Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Dreaded Synopsis-- The Most Underutilized Tool in the Box

So I've got the complete rewrite of EVANGELINE finished and I'm ready and raring to go on my second draft of Mara's story. First thing I'm going to do is write a synopsis.

I can hear the groans through cyberspace now. (And apparently time, too, since none of you have read this as I'm still writing it, but I'm just cool like dat.)

Why write a synopsis now, you say, before the final draft? Things might change, you say.


At this stage I use the synopsis to remind myself of the plot without actually having to read the story again. This helps keep me from packing extraneous information into the synopsis. There might be some details I've forgotten, but that's for the best. It's probably minor subplot, which has no place in my short synopsis. It also helps me keep the story a little fresher in my mind for once I actually start reading through and line editing.

As I write the synopsis, a scrawling, scribbled-out, longhand mess at first, the story slowly becomes clear in my mind. And, if I find I do want to change something, the synopsis is the best place to plan such revisions, especially if they lead to other major changes down the road.

Without actually making any changes to your manuscript, you can use the synopsis and save a lot of time in the long run if you are already thinking of making major changes to the plot. Usually once I have the plot the way I like it, my short synopsis is finished. Even after all my revisions to EVANGELINE, the synopsis I made after the first draft was finished still applies. I made changes in style and hopefully refined the narrative and dialogue, and I even added and deleted some minor subplots, but none of those changes affected the major plot arc.

Since wriitng a one page synopsis is the most difficult for me, that's the length I eventually strive for, but when I first start the process, it's more like three pages. Whatever length works for you is fine, but I think over five pages means you might be focusing a bit too much on subplots. In this case, you should ask yourself why that is. Should one of the minor subplots become a more major one?

The other great thing about crafting a synopsis before you read the story again is that you're still so excited about your novel. The story still feels alive and new and full of potential. The synopsis is all about potential, about seeking it out and playing around with possiblities.

Why not make your synopsis work for you instead of slaving over it? Especially when you are on the verge of querying, trying to craft a query letter at the same time and having the query sound too much like a synopsis.

I'm really looking forward to working on my second draft, but before I dive in head first, I want to be prepared, armed to the teeth and writing with a purpose.

The synopsis is an indispensible tool. Make it work for you!


Voidwalker said...

I tend to come up with an idea and start with a synopsis. It helps give me a kind of road map to follow when I'm writing. True, the story changes as I write it, but I can altar the synopsis as needed. I'm spending time on Query Shark and Query Ninja to get some good ideas of query letters which is just a formal synopsis anyway.

Abby Annis said...

You are cool like dat. You're like a superhero. Powers like that have to be useful for something. :) Did I use like enough times?

You're right. I do dread the synopsis, though I'm okay with my latest version. It just seems to boil the story down to a skeleton version and it's SO boring. I guess that's probably my problem and has something do with my execution, but I'm still going to whine about it. :P

Glad you got your rewrite done on Evangeline. Good luck with your revisions on The Untitled One. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

That's some solid logic - I like it! I think I'll stick with my picture and early chapter books. ;-)

Tere Kirkland said...

V- those are some great resources. I was thinking of putting some links to synopsis writing tips, but I thought it might be counterproductive.

LOL, Abby, the Untitled One, I like that! I'm trying to make synopsis writing less of a chore, but I still don't necessarily enjoy it... Not even when I reward myself with a new silk blouse afterward like I did yesterday. ;)

Shannon- I've tried my hand at picture and early chapter books, and I am no good at them, so I applaud you for your talent! Kudos.

Stephanie Thornton said...

You're a genius! I'm going to remember that for my next book- I just finished my synopsis last week. It took a lot of revising and critiquing by a friend who hasn't read the book, but I think it's good now.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Tere Kirkland said...

Genius, huh? I like the sound of that!

But seriously, it's been working pretty well for me so far.

Stephanie Perkins said...

My favorite thing about doing a synopsis early? By the time you actually NEED it, you have a beautiful head start! There's none of that blandness that comes with a fresh synopsis. (And agents and editors definitely like a synopsis with style!)