One Story? You Need 5 Versions

I’ve seen a lot of novel synopses recently, and thought I should post some information on how writers need many versions of their one tale.

OK, so you’ve written a novel and had it edited by peers or a professional. Now you need a literary agent. Along the road to an agent, you’ll constantly be asked for shorter versions of your story. Here are five versions of your work that you should have on hand.

1. The pitch line: This is a one-sentence pitch of your work. (In films, this is called a “log line.”) Example: A treasure hunter travels to the Himalayas to find a fabled artifact. Writers can put this pitch line at the beginning of their full synopsis, so agents immediately get the gist.

2. The pitch: This is a one- to two-paragraph explanation of your manuscript. You will include the pitch on your query letter to agents, and you’ll essentially say the pitch out loud when talking with agents in person. The pitch is commonly called “an elevator pitch,” because you must keep it short enough so that an agent can hear your idea while traveling in an elevator. Appropriate length: 3 to 6 sentences.

3. The synopsis: A long description of what happens in the book (i.e., a summary). I will post more on writing a synopsis soon. For now, know that synopses are usually 2-12 pages in length and introduce all the major characters, as well as their backgrounds and motivations. The average synopsis should be double-spaced and approximately 6-7 pages.

4. The short synopsis: All agents have their specific requests for what they like to see in a submission. Some agents will request a 1-page or 2-page synopsis. Now your challenge lies in taking your long synopsis and cutting it down as much as possible—just in case an overly particular agent wants a super-short plot summary of your work.

5. The full manuscript: Naturally!

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