Posts Tagged ‘synopsis’




squeezing out a synopsis

Filed under: writing | Tags: , ,

For the first time in my life, I’ve written a synopsis when I haven’t written a word of the actual book yet.

It’s good to try these new things, I think, but I won’t lie to you: it’s been painful. It’s taken me two days, and many times in those two days I’ve felt as if I’ve been battering my head against a stone wall whilst crows of doubt lurked overhead, waiting to eat the choicest bits of my brains.

So many of the things that give a story richness and depth come to me as I write the actual words: the scene-setting, the intertwined symbols, the layers of emotion, the voices of my characters, not to mention the little funny details or extra dramatic oomph. And for me, that’s a big part of the joy of writing. This synopsis (and it’s still a first draft at the moment) feels like a skeleton without any flesh on it. I’ll have to attempt to add sinew, muscle, blood and skin as I revise the synopsis draft.

However. It’s been a really useful exercise for me in structure and planning ahead. Though it’s longer than a single page, I followed (more or less) the synopsis formula I’ve posted here, plotting events on a three-act graph and making sure that each event raises the stakes for the characters. For once in my life, I’ve figured out the secret twist before my own characters have (shock horror!).

The idea behind this is that it might help me to structure the book better at the scene and character arc level as I write it, and avoid my usual missteps, especially at the beginning when I tend to write and then delete 10,000 wrong words. I think it will be an interesting experiment, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

I do think that every now and then as writers, we have to be open to trying new processes. It can, maybe, push us in new directions, challenge our abilities and lead to something fresh.

Are any of you pantsers who have tried to write to a synopsis? Or plotters who have tried to just fly off into the mist? What was it like for you?

(Edited to add: @MsAlisonMay reminded me of a useful technique I’d mentioned on the course I taught a couple of weeks ago—highlighting different parts of your synopsis to see what you need more or less of. Here, backstory is green, plot is blue and emotion is yellow.

I can see that I’ve got emotion covered, but maybe I want to work on that plot aspect a little bit more. Thanks, Alison!)


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