The dreaded synopsis

How do you write a decent query letter? I have been sitting at my desk for hours and every version I attempt sounds dreadful. The ‘hook’ is the most challenging thing to get right, proving almost as hard to write as the novel itself. I’ve seen some real gems that manage to sum up the essence in just a few lines. Mine is the literary equivalent of Quasimodo: well-intended and hopeful, but it won’t win any beauty contests. 

By the way, did you know that Quasimodo in Latin means ‘as if, in a way, half-formed‘. When you think about it is SO fitting.


  1. Query letters I’ve got better at over time. I generally start with a little information about me and my aims as a writer. Nothing too detailed. A line or two, no more, unless it’s something highly relevant to the novel (for example, my current project is quite heavily autobiographical in places, so I’ll be mentioning this and my disability because it’s relevant.)I then dedicate no more than a paragraph or so to the novel itself. I tend not to focus on the plot. Trying to sum up a plot outline in a paragraph… it’s beyond me! So, I focus on the theme and character conflict. I don’t give the ending away. I treat it more like a blurb than a synopsis. I’m looking to grab their attention.This was my query blurb for The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts:

    “At heart a modern take on the gothic ghost story, I’ve used traditional motifs in an original and innovative way, working the thematic elements in in such a way as to avoid impinging too strongly on plot and character development. It is rich and multi-layered — using subtle references to the Bardo Thodol, for example, to underline the cycle of death and rebirth, not to mention the dissatisfaction suggested within the title — but, first and foremost, it is a good read. More of a literary ghost story a la Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” (in approach, at least) than a “horror” story, it nevertheless has the potential to satisfy the current increasing market appetite for horror fiction.”

    Writing synopses… now that’s a different matter entirely! No matter how hard I try, I still can’t seem to get them right!

Leave a Reply to Gary Murning Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *