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PhotoHutch
09-27-2011, 09:20 PM
Hi all,

An agency has a submission that requires both a query letter and a synopsis of the book.

I can find a ton of info on query letters (including that they should have a mini-synopsis), but very little of value regarding stand alone synopses.

How long should they be? How much detail? Include the ending?

Thanks for the advice!

Steve

PS Forgive me if I missed an obvious thread somewhere. . .

Drachen Jager
09-27-2011, 09:29 PM
Page counts for synopses varies, some agencies want 2-4 pages others want 5-10, if they don't specify, use your judgement.

Yes you include the ending. Detail is not really important, hit the major beats and do it in a lively manner, like the writing in your query. A synopsis should not be a dry recitation of the plot. Imagine you haven't seen your best friend for a year, they've just learned that you wrote a book and they want to hear all about it. You have 15 minutes during your morning commute to explain.

Events should appear in chronological order, present tense, third person, in the same style as your book.

More info here: http://www.fictionwriters.com/tips-synopsis.html

PhotoHutch
09-27-2011, 10:11 PM
Drachen--Great link and advice, thanks!

Jamesaritchie
09-28-2011, 08:01 PM
There are always exceptions, but synopses come in three "standard" lengths. The one page, the three page, and the five page, all single-spaced.

You might try this page on Robert J. Sawyer's website. http://www.sfwriter.com/ouindex.htm His synopsis for Illegal Alien is, I think, a particularly good example. http://www.sfwriter.com/syia.htm

Long ago, I had two editors tell me they loved to see a synopsis written in the style of the jacket synopsis on a published novel. The same action, the same vibrant style, etc.

The only difference is that in your synopsis you should reveal how the novel ends. Doing this has worked very well for me.

RobinDelany
09-28-2011, 08:15 PM
Hi all,


How long should they be? How much detail? Include the ending?

Thanks for the advice!

Steve.
You should be able to find what the agent expects on his website, blog, or through interviews if you google him.
Robin

PhotoHutch
09-28-2011, 08:44 PM
Thanks again for the help! Their site says "brief" so I'm going with one page.

Susan Littlefield
09-29-2011, 07:15 AM
I'm getting ready to write my synopsis as well, because I find many agents want this when sending out the query letter. Excellent links, James.

Cairo Amani
06-19-2013, 08:56 PM
Can we revive this thread? I checked out the link but does anyone have any more/new advice for this?

I suck unbelievably much at synopsis. THIS is what I wish they'd taught me in college.

Aggy B.
06-19-2013, 09:08 PM
Can we revive this thread? I checked out the link but does anyone have any more/new advice for this?

I suck unbelievably much at synopsis. THIS is what I wish they'd taught me in college.

The synopsis should be seen as a road map for the novel. It's purpose is to lay out the main plot, all the key turning points for the MC in a clear and chronological fashion.

It may seem kind of dry when you finish it, but that's okay. It doesn't have to read like the book, it just needs to give the agent a solid picture of how the plot progresses. (If you can get the voice of the book into the synopsis then kudos, but that's the icing on the cake. Worry about the cake first.)

I found that having a good foundation in 3 Act Structure helped me a lot when writing the synopsis. There are plenty of books that can help with 3 Act Structure, from Syd Fields (rather dry) Screenplay to Blake Snyder's Save the Cat (which is about a lot of other things too). And you don't have to have written the novel with that structure in mind, but it helped me when putting the synopsis together.

I also found that writing the long version first, then slowly trimming down (and saving) shorter versions worked better than starting with the one page version.

quicklime
06-19-2013, 09:08 PM
cj, again, go to QLH....there's less synpopses there, but a fair number. Including one being picked apart right now for Cherry on the front page.

Debbie V
06-24-2013, 11:39 PM
I start by asking myself what each chapter is really about and then string those together making sure to include emotion and the turning points.

I think it helps to look for themes in your work too. Try giving the one sentence blurb of your story and use that as a topic sentence as if you were writing an essay. Any plot details that don't go with the topic sentence don't go in the synopsis. You may revise that sentence out later, but it gives you focus to begin.

You can combine the two ideas above or use them separately. No method works for everyone o revery story. Then revise to smooth transitions and clear up confusing plot points. After that revise to get that voice in. Don't forget to post it for critique. I hope this helps.

Dwight
06-26-2013, 03:36 PM
Sounds like a good plan, Debs. Thanks.

webchairwarrior
06-26-2013, 11:57 PM
A lot of the agents I plan on querying to mention that they was a 2 page synopsis. Does anyone know if that means 2 pages, double spaced, or single spaced?

