How To Write a Novel Synopsis (2009 GLA Excerpt)

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The 2009 Guide to Literary Agents has been out for about a month and a half. Inside the the newest edition fo the book, readers will find oddles of agent information concerning who's looking for what and how to submit. Also, the book has instructional articles on queries, synopses, proposals and everything else. Here is an excerpt from one such article:

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2009 Article Excerpt:


"...You need a well-written synopsis that explains your entire story from beginning to end. If you're unpublished, editors want to ensure your story ends appropriately; and if you are published, the synopsis may be all the editor sees. Once the editor falls in love with your story, she may use the synopsis to sell the story at the buying meeting, to write the back cover blurb, and/or to give the cover artist some idea of what your story is about. So you must make your synopsis shine brightly as your manuscript.
Unfortunately, once you've written a 400-page book, it's tough to know how to condense it down to eight or 10 pages - or worse, one or two. Here are a few tips to help you figure out what to put in - and what to leave out.

  • Use the correct format. Write the synopsis in third person, present tense, no matter what your manuscript is written in.
  • Watch your length. To be safe, draft up a "long synopsis" (5-10 pages) as well as a "short synopsis" (1-2 pages). To discover an agent's specific preference, research their submission guidelines using this book, the Internet, or call and ask - then give them the length they ask for. If you're uncertain how many pages to send, err on the sort side.
  • Make sure you know how your story fits within your targeted market.
  • Use transitions. Don't tell your story with a series of unconnected declarative statements: "She yelled. He retaliated. They left." It makes for disjointed reading and interrupts the smooth flow of the story.
  • Keep the authorial voice silent. Don't insert comments in the synopsis that address the agent directly to ensure she "gets it," such as: "The conflict is ..."

- "Synopsis Writing: Summing Up Your Novel For an Agent" (page 37)

While Guide to Literary Agents is best known for its large and detailed list of literary agencies, every edition has plenty of informational articles and interviews designed to help writers perfect their craft and contact agents wisely. The 2009 edition is no different, with more than 80 pages of articles addressing numerous writing and publishing topics.

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