A few years ago, well, more than that, actually, before email submissions became more common than not, the “standard” submission package consisted of the query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters or fifty pages, whichever was less.
Synopsis length as expressed by agents varied between two and ten pages. I ended up writing three to have on hand, short, medium, and long. The consensus among writers seemed to be that agents would only look at the synopsis after they had read the writing sample, and the purpose was to determine if the writer had plotted the remainder of the story well enough to call it a novel.
After finally writing a current query letter that seems worthy of submitting to agents, I began reading the synopsis review section on QueryTracker and discovered that the importance of the synopsis apparently has lessened in the years since I last submitted any material. Fewer agents require them as a part of the initial submission package, and although they may want one included with a partial or full manuscript, how well the synopsis is written doesn’t receive the same emphasis that it used to.
I don’t know if that’s a correct assumption or not, but in a fog of optimism that an agent might want additional material, I decided to dust off my synopsis attempts of years past and update them so as not to be caught without a fresh one ready to go.
I ended up with a five-page synopsis and posted it on QueryTracker. It received a number of “views” and a few comments. One QTer took the time to shorten it to about half its original length, and suggested that the synopsis should be written like you are telling a friend about a movie you’ve seen. Another said not to sweat it too much, keep it under two pages, tell the main plot points, don’t mention any characters that don’t play an important role in the outcome and be sure to reveal the ending. Most agents skim them to see if there is a real story with a solid resolution. Beyond that, they probably don’t read them that closely.
With that in mind, I’ll probably go for a shorter version and not hold off on submitting queries until I get a warm fuzzy from the synopsis.
And there’s another reason to take that approach. It’s been a while since I submitted, and I have to acknowledge a bit of apprehension. Using the “excuse” of getting the synopsis exactly “right” could end up being the perfect procrastinator if I let it.
Here’s where I make the sound of a chicken . . .