsis is practically written for her. More importantly, the worksheets will help her see her novel in perfect miniature.

My only criticism of this book (and it’s a minor one) is that McCutcheon uses movies instead of books as her examples. I fully understand why she did it, though. Movies are a sort of shorthand for novels, where you can see the turning points and big scenes more clearly. Also, movies feel like common ground. More people will see a popular movie than read a popular book. Still, I wish McCutcheon had used at least one book as an example, perhaps a character-driven piece of literary fiction, just to show that her method works for all kinds of stories.

I don’t know if any writer will truly enjoy writing a synopsis, but with WRITING THE FICTION SYNOPSIS at your side, you can at least tame the little demon, and make it behave as it should.




Rating: 4 stars



This book is best for: intermediate writers


I recommend this book.

4 thoughts on “Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon

  1. Ahah, highly recommended, eh? Pretty decent words.

    I’ve bought it, even though it breaks my $5 Kindle budget limiter.

    Actually, I see the relevance in her referring to films rather than to books, but I will wait till I have read the book to comment further. Film and writing are different art forms, but each require a script and a synopsis.


Leave a Reply to juliabarrett Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s