There’s something soul-crushing about the submission process, and I think that the worst of it is having to write a synopsis of your own work. Maybe highly educated people (like my wife) can appreciate this when they are forced to compress their years of research into a single-paragraph abstract.
I had to distil all 370 pages of Emily Rose into a single page yesterday. It was like trying to pick out the best 150 cells of your first child’s body to show off to your parents. You keep saying things to yourself like, “I should obviously include a liver cell, and at least one kidney cell (even though there are two kidneys, they’re pretty much the same). A hair follicle is a lot of cells to put in there, so I won’t use that, but I will add three brain cells and smidge of keratin. Oh, and I need to put in some cells from a gland. Adrenal, pituitary, or thyroid?”
The end result is never good. You just end up with something that looks and smells like a bacterial culture, with a little less of the agar gel charm.
Ultimately, your synopsis will make your book look trite, predictable, and incredibly stupid. Your careful crafting of events and interactions becomes a list of bullet-point statements. Your character development gets thrown out the window. The subtleties of subplot are chopped to make space for awkward blocks of setting and movement.
Now, I understand why publishers and agents need such a thing, I really do, especially when they are only asking for the first few chapters to start with. But it’s still incredibly demeaning to make that summary. You lose your subtlety, depth, and class. It’s like going to a job interview and being asked to describe your life’s work experience in 7 words without using the letter “s.” (By the way, if you can do that, I would be really impressed to see it.)
In any event, the submission is out there, for good or ill, with its strange little muticellular summary gobbed onto it like a parasite. If one has to consume the other, I hope the synopsis is the one that gets eaten.