Friday, July 06, 2007

Q & A 115 Can I plagiarize myself?


Is it a bad idea to lift phrases straight from my query and use them in my synopsis? (Would I have to sue myself?) Or should I make up new ways to say the same things?

Your query, presumably, includes a two or three paragraph description of your book. You missed your kid's soccer game and the Wimbledon semi-finals to write it, and you like it. It's perfect, each word specifically chosen for its ability to call out to an agent like cheesecake to John Travolta. To change a single word would be akin to Keats converting his "Ode on a Grecian Urn" to a limerick.

Now the agent wants a three-page synopsis. You'd like to include a few of your better lines from the query in the synopsis, but you fear the agent will think, Man, that sounds familiar. This guy's either so lazy he cut and pasted a paragraph from his query into his synopsis, or he stole it from someone else's query. The last thing I need is another Kaavya Viswanathan situation. That chick almost ruined me.

If you sent a query and have now had a request for a synopsis, I wouldn't worry about this at all. If you're putting both query and synopsis into the same envelope, however, you might take into account the fact that the agent will have just read your query, and adjust the synopsis accordingly. Agents have notoriously short attention spans. If you cover the same ground twice they may decide to move on to something that sounds more original.

4 comments:

Robin S. said...

"It's perfect, each word specifically chosen for its ability to call out to an agent like cheesecake to John Travolta."

I just spent two days in and out of Terminal 4 at Heathrow,and spendng the night in a place called Leatherhead trying to get home, so maybe my brain is a little addled, but even so, this is funny as hell.

That boy does have some chunky jowls, doesn't he?

Dave said...

And a penchant for cheescake.

With me, it's potato chips. If I buy them, they talk to me at night. They say they're lonely. They want me to hold them. Then they say they want some loving and lip action and I give in and stick one potato chip in my mouth. Then it's all over. I can't put them back int eh bag soggy, So I eat. And I have to be fair with the rest. So when the bag is done. I'm happy.

cheescake - now if you said:
chocolate, cherry covered cheescake with whipped creams, pralines and macadamia nuts - DAMN the cholesterol, full speed ahead!

takoda said...

Dave, if you're eating all that, you need to update your avatar. And I will never look at Utz potato chips in the same way.

Robin, LOL! Chunky Jowls! He was in Baltimore filming that movie about firemen. Each of his kids had a personal nanny. But the firemen all said he was a great guy, very down to earth and all.

What's it with cheesecake? Ewww! Warm apple cobbler, or homemade peach pie, or chocolate mousse. Yum!

I would definitely copy and paste, and spend creative energies on the next manuscript.

Cheers,

Dave said...

I just read this in a gossip column:
“He (Travolta) travels with two chefs,” Oscar winner Marisa Tomei said of her “Wild Hogs” co-star John Travolta. “One regular chef and one pastry chef. He eats a fresh pie every day."