Writing the query letter was not so challenging after all. And with the synopsis already written, knocking out two sentences on the plot of my novel was actually a breeze.

So, there’s that.

I opened my travel-battered copy of The Novel Submission Road Map (coming soon for $19.99) to see where I was heading next. That was four days ago.

The next step was straightforward enough: Look at your first three chapters.

Well, that’s easy. It hadn’t even been two weeks since I finished editing my third draft, and those first few chapters were obviously part of it. They must be in great shape. This was going to be a breeze!

Regardless, in preparation for this leg of the journey, I figured it couldn’t hurt to read a few articles on opening chapters. Short, punchy, to the point–that’s what sells. That’s what draws the reader in. That’s what agents want to see.

Short. Hmm.

My first chapter was no problem, clocking in at just over 2,500 words. But that second chapter, at a few keystrokes under 11,000 words, was definitely a point of contention.

Quickly, and quite simply, that gargantuan second chapter became three chapters. The book reads better by just that alone. Unfortunately, the end of Chapter 2 became the end of Chapter 4, so it won’t make the cut to send to agents, and I really wanted it in there. But some agents ask for the first 50 pages, so maybe I’ll include with those queries should they arise.

After slicing up Chapter 2, I took my red pen to page one. Then page two. Then three. And so on.

It took much longer than I’d anticipated, and four days later I had a stack of paper with a lot of red ink on it.

Today was spent typing up the edits, and I finally arrived at my destination. All I need to do is compile it all together, and I’m good to go.

Tomorrow, it’s back to researching agents.

As noted in the previous post, writing a synopsis of your novel after it’s written, is a painful, miserable exercise, it is nevertheless a valuable exercise.

Squeezing 130,000 words down to a few hundred was no simple task, but I must say I’m glad to have done it. And I (humbly) think my synopsis turned out okay. I was content.

Then I pulled out my map, to see where I was heading next, and that contentment came to an end.

The first paragraph of the query letter doesn’t sound so bad. I should simply tell the agent why I’m contacting them. The third paragraph doesn’t sound too bad either. Talk a bit about myself. It’s that middle paragraph that sounds like a real bastard.

In a sentence or two, describe my book. 

Basically, squeeze that synopsis until nothing remains but 50 or so words.

I have a feeling by the time I get to the of this journey, I’ll just be writing private eye solves murder.

The best way to write a good 300-word synopsis is to first write a really shitty thousand-word one.

As my stroll down Compression Street, went from 1000, to 820, to 504, to 477, it became clear that, like most painful, grueling things in life, writing a synopsis is highly beneficial. It’s not only a good writing exercise in itself, it forces you to view your manuscript in a new light.

During my research into this horrible little process, I read one tip saying it’s a good idea to write the synopsis before you write the book. Then it’s already out of the way.

Not. A bad. Idea.

I also came to feel that compression is not as good a descriptor as squeezing or wringing. But maybe now I’m just moving commas around.

After 12 months, 4 beta readers, 3 drafts and 130,000 words I’m ready to share my novel with the world. Or at least a few editors. Well, hopefully some agents.

But I’m new to this and learning as I go. And as I’ve been focused on writing and eating, auditing, editing, I haven’t exactly been reading ahead. It’s like I’m driving cross-country, checking the map whenever I hit the next town.

And the town I just pulled into is called Synopsis.

This town sucks.

Evidently I’ve got to take the 130,000 words I’ve toiled on over the past year and condense them into 300. Or 400. Or, maximum 700, depending on who you ask.

It should chart the main plot, but shouldn’t outline it. It should entice the reader, but should not be marketing. It must give a feel for the book, but not mention its themes. Got it.

One of the many posts I read on The Synopsis proclaimed “it shouldn’t take long”. They were clearly talking about how many words it should be and not how long it takes to write one. Because after six hours of working on it, my synopsis is 820 words.

I know there’s only one way out of this miserable, one-horse town, and it’s straight down Compression Street.