Sunday, 29 March 2009

Wrestling with the synopsis

Having written the last chapter of Catch a Falling Star (must find a new title, damn it) I am busy tweaking it while waiting for the last of my kind readers to report back. I have also, with a reluctance that only my fellow writers will understand, begun to write the synopsis.

The problem is that a synopsis is, essentially, one's novel with all the good bits stripped out - the humour, the dialogue, the surprises - and one's characters reduced to stereotypes. What you are left with is a bare plot outline, without any of the detail that makes it worth reading. One is also obliged to reveal whodunit, and I can't believe it helps an agent to appreciate a book if she knows before she hits chapter one who the killer is.

I must try harder. I read somewhere that you should imagine you've just seen the film of your book, and you are telling a friend the plot in a pub afterwards. Maybe that would perk it up.


  1. Do you have a particular length you are going for? Back when I was shopping "Gov Work" I had agents who wanted a one page, double-spaced synopsis, a few who wanted between two and three pages (also double-spaced) and one I recall who wanted it all in three paragraphs with a 150 maximum word count. Drove me nuts coming up with all those different formats.

  2. No - what is the average?

    If I could write an acceptable one of any length, presumably it would be feasible to stretch or shrink it as required...

    Woe, woe, and possibly even thrice woe.

  3. Sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. I guess what you want to do is see if any agents/publishers that you particularly want to approach have submission guidelines that tell you what they want in a synopsis and use that.

    And yes, you can write a damned good one of whatever length is needed. Tell what happens and who it happens to. The style you want is, I believe, called Straightforward.

    Font selection may be more open. But I would avoid Wingdings.


    Alan, do you mean it? I was counting on a snazzy font to distract attention from the content, and Wingdings seemed just a nice bright colour, or better still, several...

    No fair.

  5. Take a look at Nathan Bransford's blog and check with me in the morning.

  6. It is always a good idea to use scented paper and include a piece of chocolate in the envelope. This is best done in the cooler months.

  7. Thanks, Norm, that's a useful article in Nathan Bransford's blog.

  8. I looked at it too. Not one word encouraging scented paper. The man is operating in a dream world.

    Stationery with elaborate Gothic theme borders is also de rigueur.

  9. The only special stationery might be bank notes.