Hi, I'm sure this might have been covered at some point, but as I'm relatively new around here, I wondered if anyone had any pointers for me.
I've just finished my novel and I'm ready for the - what appears to be very painful - task of submitting it to assorted editors. I'm fine with all the pointers about the letter of introduction and those first two or three chapters, but the task of preparing a page (or two) of synopsis for the book is giving me some headaches.
I've read various articles of advice on it, and many people saying it's almost as hard a job as writing the damn book, but none in regards to crime fiction, which generally involves quite complex plotting.
I'm having a hell of a time trying to compact any description of my novel down into a page.
Does anyone have any thoughts on what to include/exclude, how much of the characterisation to cover etc? At rthe moment I'm writing the synopsis long and trying to whittle it away, sentence by sentence!
I'd be mighty grateful!

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It's always a difficult task to describe a novel in a brief overview, but the bottom line is always the same: Make the reader/publisher/agent want it! Don't go too heavy into the complex plotting — just think of what you want the back cover to say, the one that will make the reader want to read. Focus on just one or two characters and make it exciting, fun and intriguing. The novel tells the puzzle, but the synopsis just hints at it.
There are some good tips over at the CWA's Debut Dagger pages. I've used them myself and never won a single damned award. ;)
I liked this.
I agree:synopses are the pits. What worked for me was to use a white board (index cards would work) and write a few word reminder of what happened in each chapter. ("Joe shoots Ed;" "Jim meets Marsha.") Then I circled the handful of key events that would have to be known to understand how the story got from A to Z. Those are the key events to leave in; fill the synopsis with enough of the rest of the book for those few events to make sense, depending on how long the synopsis needs to be. I did the two-page version first, then ruthlessly trimmed that down to one, and had both ready in one fell swoop. I still didn't like them much, but they must have served the purpose, as requests for more outnumbered the outright rejections, and I did eventually get an agent out of the deal.
Many thanks, Dana, Daniel and Grant. I shall take it all on board and have another crack at it.
I just remembered another especially good series of articles on the synopsis and query, over at Lisa Gardner's website.

She sums it all up about as good as anyone can.
good link, daniel.
i'm in the process of looking for a new agent, and this is all new to me. i can't believe how things have changed since i started. yes, we sent query letters 20 years ago, but there was no expected format, and no place to really get info. i recall just mailing a pretty standard business letter. odd how that things have actually gotten more formal and inflexible in the initial stages of the query process. i really hate that. It makes writing/publishing feel that much more corporate.
I didn't like this at all. Sounds like it's for romance novels, a very different market. However, I may be wrong. I hate writing synopses.
i've seen a lot of bad synopses, including all of mine, but very few good ones. i even find the good examples excruciating.
I just wrote one, which I'd been hoping to avoid, but an agent wanted a full synopsis along with the manuscript. It was painful, but a very useful exercise.

What helped was to break down every scene in a bullet list first. After that I was able to figure out what were all the main plot points, what could be discarded, what could be truncated and so on. I went from 7 pages single spaced to 4 double spaced.

I think it's still too bulky, but it got the job done.
There's also Noah Lukeman's How To write a great Query letter which you can now download free from Amazon. I'm just getting into it this moment, actually.
Lukeman's THE FIRST FIVE PAGES is pretty damned good too. It's the first book on writing I've found that actually tells you to worry about the sound of the words.

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