To ensure that we are on the same page, let us first understand what a book summary is. Bear in mind that a book summary is different from a book review.
A book review is a portrayal of a book that includes the opinion, ideas, interpretation, and critics, whereas, a book summary is like a synopsis that is a ‘cliff note’ variant of the book. The Giver book summary is a good example that recapitulates all the significant points mentioned in the book without including any outside comments.
It is crucial to make yourself clear that the stuff you are writing is a book summary.
Step-by-Step Guide to Write a Book Summary
There are some differences in the book summary writing process of fiction and non-fiction books. Here we have included the directions for both of them.
Step-1: Deciding Who Will Refer Your Work
It is necessary to decide who will refer to your work or for whom you are writing. Whether it is a formal assignment or it is for personal reference.
If it is for personal reference, you do not need any rules. Feel free to write the way you like as far as you understand it yourself. The structure of the summary can be of your choice.
If you are writing a formal assignment to share with others, there are certain sets of principles given below that you must follow. Your work should be more objective, and you need to include even those things you disagree with.
Step-2: Start Reading
It is necessary to read the book properly and analyze the information given in the book. You have to retain all the information because the material is for those who will learn from it. Your mind-set plays a vital role here when writing a book summary.
Step 3: Take Notes and Highlight
It will help you to mark some prime ideas and note the vital material. There are a few ways to make things easy while highlighting and taking notes of important content:
- Take notes in the margins while highlighting the book.
- Use stickies to mark the pages while taking notes.
- Use a separate notebook to take the notes.
Writers usually use colored stickies and colored highlighters to mark categories of notes. For example, for highlighting, the usual codes are Blue for a new character, Yellow for some ideas and quotes, and Pink for support of the theme.
Step 4: Writing Mini-Summaries at the End of Each Chapter
Think, you are summarizing a book containing 30 chapters, will you remember the material or a key quote in chapter 9. It is next to impossible.
Going back to your highlights and stickies chapter-by-chapter or reading the book, again and again, to recall the main ideas of each chapter is insanity. It is a smarter way to summarize every chapter as it ends. It will save your time and effort, as while writing the final summary, you just need to compile the mini-summaries of every chapter.
Step 5: Organize the Mini-Summaries
The mini-summaries have provided you with all the essential things that you need. Ensure that you organize them in proper order.
For fiction books, assemble them according to the story structure as follows:
- Beginning (Introducing characters and setting)
- Rising Action (Problem build-ups)
- Climax (Peak point of tension)
- Falling Action (Fixing the loose ends after the problem resolves)
- Resolution (Closure)
Step 6: Note the Important Material into a List
Everything you need to write in a summary is now before you. Analyze the main ideas, quotes, and other material you find appropriate to mention in your summary. It is advisable to jot the necessary material into the form of a bullet list.
Even after the list is ready, cut down what is less significant to understand the clear picture of the story.
Step 7: Start Writing Your Summary
Start converting the bullet list into paragraphs. At this point, you simply have to convert your bullet list into proper readable paragraphs. Avoid rambling for a better output. Remember, you are writing a book summary and not the entire book.
Structuring a Book Summary
A book summary structure should follow an organized pattern to make it easy for others to refer to it. You can use the following structure:
Book Summary Structure:
Book Summary of the Book (Title of the book), by (Author Name)
- Describe the Main Characters:
- Character No. 1: The Description
- Character No. 2: The Description
- Character No. 3: The Description
- Introduction Paragraph – provide a quick outline of the book and the main points included in it. For fiction, your summary should mention anything that gives a sense of how and why the book is written.
- Body Paragraph – elaborate on the main ideas from the bullet list in each body paragraph. There can be any number of body paragraphs. Generally, the number of body paragraphs depends on the number of main points the summary has.
- Closing Paragraph – For a non-fiction book, your book summary can sum up all the vital ideas, quotes, and material in a single overarching takeaway. However, for the fiction book, detail the theme of the book and the end of the story.
Mistakes to Avoid While Writing a Summary
- Avoid the following mistakes to make the process of writing a summary easier.
- Avoid adding personal thoughts, as I think, I believe, I feel like, etc.
- Showing haste in making notes and highlighting important points while reading the book.
- Not following the chapter-by-chapter mini-summarization.
- Not differentiating between vital ideas and minor details. The summary must not be too short or too long.
- Never forget to proofread your writing work.
The Final Thoughts
The task of writing a book summary includes a lot of responsibility and risk. It is a crucial way of providing significant knowledge of a book in short. The steps provided above will help you write book summaries with a clear vision and face lesser problems.
Do follow the above steps to avoid discrepancies and flaws in your writing and get a better output.