I'm happy to say that I've come to the point where my major work in progress, City of Magi, is ready to start being shopped around, and all that's left to do is to actually draft the query letters and my submission packet. I know of plenty of places, this board included, with information about how to write a good query letter (though I no doubt will seek feedback on that later), but there was one part of the submission packet that I recall reading about and forget where - the unbearably dry summary thing. I don't even know what it's called, other than just a summary.
I seem to recall that a submission packet (sent only when solicited after reading your brilliant query letter, of course) contains the first N chapters (where N is usually 3, depending on the editor's preferences) and a summary of the entire plot of the book from start to finish.
The summary is not supposed to have anything in the way of style or suspense, and there is something of an art to writing them well. Does anyone know a good resource about how to write those?
The initial query is accompanied by whatever the agent wants. That's anything from just the bare query letter to the query letter plus x pages (or chapters) and up to the query, pages, and a synopsis (which is the horrible summary thing you're thinking of).
You might also be asked to submit a synopsis along with a requested partial ms. Not usually with a full ms, though.
There's this on writing synopses. Since it's a blog, you need to work back to the first entry and then read up.
There's this interview with an agent about synopses.
I would also like to add--the synopsis should NOT be unbearably dry. You want the agent or editor to read it and enjoy it. You want your voice to show in it, and your style of writing. If there is humor in your story, there should be some humor in your synopsis. And you can even have suspenseful moments in it. Whatever the tone of your book is, that should be the tone of your synopsis. THe point is, you want the agent/editor to say, "Oh wow! I can't wait to read this whole thing!!!" and a dry and boring synopsis will not accomplish that! At least this is what I have heard in the workshops I have attended. There IS an art to them, it takes practice to write a really good one. Your synopsis is your chance to show the agent/editor what you've got. in 1-3 pages.
Posts: 223 | Registered: Sep 2007
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Synopsis too, must TELL the ending. This is key. The cover/query letter doesn't, but the synopsis does. I've been taught to have the synopsis in present tense (which is wicked hard at first) and everything else matches whatever tense the story is (3rd person simple past for most of my fiction.)
The sample chapters should be something under 50 pages, but probably at a chapter break or break in the story action. Ideally there's enough of a hook there to entice the reader to want to ask you for the whole book so they can find out what happens next. If you're cutting your sample somewhere where there isn't any suspense or hook you might want to reconsider and either cut it shorter or longer to permit that.
And I agree on previous posters that it shouldn't be unbearably dry (the synopsis.) It should match the tone of the story, it should be what you would tell a FASCINATED dinner guest who is asking you about your story (complete with telling the ending.) You would want to be engaging, witty, funny, you would want to build suspense, then release some tension, etc. Tell the major events of the story. It can help to divide the story into acts or parts, beginning, middle, end, when first drafting the synopsis. In the beginning, xhappens, then y happens, then z. After this, (in the middle) a happens, then the main character is surprised when b happens, and absolutely astonished when c happens and she thinks all is lost. At the end, l happens, and then plot point x is wrapped up by virtue of the untimely death of person C, and...they all lived happily ever after.
Good luck! I learned most of this from Dean Wesley Smith, though he's not really blogging about this anymore (but you could search his archives for some good ideas.)
Posts: 1911 | Registered: Mar 2007
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