I think I can now officially say that I’ve been querying too long.
Last night I was preparing a query package and double checking the requirements on the agent’s website and I discovered that I’d misread one of the requirements. I thought they wanted a synopsis of under 500 words. No problem, I thought, I’ve got mine under 400. However, on checking I realised that was the requirement for nonfiction queries. For fiction they want the synopsis under 300.
The standard advice on synopsis length is that it should fit on a single page. That’s around 600 words with single line spacing. Writing a sub 600 word synopsis is hard enough. If I could tell my story in 600 words I wouldn’t have spent months writing 110,000 words. After a week or so of struggle I got a presentable synopsis. I left it a week, went back, realised it was trash, rewrote it entirely, decided it would do and then queried with it a few times. Synopsis version 2.
Then I learned some more about querying and realised that part of the job of the synopsis is to entertain and entice. I took a couple of days to rewrite it completely – to better reflect the journey of the central character. Synopsis version 3.
Then I queried an agent who required a synopsis of under 400 words. I spent a day complaining about that to all my writer friends. I got the word count down to just over 400 without dropping any of the plot. One of my writer friends volunteered to edit it (thanks Vanessa) and she came up with an elegant version that was just under 400. Synopsis version 3.2.
So how do I know I’ve been querying too long? This time I didn’t even bother complaining. I dumped the entire existing synopsis apart from the first and last paragraphs, rewrote the rest, ditched a huge chunk of plot, got it down to 265 words. Took me just over half an hour.
Now. I’m not saying it’s a good synopsis. I’m saying that it fits the requirements and that’s good enough for me.