The How-To-Do Guide: Writing A Good Effective Summary

Who is getting pumped up for Camp NaNoWriMo in 2014? In case some of you are unaware of what Camp NaNoWriMo is or what NaNoWriMo is in general, I’ll briefly sum it up. NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month,” and annually during November, writers from around the world write a novel and reach their word count in 30 days—the only catch being that you just keep writing. You lock out your inner editor. Camp NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, is like the annual one, except it occurs during the summer months. Overall, this is my third Camp NaNoWriMo.
Last year, some NaNoers and I were give each other our summaries of our novels, and one of them asked how we gave such good summaries. Summaries are one of the hardest things to writing. So, because Camp is coming up and this blog should include some writing tips, I will help guide you and give you the information (or 411) on how to do this.

What exactly is a summary? A summary is “a brief statement or account of the main points of something.” When you summarize your novel, or any writing piece in general, you want to make sure you hit the important main points of your novel so that the readers will have a general idea about what your novel is about. A summary is, after all, a first impression to see if a book is their "cup o' tea". You want to make a strong impression so all of the "why's" of the novel can be answers.

There are really three essentials that you will need in summaries: who the characters are and the general idea/problem of what is happening in the novel, where and/or when the story is taking place. Personally, I think you don’t need to add the third essential UNLESS it is a fantasy novel on another world or it’s a historical fiction novel, relating to a certain time in history. A great example of a summary using these is R.J. Palacio's Wonder:

"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

See? This summary states that Auggie is the main character, the main problem is that he is trying to prove that he is just like everyone else. If you can answer the three essentials then you have got yourself a good summary.

But there are some things that you can do to make it pop up.

Do: Try to draw your readers in. Use something that grabs the readers' attention, without giving too much away. There are a lot of books out there in the world, so try to do something in your summary that will stand out and make the readers want to find out more of that is in your novel. One thing that you can do is add in a quote, an excerpt from your novel to your summary. You can also ask questions that readers will want to know the answers to. But be careful which quote your choose or what part you use as an excerpt. If you choose the wrong quote or wrong part to use as an excerpt, you may end up loosing readers. Questions are tricky (to see more how to write questions for this and use them effectively, look under the "Don't" section of this post.

Don't: Make your summary sound similar to another book's summary. People want to see and read NEW things, and they want to see YOUR style. Make it count.

Make sure you don't have any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors. This mainly applies to people who write and post their writing on sites such as Wattpad, Figment, etc., but also counts to everyone else. Okay, so maybe your writing is the next thing after Harry Potter or the Hunger Games trilogy. Summaries are previews of what your book is like. If you have a summary with all of these errors, such as this, "so will da 2 <3ers become bf and gf" (translation: "So will the loves become boyfriend and girlfriend?"), then readers would assume that the rest of the novel would be filled with errors as well, causing them to skip over it entirely, equaling to less readers.

Don't ask obvious questions. Using questions in your summaries can either go two ways: helpful or harmful. If you're going to ask questions, ask questions that aren't obvious, such as, "Will he become the King of England after defeating the wicked sorceress Morgana?" Instead, ask questions that aren't as obvious, such as, "Why did Merlin hide the truth about Arthur's heritage after all these years?" 

Questions? Do you want to add onto the "do" and "don't" section of writing an effective summary? Have anything else to add to this post in general? Well, don't hesitate to post in the comments!

Stay strong and wonderful!


  1. Hey! You know the whole thing with cabin mates, do you want to request each other? :P
    my username is laurel317.
    Waiting for your reply! :D

    1. I'd definitely love to be cabin mates! I'll request you!
      I just use the same user name as I do on my blog. :)

      xoxo Morning

  2. I really want to try Camp NaNoWriMo out, but I always miss which months it's in! :P Thanks for the reminder! Are you MorningTime4 on there, too? I might use Camp NaNo to finish writing my NaNo book from last November.

    This made me snort. XD "so will da 2 <3ers become bf and gf" (translation: "So will the loves become boyfriend and girlfriend?" I see far too much of this on Figment. It makes me cry.

    1. You're welcome! Yeah, I also go by MorningTime4 there. Do you go by sportakate on the Camp site too or by something else?

      You're still working on your novel from November? Wow, it must be pretty long. (O_O) I see "so will da 2 <3ers become bf and gf" on Figment too much, too. And on FanFicton! It sometimes really angers me. If you want people to read your writing, it has to be presentable. "tbh, talking in txt lang. is so >:(" (translation: "To be honest, talking in text language is so maddening!") :P

      xoxo Morning

    2. sportakate, yup! :)

      LOL, yeah. XD I'm currently at 92,000 words, but I think I'll be able to hit at least 100,000, which will make it my longest novel yet.

  3. I requested you as a cabin mate! :) MorningTime4, right?


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Stay strong and wonderful!
xoxo Abigail Lennah