Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Writing a Query – The Synopsis

Some writers find this part insanely difficult; taking the book they spent so much time writing and breaking it down into a synopsis that is only a paragraph or two. This is extremely important, though. Don’t worry about hitting on every detail or plot point, keep it simple. Stick to the main character and major events. I actually took two paragraphs for my synopsis, but I wouldn’t recommend doing more than that.

Believe it or not, put in the ending of your book, even if it’s a shocker. Agents need to know what happens. You may think, “I’ll leave it out and they’ll be so interested they’ll request my manuscript at once!” but that’s just not how it works.

The following is my intro paragraph and the first part of my synopsis. (These come after the hook I mentioned in my earlier post.) I’ve left off the second paragraph of my synopsis because it gives too much away…wouldn’t want to ruin the end for anyone.

In the After is a Young Adult novel that addresses issues teens face everyday, but places them in the context of a post-apocalyptic scenario. Amy struggles as her normal teenage life collapses around her, only to be replaced with a world full of danger and fear. Amy has to choose between doing what is easy and doing what is right. She must ask herself, is safety more important than freedom?

In the After, Amy’s parents are gone. All of her friends are dead. The life she knew Before is over. Along with Baby, a child she saved from the creatures, she survives day to day, focused on staying alive, and most importantly, being quiet.

Notice how I state the name of the book and explain that it is YA sci-fi, both things an agent will want to know right away. My synopsis highlights the main plot points without getting into to much detail, but keeps the reader interested. (Well, hopefully anyway.)

Tomorrow: How to end your query.


  1. When you say synopsis-- do you mean the initial letter to the agents??
    When I have seen reference to a synopsis on agent's websites they want a 1-2 page on the book and major plot points plus the ending.


  2. Let me clarify...

    When I say synopsis in regards to the query, I mean the one or two paragraph summary of your book. Later on, if an agent likes your query, they may request a longer synopsis, which is usually between two and ten pages.

    I'm giving advice for a general query...if an agent lists on their website that they want a cover letter, a ten page synopsis, and a cookie, follow their specifications, not mine. :)

  3. Do you think I should change the wording of my post from synopsis to summary to avoid confusion?

  4. Hi Demitria! Great post and great advice! I saw your comment on my blog that you would love a copy of Lure by Deborah Kerbel. Please check out my current giveaway for this book ending December 7th - if you haven't already. Thanks!