WeaselFire
06-27-2013, 12:42 AM
A lot of the agents I plan on querying to mention that they was a 2 page synopsis. Does anyone know if that means 2 pages, double spaced, or single spaced?
It means 500 words. I don't personally know any agents who care about the spacing.

Most agents looking at a synopsis are looking for the general plot, conflicts and resolutions. It tells them if this story line is new, overdone or an adequate adaptation to a different genre. It also gives an idea of the depth to the story and, most important, whether they can sell this to any of the publishers they deal with. If it's not something they feel they can sell, it's not worth requesting a full manuscript.

Most agents that have been in business can tell exactly whether they can sell a story and how much work it will take from a synopsis and a writing sample, the first 10 pages usually. Your cover letter gets them to read the sample pages and synopsis, their interest in those gets them to request more.

Remember, if an agent doesn't think they can sell your work, then either the work sucks or the agent sucks at selling that type of work. I just always figure it's the latter. :)

Jeff

pagesinstages
06-29-2013, 10:15 PM
I know how you feel. I'm just starting work on my first novel synopsis and it is a bit overwhelming. Best to just dive in and then whittle it down, maybe?

juliesondra
06-29-2013, 10:32 PM
I know most writers just kind of dive in and try to do it their own way, and I recommend trying that first, but people who write in a more structured way may want some kind of guideline to drawing up a synopsis. I read an interesting approach online that I'd never come across before called "The Six-Paragraph Method to writing your synopsis":

http://writerswrite.co.za/how-to-write-a-synopsis

I haven't personally used it because I was a "just do it willy-nilly" kind of synopsis writer (and what I wrote ended up being fine for the purpose), but this might help you if you're stuck.

(The basic thrust of the article is that you should reduce your book to six sentences, which helps you identify the MAJOR plot points, and then build a paragraph on each of those sentences.)

ironmikezero
06-29-2013, 11:29 PM
Overheard in a library, a quick synopsis of Melville's Moby Dick...

A young boy, around 9 or 10, hefted the tome and asked his teenaged sister what it was about - the subtle smirk suggested his mind was flirting with the gutter.

She ignored his thinly veiled jibe and quipped, "Obsessed sea captain chases a whale - the whale wins."

"Huh?"

"Just put it down. You wouldn't get it - it's got lots of words with more than two syllables."

...ouch...

Dwight
06-30-2013, 01:37 AM
I know most writers just kind of dive in and try to do it their own way, and I recommend trying that first, but people who write in a more structured way may want some kind of guideline to drawing up a synopsis. I read an interesting approach online that I'd never come across before called "The Six-Paragraph Method to writing your synopsis":

http://writerswrite.co.za/how-to-write-a-synopsis

I haven't personally used it because I was a "just do it willy-nilly" kind of synopsis writer (and what I wrote ended up being fine for the purpose), but this might help you if you're stuck.

(The basic thrust of the article is that you should reduce your book to six sentences, which helps you identify the MAJOR plot points, and then build a paragraph on each of those sentences.)

Hey, JS, your plan really works: I've written umpteen synopses for my novel, but never one as succinct and satisfying as this one. It took eight sentences, mind you, but who says it HAS to be six?Big, big thanks.

juliesondra
06-30-2013, 05:58 AM
Hey, JS, your plan really works: I've written umpteen synopses for my novel, but never one as succinct and satisfying as this one. It took eight sentences, mind you, but who says it HAS to be six?Big, big thanks.

Glad to hear it worked for you, but just for the record I did not write the post I linked to. I just thought it was useful when I first saw it, and decided to pass it on. (They do specify on the page that a long book should use eight, actually!)

Rock on!

Old Hack
06-30-2013, 01:02 PM
There are lots of useful resources around which help with writing synopses: the trick is to find one which works for you.

I use Scrivener, and as I write I write a summary sentence for every chapter or scene which, once I've finished, gives me a really rough outline of the book to base my synopsis on; but it does have too much detail in it really, and I almost always end up setting it aside and writing one from scratch. It's still useful, however, as it reminds me of all the various plot-points and so on, and is a very useful checklist.

I've found Nicola Morgan's book "Write A Great Synopsis" very helpful. Disclaimer: she's a good friend of mine; but she's also a very well-respected, prolific and successful writer, and very good at helping writers make the most of their work.

Axordil
06-30-2013, 06:28 PM
Susan Dennard has an effective (and brief) worksheet-based model for synopses at:

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/04/17/how-to-write-a-1-page-synopsis/

It's geared toward a sub-500 word synopsis of the most common plot structure. I used it, and it made the process dangerously close to fun.