As my new agent search continues, I also continue to rework and refine my query letter and submission materials. Having good friends to look over your query and give feedback just like you would with beta readers for your manuscript can be a great help. (Thanks guys!) Sometime last year I wrote about a multi-day method for producing a synopsis, and I’ve found that it works quite well. Except what it produces is referred to by some as a long synopsis — and, indeed, mine turned out to be about six pages. But in looking through the guidelines of the agents I’m most interested in (I’m sure you all know to look at the guidelines, right? RIGHT?!?), I’ve discovered that more and more of them are asking for a 1-2 page synopsis. One to two pages? Sheesh! As if the whole process wasn’t hard enough.
Well, it had to be done, so I sat down to do it, and I figured you all could benefit from my pain. Enjoy.
The first major shift in my brain was to realize that this synopsis could never possibly encapsulate the story I’ve slaved over. It had to do more than a query pitch, more than the back cover enticement of a book, but still not overwhelm the reader with a clutter of too much information. At best, it would highlight the novel’s most important aspects and possibly give a bit of the flavor of my writing style.
So, I asked myself — Self, what really are the most important aspects of my novel?
My thoughts wandered throughout the events of the story but I noticed that most of my focus fell on the characters and not the plot. The characters make any novel become important. Boring characters in the most exciting plot rarely equals a successful tale. However, incredible characters in a mediocre plot can often lead to a wonderful read.
So, I chose to lead the synopsis with an explanation of the two main characters, and in revealing their goals, I also detailed out the main villains of the piece. Thus, in one swift stroke, I managed to set up the key figures and the key conflict of the story. The next paragraph laid out the secondary characters but not the plot points that brought them in. Rather I wrote something to the effect of “As they travel towards their goal, the group grows in numbers” and then gave a short bit on the new characters. My third paragraph finally mentions some plot points by jumping to the middle of the book when my villains kidnap a character and steal an important item. The fourth paragraph glosses over the challenges my heroine faces as she strives to save her friend and ultimately defeats the villains. Finally, my last paragraph explains the coda and closes out the synopsis.
In other words, I let a few sentences paraphrase hundreds of pages by not bothering with describing any scenes, but still (hopefully) giving a sense of what will be found in the pages of the novel. It’s an overview, after all, not a detailed rendering. I actually still have a fifth-of-a-page with which to play, and if there’s something I feel extremely strong about putting in, I can go to two pages (provided the guidelines permit it).
Now, this synopsis has been sent out with queries (where appropriate) over the last few weeks, so it’s still too early to tell how effective the approach has been, but the response from my wonderful beta readers has been positive. And since those beta readers are Faith and David, they can respond in the comments with their thoughts! How convenient!
So, this is what worked for me (so far). What methods do you all use?