Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Query and Synopsis

I had a pretty cool "The ABC's of Middle Grade: Letter H" post planned for today, but something came up so I'll post Letter 'H' next Thursday. And now onto my something . . .

*cracks knuckles*

(not really, I have never cracked my knuckles in my life)

Last week I wrote my query letter. THE WHOLE THING! And I'm pretty happy with it, as naive as that may sound (really naive, I'm sure, but I'm okay with that). My manuscript isn't quite in querying shape--yet--but my query letter gets it more ready.

Right now, I'm letting my query cool off for a few days, then I'll work a little more on it, email it to Matthew MacNish, it will get analyzed on his cool blog, then I'll be not-so-happy with it, I'll work on it again, and get it closer to where it needs to be.

But, that's not all my something, last month, in order to give my first twenty-five pages context before they were critiqued by Faith (I am the Book Babe) (an awesome gift I won from Shannon Messenger), I wrote a one page synopsis, something not always necessary for querying but handy in case an agent does require it.

These two things, the query letter and the synopsis, are . . . hmmmm, I'll go with . . . difficult to write. Horror stories abound about the two of them. But I wrote them, figured out some stuff that needs fixing in my story because I wrote them, and now I give myself . . .

A very large and clunky trophy!

. . . and celebrate for a minute or two. But that pesky manuscript keeps reminding me it has a ways to go before my query or synopsis will do it any good (and, oh yeah, I gotta work on that pitch), but wait--I'VE GOT A QUERY AND A SYNOPSIS!! And that's something.

So, what's your take on writing the query letter and/or synopsis? Do you hate writing them? Do you like writing them? Were they as scary as you thought? Tell me your thoughts on these two little (but huge) things.


  1. Do you like flowers? I hope you do (if not, chocolate would have to do). *hands you virtual flowers*
    That's an amazing job you did there.
    I have to agree with you. Query letter and synopsis are hard to write. I've written them before, only so they could help me improve my plot. I have yet to share them with any body. *sigh*
    I will be looking forward to yours being critiqued.

  2. YAY! That's an accomplishment. (*Tosses confetti*)

    And I agree with you and Akoss. It's difficult! I've written two different query letters and two different synopses, but only a few people have seen either. The mss themselves still need so much revision.

    It's hard to get it all just right. You have to have a hook. Your query should be written in the voice of the character. Some people suggest you start with the book; some suggest you start with a sentence or two about yourself.

    But remember something I read on a blog recently (unfortunately can't remember whose): agents and editors are human. Too many aspiring writers worry about getting every word of a query absolutely perfect and they worry so much they never send it out.

  3. Congrats to you! I agree query letters are hard, but as Joanne said I think as a writer we put too much pressure on ourselves to get it just right. For my ms I'm working on now, and since I'm writing it with an ICL instructor, I had to write a synopsis and chapter outline first. They're not perfect, but I'm so glad I have them as they serve as my road map in writing. When I get stuck they are so helpful to have.

  4. Oh, Akoss, chocolate will MORE than do.

    Although difficult, neither was horrendous for me. And seeing how they helped me with some plot things, well, I'm holding my trophy a little longer than I planned.

  5. I think writing a query and synopsis for an unfinished MS is a great exercise. I often recommend doing it.

  6. I don't find them as scary as I used to. In part because I write them ahead of time as a means of working out the whole story in my head.

  7. This is such a great post, thanks for taking the time to share your experience. It seems like every agent has a formula that they prefer, so the internet is definitely useful while crafting query letters! (And I like to think that it all comes down to having a great manuscript and not a perfectly constructed query letter or synopsis.)

    As someone who has never queried before, I'm also looking forward to hearing about your critique.
    Again, thanks for sharing this!!

  8. Yay for those accomplishments! I'm so impressed. I started writing my query after I finished my first draft. Then as I worked on my subsequent drafts I just would keep pulling it out and adjusting it. The synopsis on the other hand....

  9. I really agree with the idea of writing the query and synopsis (though, as you said, many don't require the 1-page synop) while the story is still in progress, because that process really can tell you if your story has jelled enough. Writing them "early" is really another form of outlining, one that can work well for those who otherwise hate outlining.

  10. It is such a good idea to write a synopsis early in the process. Why are those things so hard to write?? I need to revise mine to match my revision, and it just isn't happening.

    So, I can appreciate how awesome it is that you got both a query and synopsis done -- wow!!!!

  11. That is awesome, Barbara. Like some of the others, I find writing a query letter early in the process can actually help with the plot.

    I did write a synopsis as part of my entry last year for the Sandy Contest (connected with the Crested Butte conference in Colorado,) and found the whole thing very useful. Although hardly any agents asked for a synopsis during the querying process, my agent asked me to send him one as soon as we signed, as a way to help him pitch the story to editors. I was glad I had one ready to go.

    Keep up the good work!

  12. Oooo. Apologies for a vague sentence that led many of you to believe that I wrote my query and synopsis BEFORE completing my story. No, I'm not that organized. I have a finished draft that's already seen three rounds of revisions. What I meant by manuscript needing work before my query and synopsis do it any good is that my MS needs much MORE revising before it's query-able (and if that's not a word, it should be). But many thanks for the congratulations because regardless of the order of things, I do have a query and synopsis.

  13. Congrats on writing your query and synopsis. For picture books I tend to keep mine pretty simple. I haven't tried to write one for a longer work yet. Probably because I still have work to do on my wip and writing a query and synopsis seems a little scary.
    Great work.

  14. I just wrote my query letter too, instead of waiting until my WIP is done, and then having my query letter reveal some issues with it like what happened to me with my previous story - like not having a clearly defined antagonist! This time when I wrote my query letter I didn't find any major flaws.

    Yes queries and synopses are HARD to write!! I always start off with a formula (I think I found it on Nathan Bransford's blog) and while it feels very mechanical, once I have the points I need, then I can tweak it until it sounds less formulaic!

    And, THANK YOU!!! I just got Because of Winn Dixie in the mail! that was fast!

  15. Yay you! Writing a query and synopsis can be so painful. (For me, at least!) I tend to stress out over them more than I should, but gosh, I can't help it. Again, yay you! This is an accomplishment definitely worth celebrating. :)

  16. I enjoy the query writing. In fact, I write it to pump me up for the writing of the actual first draft! The synopsis is painful to me, in comparison.

    Good luck getting critted by Matthew! He has a great, sharp eye.


Comments. Yay! They're almost as good as chocolate. Almost.