At last, I am ready to write my query and synopsis. After months making sure everything is ready, and learning more than I ever imagined I didn’t know, I’ve got a novel to be proud of. A few select people read the story, helping to find errors, and came away asking about my next book. That made me smile.
After I had my manuscript read, each chapter received one last, by-hand edit. When I finished that, it got read out loud until nothing stumbled.
Well, after some research, I’ve narrowed it down to writing a query letter and a synopsis. I decided to try the later first, as it seemed the hardest. Looking them up, each site offers different advice. Nathan Bransford seems to say that a synopsis should be like the book’s blurb, only with an ending. That makes it sound like he wants to hear our voice.
Others believe you should tell, not show—saying that the editor or agent already likes your writing, given that they have requested your synopsis. They warn against using fancy descriptions. Mostly, the synopsis should be tight and grammatically correct, unlike this quickly written blog.
Beth Anderson’s article about the subject says we should write our synopsis as an outline, before our books. Oops.
Most agree that the synopsis should not be about clever lines, but express the whole story instead. It should be short descriptions of the actions, or stumbling blocks, which lead the character to overcome their main issue—and there must be a main issue.
So, how short is short?
Some blogs say to write a three page synopsis, while others vary. What have you found is needed? Also, I'd like to see a good sample from an editor. I've seen some samples, but they vary. Should we title it to the agent we are going to query? Does it need our information on the upper-left corner?
To move on, Beth Anderson once wrote, "But embellish it with action, not description.”
That means that agents and editors want the very bare amount of description possible in a synopsis, wanting to get the meat of our story quickly. For example:
Bob got mad at bill for stealing his job. Following Bill home, he slid inside his enemy’s house. When no one looked, Bob stole Bill’s cookies from his otherwise impenetrable refrigerator. Bill got upset when he got home, seeing Bob run.
He chased Bob for his cookies, but fell into traps all over Bob’s house. Every time Bob sat to eat the cookies, Bill almost gets them back with an amazingly harebrained invention. One such invention turns out unexpected, creating a stove that can cook food ten times as fast without burning anything. In the end, the two became friends.
Bob ate the cookies and became happy while Bill created a new cookie factory. They worked together and everyone loved the new store. The end.
Of course, editors and agents want nothing with a plot-line that bad. But I wonder: Is that really the type of description they want?
I’d like to go into this the right way, as I’m sure you would. So you have any good research or ideas to share? Do you know of a good sample?
Also, blogs say to describe what your story is about in one sentence. They say it should be the first sentence of your synopsis. Can it be a concept? For example, can I say my book is about a person coming to grips with the nature of man being evil?
Now, my novel isn’t about that; but it is about a deep philosophy that will leave readers wondering more than one question. 1984 may have told the story of a man who went to crazy lengths to get laid, but the underlining story, the essence of 1984, was so much more than that.
**Spoiler for 1984 alert—only next paragraph.
I guess, if someone had to sum 1984 up in one sentence, it could be: When a depressed man in dystopian world tries to fight what society gives him, he finds that love does not conquer all, and that big brother truly can take everything. Now, I’m no Orwell, but that sentence might get attention. It could be incorrect, as some would argue that it was not love, but desperate loneliness that led Winston to cling to the first thing that touched him.
We are warned against fancy writing. What would Orwell have written as his summary sentence? What other books would be hard to describe in one sentence? Give it a try.
So, what advice do you have? Write a blog about it and link it, if you can. Also, please post your link with your comments. I appreciate everyone taking the time to read this,