Grrrr… the synopsis

Writing the book is the easy part (comparatively); it’s the rest that’s frustrating. I’ve been sending out query after query, trying to get an agent interested in my second book, A Blush of Magic (some interest, no yes yet). I prepared properly prior to doing this. I gave it some time after I finished, read back over to see how it flowed and discover any major problems, spent a good deal of time editing and sent my manuscript off to a few friends and my writing group for critiques. I agonized over my query letter and discarded drafts till I was happy with it. Then came the dreaded synopsis, which took me days, hours, forever (yeah exaggeration).

A synopsis is meant to be a narrative summary. It is meant to highlight the book’s main characters, conflicts, key events and secondary characters and do this in such a way that the agent or publisher gets a good feel for the story, sees how it flows and how it ends, and can decide whether or not they think it works. The writer has to kind of strip the creativity, the expressive language away, and expose the bare bones of the story; see if it holds up. This is painful, but doable.

The problem, however, is that as time has gone by, length has become ridiculous. Guidelines have never really been strict for this sort of thing, but it used to be around one page for every 25 manuscript pages. If you had a 350 page book that would mean a 14 page synopsis. Not great when you’ve got a decently complex main plot, perhaps a minor plot, two main characters and several others who play important roles. Still, I could handle that.

Now you’re lucky if an agent will accept a 10 page synopsis and ‘the shorter the better’ seems to be the current phrase. How, I ask you can someone get an accurate picture of your 350 page story when it has been condensed and stripped to within an inch of it’s life? (all right, now I’m just being dramatic).

Now to my personal issue. I created a synopsis, worked hard at it, and managed to get it down to five pages. I’ve been submitting it whenever an agency requests one with a query. A few days ago I found a few more agents that I wanted to query – one seemed very promising – but I was brought up short when I discovered that they wanted a synopsis that was three to five paragraphs! This didn’t bring me to tears, but it made me growl.

I’ll find a way to do this, though I know I’ll have to miss out some things and I don’t know how clear of a picture I can give, but it irks me that I have to.

Thanks for listening to me rant. Good writing everyone.

Rose Connelly



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ben
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 18:59:52

    I hate synopses. It’s easier for me to condense my plot to the one or two paragraphs for the query than it is to write the full synopsis. Maybe because, when you only have one paragraph, there’s so little you can fit in there? But five paragraphs would drive me nuts. Not enough to do justice to your work, but just enough so that you have to start including secondary plot elements.


    • roseconnelly
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 20:29:28

      Exactly. I think there is a good reason it’s called ‘the dreaded synopsis.’ In a lot of respects the way it has to be written is the antithesis of the creative process used to write a novel.


  2. Pete Denton
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 19:41:29

    It’s good to rant. Better out than in, I always say.

    I have only written one synopsis before and it was nightmare to write, like you say I found it 10x harder than the novel. Mine was two pages so to more than halve that is difficult, but if you know that before you start it is much better.

    Good luck with the queries and hopefully you get the news you want soon.


  3. Maryska
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 01:17:32

    I know that three to five paragraphs is unreasonable, but you are an amazing writer and I KNOW you can pull it off. If you need someone to bounce it off of, let me know. -M


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