About a month ago I edited a novel. Now the au, who's probably looking at self-publishing, wants me to write a synopsis that he can send to publishers. He's of the opinion that it should be somewhere between 2-10 pages. I've never had anything to do with writing these; I just send my work in unannounced so that I can add to my collection of rejection slips.

Anyone have some words of wisdom about writing a synopsis? I'm not up for doing it, because I don't think there's any money in it, but I'd like to know.


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One to two---my editor asked for one page.

I've got a short article on synopsis writing that I wrote for the MWA-SW Chap newsletter. It gives specific examples of major sections of the synopsis---things that have worked for me after I did my initial research on the subject. It's on my website under FOR WRITERS. But a more thorough synopsis description is listed on Lisa Gardner's site. Excellent article---long.

I had a whole package concept I sent in that got many compliments--but for a synopsis, I would look at 3-5 pgs of the highpoints. Recently, I submitted a one page series concept to my editor and agent. They both loved it, but that's when they trust you to deliver the goods. For an established author at a house, it's been my experience that the rules are looser. My two cents, Bill.
I think the author should write it himself. If he can't be bothered to do that, well honestly, I don't think much of somebody who can't write his own synopsis.
I agree, but I also don't think grad students should have their masters' and doctoral theses proofed, much less edited. This author isn't bad with "Urban Fiction" but he'd be helpless trying to put together a coherent synopsis.
Well, in my humble opinion, it's time for him to learn. This is part of doing business. There are going to be lots of small requests along the way that he'll need to be able to do on the fly -- and if he can learn to write a novel, he can learn to write the synopsis. I loathed having to write one. Loathed it beyond measure. But I learned because it was a necessary part of being a professional.

Mine were 8 pages for book one, 5 for book 2 and about 4 for book 3. I sold the series on three sample chapters and those synopses on a pre-empt, so they seemed to work, although there are a dozen ways to do them equally successfully. Think of it as a non-fiction article where you're telling what happened to this main character -- the emotional and plot highlights only, and only introducing secondary or minor characters when they pivot the plot into a new direction.
Personally, I think the author needs to write the synopsis! Gotta bite the bullet and learn how. If I had to write a synopsis for someone else, they couldn't afford my price! That is a whole other 'ball of wax.'

Hey, maybe you could take up writing synopsis for a living while you're piling up the rejection notices!! LOL

That was a big reason for saying no in the beginning. I don't think he'd want to pay enough to make it worth my while. I'm going to drop it.

Thanks to all you kind folks who took the time to give all this good advice.

I just sent off my first synopsis and fifty pages as requested by an agent. I found a good set of structural guidelines in Writer's Digest's October 05 mag. As for content, I thought of it as a cocktail party conversation. You know the one that starts out, "How come we never see you anymore?" and ends with either, "Well, I just don't understand how one can waste their time reading, but good for you, darling." or "Tell me about it, but hurry, I've got to get Harry to soccer by 3:45."


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