The Dreaded Synopsis: More than a Query Tool

I had to write a synopsis the other day for the new novel I’m shopping around.

It will come as no shock to any of you writers out there that I avoided doing it As Long As Possible. In fact, I had a list of ten agents I wanted to query and I managed to send to eight of them without writing a synopsis. (Which shocked one of my CPs, but it’s true.) Part of this was because a couple of them had asked to see the very next thing I wrote. One of them I’d talked to via email just recently, so I just emailed her with a “here it is” note. Another I tweeted, asking her if she wanted to see it, which she did.

Love those easy ones!

Now, I should say that I did have a pitch paragraph for the book, that I included with these messages. My CPs who’d read the book helped me put that together. Then, there were several more agents I’d had previous positive contact with, that I sent more formal queries to. None of those blessed souls, however, required a synopsis for submission.

When I’d knocked out eight queries/submissions, then I hit the big white wall.

You know the one I mean: the empty screen. The blank page taunting you with the certainty that you can never ever condense your long, lovely, intertwined story into a one-page plot summation. The thing I like to say – which ALL the publishing people hate to hear – is, if I could have told the story in one page, I would have.

Yes, I see you people out there, making faces at the screen.

And I know I’m wrong.

I know you need the synopsis and, if I can’t explain what my story is about in a short space, then either there’s a problem with my story or with me. Possibly both.

At any rate, though I knew that a synopsis is a necessary evil, I didn’t really see the light until I read Malle Vallik’s post this morning about all the things Harlequin and Carina use a synopsis for.

I tell you: I have drunk the Koolaid.

I bookmarked this post for the next time I write a synopsis. Or, for rewriting my Middle Princess synopsis, as I’m now seriously considering.

Now, go get you some Koolaid.

10 Replies to “The Dreaded Synopsis: More than a Query Tool”

  1. Ugh. I hate writing synopses, but I’ve come to terms with it. Because you’re right–they are a necessary evil. You may be able to get an agent without one, and your agent may be able to sell it to an editor without one, but your editor will demand one eventually. As the post you linked to points out, it’s essential for so many parts of the publishing process.

    1. It’s true, Linda. We hate it, and our focus is so much on the getting published part. And yet, there’s this whole other piece we tend to not consider. Erf!

  2. I always look at the synopsis as a necessary evil – for them it’s necessary, for me it’s evil. And like you, I put off writing them for as long as possible. (Which has left stupid-me scrambling to put one together when it was requested. Needless to say, it ended up super-lame.)

  3. Both your post and the one of Malle’s you linked to were VERY helpful! The synopsis has always been my most challenging part of the submission process but now I have a much better feel for the role it plays!

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