I put out a call this week to my former (and present) students on my Chapter One Facebook page for suggestions for what I should write about this week. Vivi Dumas asked that I go over how to write a synopsis. I thought that was a really interesting idea, not just because writing a synopsis can be tricky, but because Vivi has already self-published a couple of her books. So why does she need a refresher on how to write a synopsis? Why would any self-published author?
Well, because synopses are not only necessary to sell your book to a traditional publisher – although they certainly are an essential ingredient in that particular stew – they’re also a fantastic tool that many writers use when writing their books. When you sit down to write, if you are a plotter, you write out your character sheets and plot out your story. To do the latter, you may make a bullet list of all of the turning point scenes in your story or you could graph out your structure like a time-line with the line going up as life is good for your protagonist and down when it gets more difficult. But another option to consider is to write a synopsis of your story – basically a rough draft in miniature. It outlines the story and allows you to get a little more detailed in exactly what’s going to be happening at those all-important turning point scenes. And it allows you to take a broader view of your story as a whole – seeing the forest for the trees, if you will.
Many people who write without plotting first, may want to take a break about half-way through their novel in order to write their synopsis for that same broader view. It will help them to see the story as a whole – figure out what’s happened so far and where the story needs to go from that point forward (and ensure that they don’t have that awful sagging middle).
And finally, once your story is done, whether you’ve plotted it out before writing or not, looking at what you’ve got, reading through the entire manuscript once again in order to summarize your work and take that broader view can be an extremely helpful tool as you prepare to edit your work.
So, at every stage of the writing process, stopping to write a synopsis – whether it be to decide how you’re going to structure your book to begin with, ensure that you’re on the right track in the middle, or to see what you’ve got at the end – is an important tool in your writer’s tool-box.
Next week, I’ll get into the particulars of how to create your synopsis and how to structure it.
So, at which point do you write your synopsis, or do you skip it all together and only write one if you’re going to be selling your work to an agent or traditional publisher?