Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I can't write synopses. Rather, I can write them, but not in a manner that works for agents and publishers.

Query letters are a drag, but I can manage them. One doesn't have to tell the whole plot in a query letter. We can pick a single character and a major early catalyst and make an interesting hook to draw in an agent.

It doesn't work that way with a synopsis. There we have to tell about all major characters and plotlines, and give the resolution of the story. Since my stories tend to be very complex with many plotlines and several POV characters, I find writing a synopsis to be so difficult as to be not worth my while. So, when an agent or a publisher asks for a synopsis I simply don't bother submitting to them.

I'm sure that makes them happy. With their shortage of time and huge slushpiles, I am sure they are quite happy not to have my novels adding to their work. I can't help but think, however, that the perfect agent or publisher might be out there and I won't hook up with them simply because they demand a synopsis.

Angry Robot publishing was only the latest such site that sounded promising. It sounded to me like they were really looking for the types of books that I am writing. They wanted a two page synopsis. My complex stories make it impossible for me to write a good five or ten page synopsis, so there is no way I will even attempt a two page one.


  1. ted! i'm going to sound really mean here- but i don't mean to be mean! you know!

    man-up ted! knuckle down and work it out!

    my story doesn't stick to one storyline either, but you can bet your buttons i'll do all i can to do my best at the querying process.

    go ahead and do your best and write a 15 page synopsis (or however long your shortest is). then send it my way and i'll see if i can help you at all. i'll have to wait until the end of april to get to it, but you can't pass over an agent, just because they ask for a synopsis.

    come on ted! you can do it!

  2. Thanks for offering, Victoria, but I am pretty stubborn. I am on a crusade to stomp out synopses. I want to make sure that whatever agent eventually gets my multi-million dollar bestsellers (hey, no snickering!) isn't one of the evil ones that demands a synopsis.

  3. Synopses ARE hard to write! I don't know if this helps but I wrote my first one and it was 15 pages long. Then I shortened it to 10 pages. Then 8. Then 5. Then 4. Then 2. Then 1. It was REALLY hard to cut from 15 to 1 but not so hard to do it gradually. I don't know if that helps...Getting published is worth it, right? :)

  4. Thanks, Melissa. Maybe someday I'll be inspired to try it again. For now I am just going to write a new book! That's much easier.

  5. I hate synopses with a passion. But I will write one eventually that works, because I know I have to. I may have to get some of my smartest friends to help me make it work, and I'm not going to enjoy it, but I'm willing to suffer for my art.

    That being said, I support you whatever route you choose to take, Ted.

  6. I felt the same way about queries until I got the hang of it. Now I like doing them. However, I still haven't learned to do a good synopsis, though I'm getting better after having taken an online class. Point being, I think you could learn to do a good one, and will if you keep trying. On the other hand, if you feel the need to take a stand, you do what you gotta do. (If it makes you feel better, the Angry Robot open submission only resulted in 4 of 700+ submissions being kicked up to editorial review by the hired readers.)

  7. Synopses are an absolute nightmare for the author, as a friend of mine found out, so I wrote it for her...under her guidance. We got it down to two pages and it passed muster.

    Whether it gets her a deal or not we won't know for a few weeks.

    So, the tip is to get someone to help you, someone who knows your story and can condense it into two pages. Or continue with the campaign to get rid of them, which I support.

  8. I like to enter writing contests and they always ask for a synopsis. Sometimes eight page ones, sometimes two pages. I hate it, but somehow I manage to get it done. Its part of the job. And I've only had one agent ask for one, but then again I haven't really started querying widely yet.

  9. Just focus on a couple of the main ideas and characters Ted. The hero, his side kick, the villain, and a couple important plot/character points for progress.

    You'll get there eventually.

    And hey, good luck with ending the tyranny of Synopsis :)


  10. Okay... look at it this way...

    Is everything in your story equally important? All the characters, all the events, all the dialogue?

    Do the characters never change --- or even change their minds?

    Does the story's pace move along at a pace that's absolutely constant, never slowing down or speeding up?

    I would guess that "yes" is not the answer to all three questions. That means it's possible to write a short synopsis.

    Enjoyable? Heh-heh-HELL no. But possible.

    Aspiring_x made a very kind offer back there, Ted. I'd take her up on it sometime...

    When you're done, are you sure to have a great synopsis? Well, no. But you're likely to learn something of value along the way.

  11. I think that it is especially impossible to write a synopsis when my mind has moved on to other novels. Perhaps when I get back into editing mode on this first book I can then try again.

  12. I loathe writing a synopsis almost as much as I loathe writing queries. I came up with one for Angry Robot but it took a hell of a lot of work and I hated every minute of it.

  13. Yep, Luke, that's how it works for me, too. Bravo to you for doing it. I kept telling myself to sit down and do it. I even went so far as to begin, but once I saw that I was hitting the third page already and I hadn't even really begun, I knew it was hopeless!