Misc Posts

Tips to Write a Book Summary

We give some top tips to help effectively write a book summary!

What is your book about?

It’s the dreaded question asked to writers all around the world. How can you possibly sum up an entire novel’s worth of character backstories, relationships, plot development, and intrigue? How can you condense a fully fleshed out story into a few sentences? And even worse, how can you make it sound intriguing without spoiling your carefully-plotted twists and turns?

Unfortunately, that is the task that falls on us when we have to write a book summary. If we ever want anyone to actually read the book, they need an overview of what it is about. There are plenty of theories and how-to’s online, but I have always been of the opinion that there is never one right way to do anything when it comes to creative writing. What you’ll find here is a series of tips to help you generate ideas and give you a launching point to summarize your book. Enjoy!

Focus on One Character

Books are full of so many colorful characters that are all important to the plot. But if you try to include them all in your summary, you get a confusing mess. Who wants to read something like this:

Donna knows she has to break up with Conner, because she is secretly in love with Thomas. But that is complicated by Thomas’ involvement with Derrick “Knives” Laforge, the biggest mafia boss in Metro City. Thomas wants to be free from Derrick and marry Donna, but he doesn’t know how to. But Conner has something going for him, as well. His sister, Susan, is Donna’s best friend and is determined to see her and her brother together, no matter the cost!

Confusing, right?

As hard as it may be, try to streamline your summary to focus on a singular character. This is a better revision of the above:

Donna is caught between two men competing for her interest. Her heart may have chosen the bad boy wrapped up with the mafia, but her mind knows a solid friendship without risk of death is the smarter choice. Torn between loyalty and love, Donna’s choice will alter the lives of everyone around her.

Understand Your Stakes

I once read that “a problem a character can walk away from, is a book the reader can walk away from”. When you write your book summary, but sure the stakes are clear. These don’t always have to be life and death, end of the world type of stakes.

Think of this simple formula. Character wants something > This is what happens if they don’t get it.

Let’s give some examples from the Thread of Souls books.

For Book 1, we understand in the summary that: Zok wants to find out who murdered his mentor. If he doesn’t, his Order and his reputation as a paladin will be ruined.

For Book 2, we understand that Unole has to clear her name. If she doesn’t, she will lose the only home she’s ever known.

Give a Thematic Overview

When there’s simply too much to fit into your summary, it’s helpful to give 1-3 sentences of thematic overview. These work best at the start or end of your summary, and usually can exist separately from the “meat” of the summary. For example, if we take our Donna summary, we might put after it:

Donna’s Choice weaves a dramatic tale of love and loss against a backdrop of a dirty city where each day is a fight for survival.

We have something similar at the end of each Thread of Souls book. Because Thread of Souls is an eight-book series, it is much longer and involved than you would need for a stand alone novel. But it is good as a reference:

Thread of Souls is an award-winning eight-book epic fantasy series based off a TTRPG campaign. These stories weave a world of deep history, cultures, and lore with a fascinating pantheon of good and evil gods. Adventure across the vast world of Corventos while diving right into the heart and soul of a diverse and colorful cast of characters whose passions, strengths, and failures drive the story.

We hope this has helped you feel more confident when you write a book summary! Practice always makes things better. Write multiple summaries and compare each one, growing and revising until you have your final product!