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How to Write a Good Book Synopsis

by Erica Sweeney, Demand Media

    A book synopsis is basically a summary or an overview of a book. The most important thing to remember when writing a book synopsis is that the synopsis should be considerably shorter than the book, because synopses condense the information of a much larger work. Writing a good book synopsis requires a full understanding of the book in question. It is impossible to write a synopsis on a book that you have not read.

    Step 1

    Make notes as you read the book. After you finish the book, go back through it and make a few notes about things that you want to include in the synopsis, information that your reader needs in order to understand the ideas in the book. Go back and re-read the entire book or parts of it if needed. It is essential that you have a good understanding of the book before writing a synopsis of it.

    Step 2

    State the full title of the book and its author (or authors) at the beginning of the synopsis. This information does not have to be in the first sentence, but it should be in the opening paragraph so your reader knows what book you are summarizing. Titles of books should be in italics.

    Step 3

    Think of a few words to sum up the book and its tone. Use these words to form an introduction to the synopsis and to provide a focus for the synopsis. For example: "The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger explores youthful restlessness."

    Step 4

    Use the following paragraphs to provide an accurate summary or overview of what the book is about or what happens in the book. Try to stay focused on the few words that you came up with in the previous step. For example, “youthful restlessness” is basically what the Salinger book is about, so the following paragraphs should discuss what happens in the book to lead us to that conclusion. This is important, but be careful not to skew information to fit into a conclusion that is possibly inaccurate.

    Step 5

    Discuss the book’s important message at the end of the synopsis. Consider what the author is trying to convey.

    Step 6

    Write in third person. Avoid using “I” when possible. For example, instead of writing “I liked the book because,” write “The book was enjoyable because.” Using third person makes the writing seem much more professional.

    Step 7

    Use citations in the book synopsis whenever you quote or directly paraphrase. Most citation styles require the page number from where the quote is taken. If you are using a specific citation style, like MLA or APA, consult its specific rules.

    Step 8

    Keep it short. The entire book synopsis should be no more than five to seven paragraphs. Remember that the synopsis is just an overview and should not include every detail from the book.

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    About the Author

    Erica Sweeney is a freelance writer and editor based in Little Rock, Ark. She has a master's in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her work has been published at SaidIt.org, Arkansas Times, Aging Arkansas and Arkansas Business.

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