11.17.2005

The Long and Winding Tome

A Snarkling stops writing to ask:

Having scoured various Literary Agents web-sites I'm aware that practically everyone and their partner wants a covering letter, a synopsis, and x-thousand words or 3+ chapters to read initially.

My primary concerns are:
A. Should a synopsis encapsulate the entire story, or simply give a thumbnail sketch (in a similar manner to what I might read on the back of a trade paperback)?

B. Given that three or more chapters are requested: One presumes that the first chapter of one's work should be included but, where a story stretches to "... Order of The Phoenix" lengths, is it better to supply additional chapters which are nearer the start of the tale or ones nearer the middle or the end?


I ask the above as I'm finishing off a 550,000+ word piece which I suspect would be best served in three parts. My own personal thinking is that I should concentrate on selling an agent on Part 1...


I'll be honest and say that I don't think what I've written would be your cup of tea (glass of gin?) but if you've any interest in giving the synopsis a once over I'd be most grateful. More importantly, your thoughts and opinions on the above would be most graciously received.


A. A synopsis covers the gist of the book: important characters, plot, subplot, character development, and how the story concludes. It is NOT just an enticement to read the novel (which is what the flap copy on a published book is designed to do). It's also not just a recitation of the plot. Synopses are horrid to write.

B. First three chapters, in order, most particularly if you're writing something in SFF where chapter 100 could have characters and plot points that are a mystery if you haven't' read chapter 53.

550,000 words is five novels. I think you should invest in scissors.

However, you're right that I don't represent SFF, I don't read it (other than the basics like Tolkein, Heinlein, LeGuin and godhelp us Anne McCaffrey) so the comments section from people who do read/write/edit/acquire will probably be of more help.

I'll be glad to look at the synopsis when the Crapometer returns from vacation in Italy..probably the last week of December.

And it's "pail of gin".

4 comments:

AzGhostWriter said...

OMG! 550,000 words is saying a lot. I agree that it's too much for one novel and five is more like it.

Try a writers site for some solid advice (not that Miss Snark's wasn't) for the sysnopsis and sample chapters.

Visit absolutewriters or writers.net and there are areas where fellow writers will help you. They are kind and gentle folks, so don't worry too much about getting slammed against the carpet. (snicker)

P.S. My secretary is late as usual, so any spelling mistakes are the cats fault.

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Moi said...

My friends who write SF/F professionally tell me that 100-125,000 words for a novel is average. While there are some Fantasy novels getting published longer than that, those writers are usually long-standing authors with proven track records (Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin come to mind) who already have a readership base. It's nigh unto impossible for a new writer to sell that as a first book, and then it's usually only up to about 150K.

They also strongly advise that you aim for stand-alone novels that MIGHT become a series will sell better for new authors than planned series or Fantasy trilogies. Starting out with something so large is a great disadvantage, even in SF/F.

Rick said...

What moi said.

The original version of my fantasy novel was 300,000 words. A very old-school SF/F agent picked it up, shopped it, but got no bites. After she retired, her successor served up the tough news - cut it to 135,000 words MAX. So I put my girl on the Atkins diet and sweated her down; it wasn't fun, but she's out on her street corner again.

I'd suggest taking the first third of your mega-novel, trim it down, AND make it viable as a stand-alone, though open to sequels refashioned from the rest.