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Friday, November 5, 2010

Permission to write a boring synopsis…granted!

Some of you may have missed an interesting post by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary on Tuesday. After attending a conference and fielding several questions about writing the dreaded synopsis, she came up with a few bullet points:

• Keep your synopses down to two pages (unless the agent or editor you're sending it to specifies otherwise)
• Your synopsis should be single-spaced, with a double space between paragraphs
• Have your title, author name, and word count on top as a header
• And don't forget, in a synopsis you're clear to give away the ending, in fact, you need to.

Those are all fairly straightforward. The part of the post that really caught my eye was this lovely quote:

The most important thing you need to know about a synopsis: It's ALLOWED to be boring. It's actually supposed to be boring.

WHAT??? Hallelujah! Something we send to agents is supposed to be boring??? I have seriously stressed out over synopses in the past, and was under the impression that they had to be as compelling as a query letter, and that a certain amount of voice was expected (and I’m sure those kinds of synopses are appreciated by some agents, but apparently they are not necessary). The way Suzie describes it is simple and to the point, so if you’re having trouble with a synopsis, please check out her great post.

PLEASE NOTE:The word “boring” does not mean that poor writing is excusable or that your overall plot can be boring. It means a simple book-report style description in narrative form is fine. No frills necessary.

Just like Suzie noted above, keep in mind that different agencies have different policies (the statements above have the FinePrint stamp of approval, which means both Suzie and Marissa Walsh, another MG/YA agent there, are behind them). That said, if an agency doesn’t specify, I think it’s reasonably safe to send a 1-2 page single-spaced document as Suzie suggested. Some places DO specify, and sometimes you have to read the website with a fine eye to catch it. For instance:

Elaine English Literary (who has a newish agent, Naomi Hackenberg, representing Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction) clearly states that with a partial submission they want to see a synopsis of approximately 3-5 pages, double-spaced.

That’s all for today. Have a wonderful weekend!

REMINDER: You still have three weeks to enter the YA Novel Discovery Contest.


  1. I did see her blog post, but my take on it was 1-2 pages! That's almost as short as the query letter!

    But it did inspire me to cut mine down to 632 words =-)

    I'm still not 100% on board with the idea of a one page synopsis, but the post is really worth a read.

  2. Hear me sigh in relief. One thing I'm really good at is writing boring synopses.

  3. I have never been under the impression that a long synopsis was needed. In comics it is supposed to be as short as possible.

    A couple pages should be enough to hit all the major plot points.

    But I was under the impression it should be a little interesting. Not like you are winking at the agent but not so stiffly proffesional as to put the reader to sleep.

  4. Hallelujah indeed! The synopsis is the last great terror left for me in the materials you send to agents... And while each draft of a query letter I wrote got more and more compelling, each draft of my synopsis as I tried to make it more interesting just got garbled. Such a relief to know that they don't necessarily have to be gripping. Thanks!

  5. That's great. It's hard to incorporate everything you're supposed to, in a limited space, and make it sound sexy. I have never heard an agent say that before.

  6. I had missed that, so thanks for posting. This is interesting!

  7. Hi Jess - thanks, so much, for checking out (and following - woo hoo!!) my blog! Especially because it led me to your blog and...JACK POT!! I Love, love, love all the information you have here. What an incredible resource for aspiring writers - so, thank you!! Can't wait to dig into all those links!! :)

    Btw - I see you're in Colorado? And you love the outdoors? So, I'm assuming you've probably been to Redstone? Just one of my favorite places in the CO state - :)

  8. I loved this! Thank you for posting about it. I think it's funny that you had to state that boring and bad writing do NOT go hand in hand. It's very important to know that.

  9. LOL! Boring is good. But I still have trouble with Synopses. Also summaries and log lines. To me they are harder than the actual book. But still necessary!