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Friday, January 7, 2011

Submission Material Magic Trick: Turn your query letter into a synopsis

For today, I thought I’d share a little magic trick that’s made my life easier lately.
Many agents are looking for succinct, tight, 1-2 page synopses. Writing a summary for an entire novel becomes scary because people generally start at chapter one, then proceed through the book, making note of something important that happens each chapter. This is how people end up with eight-page synopses.

My solution: Use your query letter to create a one-page synopsis (single-spaced, non-indented paragraphs, with a space between paragraphs).
Okay, your query letter should be around 250-300 words, no more (at least that’s what we’re told, but I've seen well-written exceptions). Are you always struggling to trim it down? Cutting extra sentences that you wished you could keep? Well, good news!
No, I’m not suggesting you write an 800-word query letter. I’m suggesting you use that base, and PRETEND that you have more room to write. Simply add in those sentences that you trimmed, and modify it to become a toned, energetic, athletic-looking synopsis.
What to include:
1) Introduction to protagonist and setting
2) Plot point 1
3) Plot point 2
4) Plot point 3
5) Black Moment
6) Conclusion and complete reveal…demonstrate that your protagonist has completed a character arc.
You can add in necessary characters, but there’s not much of a need to describe them in detail. Their motivations/personality should be clear by their actions in the synopsis.
Keep it simple, keep it tight, and try approaching it as though you were simply expanding your query letter.
NOTE: this is purely my suggestion, and hasn’t been agent-approved or anything like that…but if you’re having trouble meeting a 1-2 page requirement, feel free to give it a try!
FINAL NOTE: In the spirit of magic, here's a fun post from GalleyCat:


  1. Great advice, Jess! Writing the synopsis is my least favorite part of the whole process.

    Nice post!

  2. This is great. I'm with rickischultz - the synopsis is the worst part for me too and you break it down very nicely here.

  3. This is a technique I've not heard before...but makes total sense. And it comes at just the right time as I've embarked on that task. Thanks lots!! :)

  4. What a great idea! Writing a synopsis is such a hard thing to do, and this looks like a good way to get started.
    Looking forward to checking out that butterbeer recipe!

  5. that's a cool sounding technique! i'll have to remember this when i'm ready to starty synopsizing!!! :)

  6. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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