I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here: go to the eloquent summaries at Writing World (under Pitching the Novel) for tips on how to write the quagmire of despair that is the fiction novel synopsis; make sure you also follow specific publisher instructions or guidelines too.
No, I want you to think about why you’re writing the synopsis, beyond the obvious reason (the ‘it’s the job application for your book’ reason). There’s several other motivations here, most related to the publisher, but some for yourself – which means you should write one even if you’re self-publishing.
Here’s why you should approach your synopsis with enthusiasm and good cheer:
1. It proves to the editor/agent that you can string sentences together.
This is a useful skill for a writer, but you’d be surprised how many slush-pile submissions show a distinct lack of it. Your synopsis should prove you have the skill to write a novel at the nuts and bolts level – check and double-check and triple-check for typos, grammatical errors, and weird sentence construction.
2. It demonstrates an interesting plot and compelling characters.
The synopsis should be like a taste of the novel itself. Many writers fall into the trap of writing an outline – a dry summary of the book – when what they really need to be doing is concentrating on the motivating themes, forces and connections that make the readers care what happens.
3. It shows you can sell your book.
No matter your publication route, you have to do your own marketing. The ability to describe your book succinctly and yet excitingly is a valuable marketing tool and publishers like to see writers who have a grasp of marketing tools.
4. It clarifies the themes and central motivations of the book.
Stepping back and reviewing themes and character motivations is so incredibly useful that writing the synopsis (especially the full, extended, chapter-by-chapter one) can result in revisions and edits to strengthen said themes. The synopsis is a publishing and marketing tool – it’s also a writing and editing tool.
Do not under-estimate the importance of the synopsis. Check writing sites for tips (try to find someone who likes writing the bloody things), get others to read and feedback on it (Evil Editor does this with snarky wit for public consumption), and be very clear on why you’re writing it (and its variations).