In the previous lesson we went into detail about how you can use acts and scenes to produce a framework from which your synopsis can be written. In this lesson we address some of the common questions posed regarding a synopsis.
Double or Single Line Spacing?
In a pre-internet world, where all submissions were printed and posted, agents and publishers would insist that documents were double spaced. The world has moved on but many agents/publishers are still insisting on double spacing. I suspect the main reason for this is that your synopsis will be printed out and double spacing leaves room for mark-up. It is for this reason that I strongly suggest that you double space your synopsis. This said, I would also suggest you always check the agent/publisher’s guidelines before submitting.
How Long Should a Synopsis Be?
Agents, publishers and writers all seem to have a view on the ‘correct’ length for a synopsis. Before we examine this question in a bit more detail let me say just one thing, there is no correct answer. If your synopsis covers all the key plot points, major characters and is not too long or too short, then it will be OK.
As a general rule you should be aiming for a synopsis length of between 2 and 10 pages (double spaced). If you want a target length then I would aim at not exceeding 5 pages unless absolutely necessary. In fact, I would go one step further and say that if you can hit 3-5 pages in length then you will please just about everyone.
There is a school of thought that says the 2-page synopsis is the perfect length. I have never come across a decent argument as to why ’2 pages’, and my view is that it often puts too much pressure on a writer to try and bring the synopsis down to such a short size.
I have also come across a number of writers who opt for a two synopsis approach. They will write a longer 5-page (ish) synopsis and also include a short 1-page summary. For me, and anyone following this guide, I would strongly suggest you don’t take this approach. Remember, the query letter contains a one-paragragh synopsis, so if the agent/publisher has got to the point of reading your synopsis they need a substantial document that presents all the information.
Your synopsis should be written in present tense. This is the industry standard. The example from the previous lesson demonstrates this…
BOB SMITH, a middle age cop with relationship issues and a problem with drink, is called to the scene of a grisly murder. On arrival he finds the corpse of a mutilated young girl. After only a brief examination he recognises the method of her death. Another girl was killed in a similar manner only weeks before and Bob Smith is sure he has a serial killer in his city. The post mortem confirms Bob’s fears, whilst also revealing the killer used a strange ceremonial knife and left a note containing a biblical quote in the mouth of the dead girl.
The first time you introduce a major character in your synopsis, you should put the character’s name in capital letters