When I was in college – albeit many, many years ago – I was taught that a proper synopsis was 1 page for every 25 pages of manuscript. Thorough, complete, nothing significant excluded.

At a writer’s retreat early this spring, the editors and publisher present insisted that they must have a complete over view in only two to five pages, preferably two. The ending MUST be included – no surprises.

In late spring, at Salem College and Wake Forest University – both in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – a co-sponsored event of authors, agents, editors and publishers, advised those of us in attendance to be brief but to leave nothing of importance out of the synopsis. Again, they confirmed the preference for no more than two or three pages.

The enticing blurb was best used in a query letter, but each query letter should be written with the individual agent or editor in mind.

So, I thought I had it figured out.

Until just a few days ago.

I listened to an event on blog talk radio where two agents were discussing what they were looking for and the mistakes most writers make. Among them, was the inclusion of too much information including the way the novel ended. They only wanted the blurb in the synopsis – a very brief synopsis – that did NOT include the conclusion or twists and turns that might be interesting as they were foremost readers and wanted to be surprised so as not to ruin their ‘reading experience’.


I left a comment on two blogs about this subject and have not received an answer. One did not choose to even publish the comment. I can only assume that they don’t have the answer either and that we are all confused.

So I googled!

‘Synopsis Definition’ turns up nearly sixteen million possibilities. ‘Synopsis’ alone shows 129,000,000.

‘Synopsis Format’ shows 69,500,000 results. I apologize to the majority of the millions of sites I didn’t visit, but the first few agreed with the original concept of leaving nothing out – ESPECIALLY – the conclusion of your novel!

No cliffhangers or teasers.

But if today’s agents want to be surprised, how does one accomplish both of these simultaneously?

Perhaps we must now think of a synopsis as we do the query letter – formatted with the individual we are sending it to in mind. We need to find out as much as possible about the agent, editor, and publisher before submitting anything and then configure the query AND the synopsis with that person’s preferences in mind. Sending a complete synopsis to someone who views that as an error will land you in the ‘reject’ pile, as will sending an incomplete synopsis to those who will not give it a second glance.

Whether you are entering a contest, requesting publication, or submitting your ideas to an agent, you need to do a little homework first. Otherwise, you are betting on the person reading your entry, understanding ‘synopsis’ the same way as you do. And that could be a death knell to your hard work!

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.