The real time sink and hair-puller (if I had hair) was the synopsis. I did write a three page synopsis for Norwescon. I have no idea how. But since that didn't attract any attention from Pyr, I thought I'd re-write it from scratch.
Stupid, stupid writer.
Synopsis writing is hard. Choosing what to put in and what to leave out. Trying to tell all the plot elements or even just the main ones in three pages is very difficult. I got it down to 3 1/2 pages. I may try again tonight or I may just send out what I have. I got the impression that the length isn't an issue (withing reason), at least talking to the agents. What they want is concise and readable plot outlines.
Synopsis writing is one area I really wish the PNWA Conference would cover in depth. They had a session on query letters, which is good. But I think the best related seminar was by Chuck Sambuchino (www.guidetoliteraryagents.com). His seminar on how to pitch to agents and editors was brilliant. I'm trying to take his advice and apply it to my synopsis.
First of all, he says the goal is to be clear and concise. That sounds simple but we writers can tend to ramble or go off on tangents or just not realize what the important part of our pitch is. His guideline was to have two pitches, the 'elevator pitch' and the 'sit down' pitch.
The 'elevator' pitch is a one (two at most) sentence description of your story. If you can't summarize your story in one sentence that may be a sign that there are plot problems with your novel. I started my second novel, Angel Odyssey with a one sentence description. If you haven't started your novel yet, I highly recommend doing that. If you can hook someone with one sentence, you may have a salable novel.
My one sentence pitch for Angel Odyssey was: My novel is a secondary-world Fantasy called Angel Odyssey. It is the the story of a boy who finds a wounded angel and his journey to return her to her home before she can be stolen by a Sorcerer and before the bond connection the two of them kills them both.
Maybe not the best in the world, needs some polish and practice, no doubt but it gets the job done.
The 'sit down' pitch is three to ten sentences outlining the plot and theme of your book. Again, the goal is to be concise and clear. That means leaving out side characters, sub-plots and what the novel is 'about'. (if that makes sense) Again, you want to hook the reader. You dont' give away your novel's ending. The pitch is designed to raise good questions in their mind and entice them into wanting to read your actual work.
My 'sit down' pitch for Angel Odyssey went along the lines of: JACOB is a teenaged boy with two bullying older brothers, a suffocating mother and a terrifying father. He finds an angel, wounded from a battle with a god and rescues her. She bonds them together to heal herself but the god-caused wound on her back instead endangers them both. Now Jacob must return Jael to her home before a Sorcerer from his village can steal her away and before the bond connection them, kills them both.
Kinda sloppy but it touches on the main conflicts but doesn't give away the ending. I'd want to do more work here. A big theme of the novel is the transition from childhood to adulthood. I'd like to work that in. I ended up mentioning that in the post-pitch follow up questions, so there's room for improvement in my pitch, obviously. But, again, it got the job done.
Check out Chuck's site and his book, the Guide to Literary Agents if you're ready and willing to start pitching your book to editors and agents.