Friday, May 27, 2011

Taming the Synopsis

Think of your synopsis like an iron.

Querying agents is confusing, there I said it. Each agent has different query guidelines. Some just want a 1 page query letter, some want the first chapter or the first 5-10 pages with the query. Some say they want a query, a synopsis and the first few pages. Most want email, a few only accept paper queries, and some trash paper queries without reading them. To demystify their idiosyncrasies, I use excel to keep track of agents and their guidelines.

My research has shown that when some agents say "synopsis" they mean the summary paragraphs within the query, explaining what the book is about, and some of them mean an actual synopsis-a separate document-summarizing the whole book. That's when the sweating starts.

Synopses scare me, because I don't understand them. This is why I decided to work on one. I read blogs where several querying writers had requests for partials and a synopsis (AH!), before the agent requested the full. One writer said she had to rush to put together a synopsis when it was requested. That made me nervous. It is a big reason behind me doing one now. If an agent might request one, I want to have it prepped and polished before I query.

I turned to Google, as I always do in times of need. Now, I think I have the idea. I think the synopsis will help with my editing, querying, and writing in general. They don't seem so bad once you read some tips on writing one. Think of your synopsis like an iron. Once it gets heated up, it will be a tool to make your story crisp and ready for company.

Synopsis Resources

Nathan Bransford

Vivian Beck

Fiction Writer's Connection

Writing World

Like with all things publishing there are differences of opinion. The suggestions of the four sites above range from 1 to10 pages, double spaced. The overall idea seems to be, the shorter the better. Like your query letter, if you can condense your story into precise sentences you are ahead of the game.

I am editing now and after each chapter, I jot down a few sentences summarizing what happened. When I do my read through, I will edit the synopsis. So far it isn't so bad. It's almost easy. I'll let you know how the end result looks.

Have you worked on a synopsis?


  1. Oh yes. I think synopses and queries are tough work because there is so much to include and the whole thing is not a cut-and-dried procedure. It's overwhelming, but cutting it down and writing it piece by piece, as you are doing, is a great idea.

  2. Thanks! It's been going well so far.

  3. Hey Monica,
    A great resource for synopsis writing is at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. They take movie synopses from Wikipedia to demonstrate strong examples of plot summaries:,category,SynopsisWriting.aspx

    Once I finish my WIP, I will most definitely be hitting up that site for reference.

  4. @ Phil: Thanks. I will definitely check it out. I have been working on a Writer's Resource tab, I'll add that link to the synopsis section.

    Good Luck with you WIP!