The Synopsis: The Final Word (at least for this week)
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Dec 05 2014
Unintentionally we had a week devoted to the synopsis, two of the posts came organically from your comments. I love that.
I had no plan to do a Friday post on the synopsis until I saw this comment from yesterday:
This actually exemplifies for me *exactly* why synopsis-writing is frustrating. Not only is there a very wide range of quantity requested (“three to five paragraphs” or “one page” or “three pages” and so on), but there are a number of agents I’ve queried who in fact specify that all characters *must* be mentioned. I know this is a sure way to clunk-ifying a synopsis. And mine is clunked, because I’ve seen more guidelines instructing the inclusion of characters than not. Like a lot of neurotic pre-published authors – I obey like a spanked puppy.
Then there is the reworking of the clunker for almost every single query, because of all those varying particulars in submission guidelines. It’s a bit like the Biblical genealogies; “who really reads The Begats?” But The Begats are canon.
Unless they’re not!
I think this comment illustrates the feeling most writers have about submitting in general. There are too many rules, too many different requests and when a writer tries to please everyone she comes up with a clunky mess.
My one suggestion to this is write the synopsis that works, that shines and that tells your story in your voice. Forget everyone’s peccadilloes and do what works for your book. I’m pretty sure Melissa Cutler never rewrote that synopsis to please a different agent or a different editor. She wrote one synopsis, submitted her project and published her book. Done.
One paragraph or three to five paragraphs is not a synopsis. That’s your summary for your query. If someone asks for that you should have it when you wrote the query. So that’s easy. As for other preferred page lengths, no one is going to reject your book because your synopsis is longer than a page or longer than two pages. No one. Write a solid three-page synopsis, give or take a page, and you have all you’ll need for every submission.
I absolutely agree on all your points, Jessica. I will also say that embarking on a traditional publishing career does not spell the end of having to write to target word/page counts or other specifications that might seem arbitrary. I know because in the past three years, I've sold sixteen books to four publishing houses. If you think it's frustrating to have to meet many different agency requirements, then trust me that your career will be fraught with unpleasantness. Unless you self-publish, you will always be working under contracts that require meeting other people's specific demands.
It is frustrating to see the different word/page counts different agents/editors require for a synopsis. It's hard enough to write one smashing synopsis, let alone 3 of differing lengths for the same ms.
I guess if you write it well, and have a great story, an editor/agent will read it regardless of their synopsis requirements.
PS I've enjoyed 'synopsis week' – anything that can lessen the pain of writing one is great in my books 🙂
Synopsis week was great!
I recently finished writing my query and synopsis and have been debating over trying to tailor for each agent's requirements. But as your commenter on Melissa Cutler's post said, I want to avoid a clunky mess.
Thank you for synopsis week! And for being so timely for me 😉
Jessica Alvarez- thank you for sending me the links to these posts! And of course to Melissa Cutler too!! So helpful!!! As I’m attempting to draft my next book from a thoughtfully written synopsis rather than a few pages of hastily scrawled notes- I’m truly grateful to have Melissa Cutler’s example as a guide!!!