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Old 27th July 2007, 04:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Hi all

I wanted a bit of an opinion about the length and content of synopses. From what I've read on these forums, people are writing quite detailed synopses of several pages, including character profiles, etc. But I've read on some (UK) agents' websites that they only want a one-page synopses, or perhaps a couple of pages.

I'm sure every agent and publisher is different, but if they're not forthcoming in explaining exactly how long they expect a synopsis to be, what would you all think is a good average length to aim for? And what should I include in it?

Thanks for any help and advice you can give.
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Old 27th July 2007, 06:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Synopses

One page is the standard in the UK... It helps to think in terms of *sell* (one line to one paragraph), *synopsis*, probably a page, *chapter breakdown*, which can run to three or four page.

The synopsis tells the agent (and then the publisher) what the book is about. It's not an advertisement and it's best to keep it factual rather than describe events as 'thrilling' or characters as 'moving and heroic'.
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Old 27th July 2007, 06:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Synopses

I depends on the agent or the editor; often, whatever listing or website tells you how to contact them will also tell you what to send them.

When I was starting out, most US publishers were asking for three pages, but a few only wanted one. Now, from what I understand, most seem to be asking for the one page outline (although my own agent asks for two pages).

While you are in synopsis-writing mode, it might be useful to write one, two, and three page outlines, so you'll be prepared. (It will also be good practice for boiling the plot down.)

In all cases, just stick with telling the story, and the basic (and most interesting) things someone needs to know about the world and the characters. Concentrate on events that make a coherent storyline; you don't have to -- and indeed don't have room to -- describe every interesting thing that happens. As Jon says, it's not an advertisement; allow the editor or agent to see for his or herself what it is that makes your story and your characters special without coming right out and telling them how thrilling it all is. But I always heighten the language a bit, to get maximum impact with a minimum of words.

But those pages of character profiles and the like that you hear about, they're just tools that some people find useful during the writing process; not everybody uses them. But whether you find them useful or not, they have no place in what you send out.
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Old 27th July 2007, 07:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Synopses

I hate writing a synopsis almost as much as a query letter. 8)

I usually write a two-page synopsis when I've polished a manuscript and want to begin the querying process. I also have the two paragraph synopsis in my query letter. When I run across someone wanting a one-page synopsis, I take the two paragraphs from the query letter and expand it -- I find it easier to expand that synopsis than to cut stuff from the longer one. When I cut stuff it needs more editing to smooth it out.

In the US, many agents want to see query letter + a few sample pages of the ms. first. Which makes more sense because considering how many manuscripts can be ruled out after reading the first few paragraphs.
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Old 28th July 2007, 01:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Synopses

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I'm glad to hear that one page seems to be the way to go. That's what I'd been working on, but when I read various comments about character profiles and the like, I got a bit scared!
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