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Ask Daphne! About Synopseseses

bright-green-high-heel-760654This “love”ly piece of art is for Meg (and is made by Penny Pickles), who writes:

Hi. I’ve been looking around the web for information on this, but I keep getting different opinions. Could you tell me how long you expect a synopsis to be? Also, I saw on your website that if you like the query and the first three pages, you will ask to see a synopsis and the first five chapters. If you liked the writing in the chapters, but the synopsis wasn’t as good, would that affect your decision on whether or not to represent that person? I am having a very hard time writing my synopsis in the same “voice” as the book. It is much harder than I thought it would be. Thanks for any insight you can provide for me on this.

When I ask for a full synopsis — by which I mean a complete retelling of the plot of your novel, INCLUDING the ending — I think 5 pages is perfectly acceptable. Shorter is fine, a little longer is fine, but the point is to condense the action and rip out the pretty wordsmithing to get to the bare bones of what happens.

To that point, no, I’m not looking for the synopsis to match the voice of your novel. If you can cover what a synopsis needs to cover and do so using your narrative voice, awesome! But I’m not going to hang anyone out to dry for a lack of something I don’t require.

Finally, I’ve mentioned this before, but here’s the hard truth: if I like your sample chapters enough to ask for the full manuscript, I don’t even bother reading the synopsis. Not until much later, possibly, if we agree to work together, and I need a short recap of the story to send to my Hollywood subagent or something like that. So why DO I ask for your synopsis?

So that if your plot is strong, but I’ve decided your writing isn’t something I’m going to ask to represent, then I can know what happens in your story without reading the whole manuscript. I just don’t have time to do that, but I like the feeling of “finishing” a novel, even when that’s kind of a lie.